Presenting a bleak picture of the state of education in the country, the report titled ‘Education emergency Pakistan’ has provided food for thought for the stakeholders, who have not been able to put the country on the path of progress by eradicating illiteracy through sincere and concentrated efforts.
The report is enough to shake the masses through horrific revelations has been launched by Education Task Force in an event organised here on Wednesday. The most horrific revelation among all was the fact that “around 25 million children are denied their right to education”. It is pertinent to mention here that after passage of 18th Amendment, free and compulsory education for all children up to age of 16 is no longer a privilege, but a fundamental right.
The report quoted Unesco saying 30 per cent of Pakistani lives in extreme educational poverty, having received less than two years of education. This figure rises to almost half of the population of Balochistan that suffers the most extreme educational deprivation.
Failure to provide education has been termed as most urgent self-inflicted disaster. It stated that one year of additional education for the workforce translates into hundreds of billion rupees in greater output, making the economic impact as serious as suffering repeated floods.
The report ruled out the impression that Pakistan was too poor to afford to tackle its education emergency and stated that some of the poorest countries in the world have more children in primary schools than Pakistan. It stated that 26 countries send more children to primary schools, but are poorer than Pakistan.
The report termed leadership as the most important ‘secret ingredient’ for translating good education policies into results. It said that in such a dire emergency, leaders at every level — from the prime minister and chief minister, to the head teachers in each school — will need to work together to create an education system that delivers.
The report also talked about commonly believed myths regarding the failure in education system among which few popular ones include “parents don’t want education for their children’ however, in reality only four per cent of those whose children are not in school say they have ‘no use for education’. Similarly there is a myth that boys need education more than girls, but according to the World Bank, educating girls delivers a higher return than any other investment in the developing world. Another commonly believed myth mentioned in the report is that the reason for Pakistan’s education emergency is due to lack of funds, but the truth is the first priority is to spend available money wisely.
Addressing to the launching ceremony of the report, Pakistan Education Task Force Co-chair Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali said it was not only that children are denied their right to education, but where there are schools, the quality of education is often shockingly low. “In rural areas, two third of rural children aged 6 to 16 years cannot even read a story. They perform only slightly better than out of school children,” she said.
She believes that lack of education would keep generations poor. “For every additional year of education provided to the Pakistan’s future workforce, we can expect to see a substantial boost to the country’s GDP. Conversely, the failure to educate the population is as expensive as suffering a serious natural disaster,” she added.
According to the Task Force, there is a hope however, Mehnaz Ali, a task force member, pointed out that many countries have transformed their education system in a generation. “International experience gives us hope that rapid progress is possible-not just in terms of access, but also in the learning outcomes-even with modest means,” she said while adding that it was a sobering fact that 26 countries were poorer than Pakistan, but still manage to get more of their children into primary school.
Task Force member, Fareeha Zafar, on the occasion, said, “What is needed is the political will to make the hard choices to start, and then sustain a programme of education reform. We need determined leaders at all level- in government, in our communities and in schools.”
She said that at this time of fiscal crisis, we must also ensure that education expenditure is protected in the budget. “Looking forward, all parties need to agree on a robust plan for progressively increasing expenditure to four per cent of GDP, with the majority of the money spent where it is needed the most i.e. schools,” she added.
The prime minister has declared 2011 ‘the year of education’. In March, therefore, the Task Force is asking all Pakistanis to call for political leaders — national and provincial — to make education their number one priority, and for all political parties to unite around a common education agenda.