Nov 7 - 20, 2011

Education Emergency Pakistan, a report prepared by a Pakistan education task force, presents a bleak picture of the disaster that has befallen on this sector.

Ten per cent of all children not going to school across the world are in Pakistan. Thirty per cent of all Pakistanis get less than two years of education. Pakistan is entrusted to spend four per cent of GDP on education, the actual figure was 2.5 per cent in 2006-07, and dropped to two per cent in 2009-10. Alarmingly, some provinces only spent 60 per cent of their education budget.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's policies in the 1970s caused more long-term harm to Pakistan. Today, Pakistan is worse than it was 40 years back. Unfortunately, successive civil and political governments have shown little interest and no political determination to cure this state of affairs.

Unesco surveyed that out of the 18 million youth in the age group of 17-23, only 2.6 per cent are enrolled in higher education. Democratic Republic of Congo seems to be more literate; Sudan and Madagascar have done more to educate their people; and Lesotho has also done sufficiently well.

The problems in the education system include poor quality of teachers, outdated curriculum, and course materials and absence of research. Vast majority of students come out from our universities and colleges with no substantial social or technical skills.

The British system of the 19th century was aimed at to train students for employment in the public services, and not to provide any training in management, marketing, or other skills that would be more applicable in trade, commerce, industry, and agriculture. HEC took some preliminary initiatives but afterward faced serious financial limitations and reformulation of policies.

Pakistan missed the favorable opportunities of 1980s' economic trend of development. Countries in Asia like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and Thailand reacted timely as industrialized countries moved most of their manufacturing concerns to these countries.

All over the world, companies in the area of banking, finance, insurance, healthcare and others are reconstituting their organization and moving them to countries which offer trained manpower and monetary value advantages.

The greatest roadblock in Pakistan is education, particularly female education. Awareness of the importance of primary education is not visible in far-flung areas of Pakistan, particularly for girls. Most of Pakistani parents deprive their daughters of fundamental education due to traditions and religious customs, which suppress women. Importance of female education has never been emphasized because of the corruption and absence of interest from government.

A case study of female literacy of Pakistan illustrates that due to the suppression of women rights, Pakistan sees a high dropout rate of girls at primary level, and the huge number of girls never reach schools. "Out of 500 girls, 22 percent never attended schools, and 26 percent left because of financial constraints, and 18.7 per cent because they lost interest".

The last prophet (PBUH) said, 'Men and women are equal as two teeth on a comb'. Islam prescribes equality for women. A woman will have less confidence when she is not educated, men will find it easier to take advantage of or restrain them.

Parents force girls focus on the informal education, giving them cooking skills or on the sector of the labor market. Economic limitation forces parents to invest more on son's education than on girl. Parents believe that a boy education must be a top priority, as they have to shoulder economic responsibilities of the family.

Poverty is the main factor that leaves parents to spend more on education of their sons rather than their daughters.

Education removes all hurdles that women face. Education will make them well-versed with the day to day problems. Besides, education not only improves their health but it gives them a respectable place in society.

Non-formal schools have begun to play a tremendous role in educating those who have long been ignored in Pakistan. This is not surprising, considering that in many underdeveloped areas of Pakistan, particularly the rural parts, non-formal schools are not an alternative, but rather, the only option children have is to gain basic education and literacy skills.

This is why the Human Development Foundation (HDF) has established a number of non-formal schools in different parts of Pakistan as part of its activities in the education sector.

There is a need to give top priority to education and investing in this sector in order to enable the country to make a rapid headway in the comity of nations. Our education system must make relevance with our traditional commitments and values such as social justice and promotion of Islamic ideology.

For Pakistan to come out as a great nation, we have to define a national education policy in accordance with our social values. For a better future for its citizens, educational policies should be devised by involving, educational experts, parents and students.