Deplorable state of Pakistan's education
May(The News): Literacy and education are indeed in a deplorable
state in Pakistan. So much so that according to a survey, Pakistan stands at No.
43 among the 57 Muslim countries of the OIC in terms of rate of literacy. Only
13 countries, most of which belong to the underdeveloped African region, are
less literate than Pakistan.
The first Pakistan census was held in 1951
in which the definition of a literate person was given as a "person who could
read a printed word in any language". Consequently, all such men, women and
children were described as literate who could read the Quran. Due to this
erratic definition, the 1951 census declared 16.4 per cent men, women and
children as "literate". In 1972, however, when the third national census was
held, the definition of literacy was changed to "one who could read and
understand a simple sentence and could write a simple sentence." The literacy
rate rose from 21.7 per cent to 26.2 per cent in the subsequent censuses in 1981
and to 45 per cent in 1982.
Professor Laiq Ahmed once told me that the
Literacy Ordinance (Amendment) Act, 1987, provides the new definition of
"literacy" and "literate person" and is a comprehensive law passed.
Unfortunately, the Act also includes a provision that this law would be
effective from the date to be notified by the Ministry of Education in the
Gazette of Pakistan. It is a matter of regret that in spite of lapse of 20
years, the Ministry of Education has not yet been able to fix a date for the
implementation of this law and the Literacy Ordinance is gathering dust. Even
the allocations made by the various governments for the promotion and
development of primary education could not be utilised by the provincial
governments during the past 52 years.
Unfortunately, the desire to keep
the mantle of governance secure within the hands of the elite families of
Pakistan compels our policy makers to ignore the 67 per cent children living in
the rural areas and concentrate only on the English-medium output. This is in
spite of the fact that the 1979 education policy clearly mentioned that "the
nomenclature of English-medium schools shall be abolished".
Minister Shaukat Aziz has recently announced a programme for the establishment
of twenty thousand Community Schools throughout the country for the promotion of
basic education, functional literacy and income generating skills.
Unfortunately, a number of programmes of similar nature were introduced by
various Governments but with little success. Plans like Nai Roshni Schools,
step-in Schools, adult education centres etc have wasted precious national
resources with very poor results.
In 1995, the report of an Inter-Agency
UN Mission recommended the establishment of 250,000 non-formal basic education
(NFBE) schools. But the Planning Commission approved only 10,000 NFBE Schools at
a cost of Rs. 1263.375 million. The ministry of finance did not release even
this amount and the cabinet reduced the number of NFBE Schools to only
The story of literacy in Pakistan is a sad one because it has never
been taken-up by the Governments as an essential element for the progress and
prosperity of Pakistan. In fact, literacy was kept out of the field of
education. In Punjab, it was with the department of local government, in
Balochistan, it was with the department of social welfare, in Sindh, it was
given to the Curriculum Department in Hyderabad and the same was the fate in
NWFP. Late Dr. Mehboob-ul-Haq, under his special priority development programme
of mosque schools, Muhammad Khan Junejo's five-point programme including the
promotion and expansion of primary education for which he allocated Rs 27
billion, and the World Bank's and Asian Development Bank's input for
universalisation of primary education, all ended in poor results because of lack
of political commitment, lack of funds, poor capacity of the provincial
governments to utilise the funds allocated to them, and lack of ownership of the
primary schools by the communities.
According to the Pakistan Social and
Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey 2005-2006, the total enrolment in
government schools has been on a steady decline since 2001-02 when it stood at
74 per cent. The PSLM Survey 2004-05 reported "decrease in the share of primary
enrolment in government schools. The overall share has declined from 72 per cent
in 2004-2005 to 65 per cent in 2005-2006."
It is ironic that the people
who believe in a religion which begins with God's first command "READ", have
neglected it most criminally. Our budgetary allocations for literacy and
education have always been miserly and the people made in charge of education
have been those who have little knowledge of and commitment to education. In
short, we are just not bothered about education. According to Quranic
injunctions, the first and foremost requirement for a Muslim is to acquire
knowledge of all things, which is the first stepping-stone to progress. Those of
God's men (Al-nas) on earth who have understood the message of knowledge and
exploration and are using it for the benefit of mankind are ruling the world
while those whose Holy Book revealed this message have been left behind and are
still groping in the dark.
We have failed to receive "wisdom" from God
because we are not men of understanding. Those among God's servants, who
understand, have been given wisdom, which they have used to create modern
civilisation. God has given us signs to explore the universe, He says: "Lo! in
the creation of the heavens and the earth and (in) the difference of night and
day are tokens (of His sovereignty) for men of understanding." (Aal-e-Imran
V-190). This is not possible without education.
By Burhanuddin Hasan
The writer is a former director of PTV. Email: email@example.com
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