The immiserizing state of education in ‘Naya Pakistan’

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government has completed two and a half years of its tenure, and the education sector of Pakistan seems not quite much to be in line with the party’s already-set manifesto pertaining to the education system. In the year 2013, before coming into government, PTI painted a picture of its ‘six-point education policy’ framework that is intended to put into practice.

The six points that were to become part of PTI’s election manifesto, were; one education system for all, reengineering governance based on complete decentralization, increasing budget funds, adult education, teacher training, and information and communication technology. Currently, the government looks unable to materialize these points into reality.

The literacy rate in Pakistan, despite Imran Khan’s vision to ameliorate the education sector, still stands at a very low rate. Pakistan’s Economic Survey revealed that the country’s literacy rate stood at 60% in 2018-19, among the population aged 10 years and above. According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school. The reason behind such a pitiful scenario is because, firstly, the government has failed to incentivize the education sector which has a direct link with the enrollment rate. Millions of people in Pakistan live in extreme poverty who hardly get to have 2 times meal a day, not to mention their reluctance to send their children to a school. Secondly, even if people make up their minds to enrol their children in educational institutions, still there are very limited chances for them to get a job after completing their degree.

As far as budget allocation is concerned, the government has increased expenditure for education affairs to 2.5% for 2020-21. However, it did not make much difference because of the underlying socio-cultural paradigms that will take a long time to be orientated in the right direction. The government needs to take initiative to arrange awareness programs to make people cognizant of the importance of acquiring education.

Limited access to education aside, even those who get to acquire a high level of education, do so with very feeble education quality. We are living in the post-modern and post-industrial era, yet the curriculum and teaching techniques at the educational institutes are outdated. How can we compete against other nations in terms of development when we are not aware of the basic dynamics of the 21st century? The Spectator Index shared a list of 137 countries, in 2018, where quality education prevails. Pakistan stands at 94th position.

The situation has been further exacerbated by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Several inequalities are existing in the education sector of Pakistan, including gender disparities, geographic differences, class polarity etc. By crystal gazing, these incongruities seem to aggravate more in future. With a high unemployment rate and increased poverty level, families will prefer to send their boys to school, keeping girls at home to save expenses. Besides, the fee structure in private schools is also likely to rise due to economic crisis which will impact the schooling of children. Recently, a World Bank report estimated that nearly one million children would drop out of school because of the deplorable conditions set by the pandemic.

To put it in a nutshell; Imran Khan’s government too, just like the erstwhile governments, could not do much to revamp Pakistan’s education sector. A landmark initiative on the government’s part has been to introduce the Single National Curriculum in the country up to the primary level in the year 2021. But several issues need to be scrutinized to improve the quantity and quality of education in the country.

The writer is a student of Sociology at the University of the Punjab, Lahore. She is interested in socio-political dynamics and writes for leading English language newspapers in Pakistan. She can be reached on Twitter @beenishfatima63

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