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July 11, 2019

Failing our children


July 11, 2019

Pakistan is set to miss its target of ensuring all children are able to complete primary schooling by 2030. The latest data from Unesco confirms that the coutnry is set to miss its targets on education as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Not only does this involve missing the UN targets, it also involves missing the commitments to all children born in the country. As it stands, one in four Pakistani children will have failed to complete primary education by 2030. Moreover, one in two children will have failed to complete upper secondary education in the country. With Pakistan a third of the way into the deadline for completing the SDGs, it is clear that the country will need to accelerate the pace at which it is acting to fulfil its commitments. The trouble is that Pakistan is close to the global mean, where the rates of learning are not improving as agreed. Much of this means that there are problems with the existing pace of implementation as well as the current set of policies that are in vogue across the developing world.

Globally, two out of five children will not be able to complete secondary education by 2030. Instead of showing an improvement in learning rates, in some parts of the world the number of trained teachers has been falling since the turn of the millennium. Learning rates have stagnated in middle-income countries, while they have fallen by a third in a number of low-income countries. If this continues, around of one-fifth of the young people in the world will be unable to read a decade from now. The issue affects the poorest the most, which means that only four percent of the poorest 20 percent in the world complete upper secondary school. This gap gets wider in lower middle income countries.

In terms of money required, there will need to be a rapid reshuffling of funds into education, which is the opposite of what is happening in Pakistan. There is a $39 billion global funding gap, which requires countries to funnel money into education rather than other priorities. It is worrying that less than half of the countries are even providing the relevant data on the matter. We also know that existing policies have not worked, with options such as issuing vouchers, giving mixed results. Not only are these policies often misdirected, they often become hubs for corruption and embezzlement. It is important to choose the right policies and back them with political and economic commitments if Pakistan wants to reach these targets.

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