Pakistan’s 42% population still unable to read or write: new study

KARACHI: Similar to many developing countries, Pakistan has not made progress adequately in the field of education with literacy rate of only 58 percent i.e. 42 percent of its population remains unable to read or write. This limits the opportunity considerably towards acquiring skills and technical knowledge for higher productivity and better earning levels. School enrolments are low and school drop-out rates are too high.

According to latest Economic Survey of Pakistan, literacy rate is one of the important indicators of education as its improvement is likely to have a long run impact on other important indicators of national welfare. Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) Survey 2013-14 mentions that the literacy rate of the population (10 years and above) is 58 percent as compared to 60 percent in 2012-13 showing a decline of 2.0 percent. The data shows that literacy remains higher in urban areas (74 percent) than in rural areas (49 percent), and is more prevalent for men (81.0 percent) compared to women (66.0 percent) in urban areas. Province wise data suggests that Punjab leads with 61 percent followed by Sindh with 56 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 53 percent and Balochistan with 43 percent.

The Economic Survey of Pakistan says the budgetary allocation to education has remained static around 2.0 percent of GDP for the past decade, with a big chunk being spent on recurrent heads mainly salaries, leaving a small amount for quality enhancement such as teachers training, curriculum development, provision of school facilities and monitoring and supervision of education. According to Pakistan Education for All (EFA) review report 2015, there is a large stock of 6.7 million out of school children; of which 55 percent are girls which for years have posed a major obstacle in achieving EFA targets. A National Plan of Action for MDGs Acceleration Framework (MAF) 2013-16 is designed to accelerate progress towards education related goals and targets identified by MDG for 2015- 16 by Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training.

The National Plan envisages enhancing its net primary enrolment ratio to 91 percent by 2015-16. This would imply, besides retention of existing students through a variety of quality-improving measures and cash stipends, enrolment of an additional 5.06 million children in primary classes at a total additional cost of Rs. 189 billion over the 3-year period. The National Plan expects to enrol an additional 5.1 million (2.4 million boys and 2.7 million girls) by 2015-16. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of Education: The U.N. has identified as one of the MDGs to be achieved by 2015. The Government of Pakistan is fully committed towards the achievement of the MDGs Goal 2 and Goal 3 which focus towards development of education. Goal 2: To Achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) Target: MDG 2 aims at achieving 100 percent primary school enrolment, 100 percent completion of education from grades 1-5 and an 88 percent overall literacy rate by 2015. The achievements made up to 2013-14.

MDG 3 promotes gender equality in education and aims to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005, and at all levels of education by 2015. MDG 3 focuses upon the key challenges faced by women in three major areas; education, employment and political participation. Gender parity index show some improvement over the years but pronounced gaps between male and female indicators persist, especially in rural and remote (particularly in tribal and feudal) areas. With provision of more middle and high schools, it is anticipated that demand for middle and upper secondary education for girls will increase. The targets to be achieved by 2015 and achievements made up to 2013-14 are given in the Table 10.3 and 10.4.

Provincial progress for the year 2013-14 shows that so far as the Net Primary Enrolment Ratio of provinces is concerned, Punjab is the highest with 64 percent (Male: 66 & Female: 63 percent) followed by KPK 54 percent (Male: 62 & Female: 46 percent), Sindh 48 percent (Male: 53 & Female: 43 percent) and Balochistan is at the lowest with 39 percent (Male: 46 & Female: 30 percent). The increase in gender disparity in Balochistan and Sindh is mainly due to tribal and feudal social systems, not supportive of education for female and poor classes. This shows very critical situation regarding issue of parity in education at primary level. This needs thorough consultation process at national level to address the issue which has long run impact on the human development and socio economic conditions of Pakistan. The commitment gap, implementation gap and lack of good governance may be major reasons behind the low level of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Pakistan Vision 2025 aims at substantial expansion in levels of education as well as improvements in the quality of education, increase public expenditure on education to reach 4.0 percent of GDP by 2018. Education development will be led by the provinces as it is a devolved function, however the federal government will play the role of a catalyst in partnership with the provinces to transform the education system in the country. The government at all levels will ensure that individuals are able to pursue their economic, social, and intellectual objectives in the best possible way. The provincial governments are committed to achieve Millennium Development Goals for education. In order to achieve these goals the provincial governments are determined to increase their education budgets significantly. The federal government will not only help them in achieving MDGs at provincial levels but also perform an active role in reducing educational inequities across the four provinces.

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