By Makhdoom M. Shahab-ud- Din
Education constitutes among the basic necessities of life in the modern era. It is the single important entity by which an individual is equipped with the skills to survive and flourish in the world. However, due to a lack of realization of this fact, the country faces an evil which is a root cause of its disparity in terms of social and economic infrastructure; illiteracy.
A lack of education or an absence of life skill is what this phenomenon has to offer. Education in Pakistan has faced a multitude of changes over the past few years. Policies enforced by government officials and reactions of activists and educationists to them is an ongoing source of conflict in the education sector.
An individual is considered literate in Pakistan if he can read a newspaper and write a simple letter in any language. According to the statistics provided by Human Development Report 2014, Pakistan has a literacy rate of only 49.9%. The situation is quite alarming since a major percentage of the population comprises of young individuals between the ages of 22-29 who are the driving workforce of the country’s economic prosperity. The education completion rate in Pakistan is 33.8% in females and 47.18% in males which is a clear portrayal of the fact that in a country with a population of 182.1 million, people are deprived of education.
The Constitution of Pakistan has an explicit section on education which states; ‘The state of Pakistan shall remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.’ The Government of Pakistan has taken some steps to ensure this. Recently, secondary education has been made compulsory for students in KPK Province for both male and female students. Institutional reforms are being established to initiate collaboration between local authorities and village/district level schools to promote decentralization policy. This policy supports the idea for a standard quality of education in all schools at all levels. However, along with these positive aspects, there has also been observed that the state budget hit to an all-time low amount for the education and science & technology sector in 2016.
Illiteracy is a rampant and recurring situation in Pakistan and its causes can be traced to various social, political, cultural, economic factors. Poverty is the major reason. It hinders educational development as 36%-40% of the population lies beneath the poverty line. Economic cost of good quality education in the private sector is out of bounds for the low income households. Population growth following up on it closely as densely populated areas have minimum to no amount of increase in educational resources. This results in overcrowding of schools and exhausting of resources in terms of infrastructure of schools, wages of staff etc. Child labour is another important issue in Pakistan which has repeatedly been stressed upon by UNICEF. 17.6% of the population below the age of 18 have to work to support their families, making it impossible for them to continue their education. In a developing country like Pakistan, there is a lack of proper planning to utilize the existing infrastructure. Gender gap is an important factor as the female population is deprived of education due to cultural constraints, early marriages, and illiteracy of parents. Pakistan’s war on terrorism has majorly affected the education sector as schools and colleges are now the targets of these hideous atrocities.
The solution to the frightening problem of illiteracy is a procedural one and requires positive actions by both the Government and People of Pakistan. Spreading of awareness among the rural population about the necessity and significance of education through education camps and awareness programmes. Introduction of a uniform curriculum in schools of both urban and rural areas. Attention should be paid to technical and vocational training institutions as they are a significant asset to the youth and industry of Pakistan. Dedicated and trained faculty must be present as teachers are a pillar in the development of an individual’s understanding of the surroundings. The state can only definitely prosper by firmly establishing its educational system so generations ahead can take advantage from it.