Education plays a very critical role in deciding the growth of a nation. Educated citizens of a country bring it fame, wealth and prosperity, which in turn help in the development of a country. And all this helps in nation-building.
People who are educated are aware of what is right and what is wrong. According to the recently launched Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, improvement was recorded in the education sector last year but a lot more still needs to be done. It is alarming that only 47 percent of surveyed fifth graders could not do two-digit division. In the rural districts of the country, 48 percent of surveyed fifth graders in public and private schools could not read a sentence in English and 44 percent could not read a story in Urdu, Sindhi or Pashto.
The report also shows that 83 percent of all children of schoolgoing age, six to 16 years, are enrolled in school. of them 77 percent go to government schools and 23 percent to private schools – 20 percent in formal education and three percent in madressahs.
The report says that Azad Jammu and Kashmir is at the top with a 95 percent enrolment rate for children between the ages of six and 16, followed by Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad with an enrolment rate of 91 percent each. In Punjab, 89 percent students are enrolled in schools, 86 percent in Sindh, 87 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 28 percent in Balochistan and 72 percent in the (former) tribal areas.
The report says that 32 percent of government schools and 11 percent of private schools do not have useable water facilities and that 42 percent of government schools do not have toilet facilities. It also says that 13 percent of surveyed private schools do not have toilet facilities. It points out that 30 percent of public schools and 20 percent private schools do not have boundary walls.
It is very important to know that Pakistan is the second country of the world with more than 60 percent of its population between the ages of 15 and 35 years, a great human resource that the Almighty has bestowed us with. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s vision of an enlightened and empowered process of nation-building was hijacked by vested interests in its initial 20 years. Excluding the first few years of its creation, in the major part of its initial phase, Pakistan did not have the required focused priority on education.
What is most important is an understanding of history. It is the most powerful core of education that sets the path for future generations. But we have played havoc with this fundamental subject. After the 18th Amendment, education became provincial responsibility in the country. Interestingly though, the provincial governments are in the control of the same rich and powerful lot that have been the main obstructing factor causing the poverty of education. It is hoped that a continuous democratic process will weed out the obstruction.
The current government should take serious and many steps to bring about a visible improvement in the education sector, such as launching a uniform education system in the country. This is so because a uniform curriculum and education system is imperative for providing equal opportunities to all students.
It is clear that the economic progress that a quality education brings delivers better jobs and more jobs which in turn offer the citizens of a country more choice in what they do with their lives and indeed the lives of their children. It is also clear to me that the belief that we have choices in our lives builds contentment.
It is very important for the current government to realize that quality education is an important precursor to nation-building. The goal must be clear: the inputs, processes and outputs measured and individual and collective accountability should be taken to deliver education which is of a quality and quantity that builds the Pakistan we want to live and work in.
Last but not the least, we must urgently re-examine the goal of Pakistan’s education system. Should our education system create blind followers of dominant powers, both at home and in the world? Or does Pakistan need to create its own reference points, and put an end to the global exploitation of our youth, our resources, and our intellect?
The writer is associated with thedevelopment sector.
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