Monday September 20, 2021

Pakistan observes World Literacy Day today

September 08, 2017

LAHORE: With somewhat stagnant literacy rate of 58 percent, Pakistan will celebrate International Literacy Day under the theme ‘Literacy in a digital world’ on Friday (today).

The country’s overall literacy rate as per the latest Pakistan Economic Survey (2016-17) is 58 percent (among population of 10 years and above) with male literacy touching 70 percent while female literacy rate below 50 percent. Taking into account rural and urban divide, literacy rate is higher in urban areas i.e., 74 percent when compared to rural areas—49 percent literacy.

The developed world has started reaping digital dividends and striving hard for more while the developing countries like Pakistan, being on the wrong side of the digital divide, are still struggling to achieve an ‘honorable’ literacy rate. And many of us define this as the ability to read and write!

Among provinces, Punjab—the largest province of the country in terms of population has a literacy rate of 62 percent followed by Sindh 55 percent, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 53 percent and lastly Balochistan with 41 percent.

Among South Asian countries, Afghanistan (38 percent) is the only country after Pakistan having the lowest literacy rate. Maldives overall literacy rate is 99 percent, Sri Lanka 93 percent, India 71 percent, Bhutan 65 percent, Nepal 64 percent and Bangladesh 62 percent.

The literacy rate of Pakistan has actually dropped this time from 60 percent in 2016. It was the same in 2012-13, 58 percent in 2013-14 (when the incumbent government came into power). And sadly, this is despite Right to Education (RTE) laws in place in all the four provinces. However, these are toothless because of absence of rules of business to implement these laws. So far, only the Sindh government has framed the rules for implementation of its RTE law.

According to UNESCO’s 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report there were 21.5 million out-of-school children in Pakistan and 5.6 million of them the children of primary school age group which means before these kids started to learn something they left the schools. While this has mainly to do with socio-economic conditions of the families of these children, one can’t

ignore absence of basic amenities at schools to provide a good learning environment to the kids. A less than 30 percent of all government schools in Balochistan province have the toilet facility for kids, 50 percent of public schools in Sindh are without drinking water facility, 13 percent public schools in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa without boundary walls while seven percent of public schools in Punjab don’t have electricity connection. These numbers are from Pakistan Education Statistics 2015-16.

With almost half of the country’s population illiterate, one can imagine the losses for not being computer literate in an increasingly digital world with economic aspect as a major achievement. At a time when data is being dubbed as the ‘new oil’, we really need to gear up with particular focus ‘data literacy’ in an increasingly digital world powered by data.