Rome (AsiaNews) – The country will not meet the United Nations millennium development goals (MDG) in education by the scheduled date, 2015. About 25 million children in a country of 180 million are denied the right to an education. About 30 per cent of Pakistanis live in extreme educational poverty.
These are but a few of the numbers that underscore Pakistan’s educational backwardness. They are found in the Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 report that was released last month by the Pakistan Education Task Force, an independent group made up of federal and provincial government officials as well as NGO members. Against a backdrop of government inefficiencies and political shortcomings, the report indicates that most people (85 per cent of respondents in a survey) believe that a better education allows citizens to “elect more effective leaders” and “reduces extremism”.
Pakistan ranks 112th out of 139 in terms of gender equality. On the issue of human rights violations, it ranks just better than the worst offenders like Myanmar.
Defence spending and internal security top the government budget. Education gets less 1.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. In 2006, it was 2.5 per cent. According to international estimates, it should be at least 4 per cent.
The low level of school participation is not due to the country’s poverty. Other nations in the region, most notably India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, have higher rates despite worse economic conditions.
The issue is policy-related. Since the founding of the state in 1947, Pakistan has had ten educational reforms, but none has turn things around. Experts estimate that the country’s school system would need 100 billion rupees (US$ 1.2 billion).
In rural Pakistan, only one girl in three attends schools and two out of three Pakistanis between the ages of 6 and 16 are illiterate.
About 30 per cent of children study in private institutions, 6 per cent go to madrassas (Qur‘anic schools) where most of the time is spent studying the Muslim holy book. That number could however be even greater, especially in remote areas.
Around 65 per cent schools have drinking water facilities, 62 per cent have latrines, 61 per cent have boundary walls and 39 per cent have electricity.
Literacy levels among young people are low, with 31 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women aged 15 to 24 years unable to read or write.
Despite the country’s policy failures, 85 per cent of those questioned stated that education allows citizens to “elect more effective leaders” and “reduces extremism”.
In addition, 90 per cent believe that education is about more than preparing students to get better jobs. Education also helps children become “better” human beings.
An overwhelming majority of families see education as a priority and want more in-depth education. (DS)