"I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if [the Taliban] come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right."

Malala Yousafzai in an interview last winter. The fourteen-year-old Pakistani girl was shot by the Taliban Tuesday for her continuous efforts to campaign for female education. 

Tags: Pakistan

Pakistan’s rural education struggles

The “year of education,” as Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani dubbed it, has come and gone in Pakistan with little progress. The country’s Annual Status of Education Report, released this week, found several problems with rural education, according to Pakistan Today:

The ASER Pakistan 2011, a household survey that assessed learning outcomes of school going (5-16 years) children in 85 rural districts across Pakistan, found that a majority of children could not read Class-II level text in Urdu, regional languages or English or solve basic level arithmetic problems.

The survey found out that only 41.8 per cent of the children assessed can read at least a sentence in Urdu or in their regional languages, while merely 25.8 per cent children were able to read English sentences.

The children arithmetic was even more abysmal as 40.1 per cent children could solve two-digit subtraction sums, while only 23.6 per cent children could do three-digit division sums.

Tags: Pakistan

Pakistan’s education rhetoric versus reality

An op-ed in Pakistan’s The Nation yesterday by former secretary of the Government of Pakistan Shakil Ahmad outlines the numerous problems facing the country’s education system today. From too few funds allotted by the government - Pakistan ranks among the bottom five countries in the world in education expenditure - to too little access - over half of children don’t finish primary school - Ahmad points to a disconnect between how much of a priority the state says education is and what happens on the ground:

A great deal of propaganda was unleashed by the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) and is even now being propagated by personalities formerly associated with it that the devolution was synonymous with progress in all walks of life. The figures showing an increase in the number of schools and enrolment, official literacy rate and other indicators are often produced to show that the status of education in Pakistan as a result of district governments had positively improved. However, the fact is that at least six million children of primary school-going age are still not enrolled and less than half of all children end up completing primary school. 

Despite the government’s claims that education is its top priority, public spending on it during 2009-10 declined to 1.8 percent of the GDP from 2.6 percent in the early 1990s. The education sector has and continues to suffer from a persistent and acute under investment by the government, since its very inception. The low level of resources allocated and even lesser utilised, stand in sharp contrast to the commitment required by the policy statements that set up ambitious goals for the sector.

Pakistan is now one of the 12 countries that spends less than 2 percent of the GDP on education. Although education enjoys the highest priority on the social sector agenda, which as a whole is poorly funded when compared to defence, general administration and debt servicing, allocations are modest due to indispensable rigidities, such as resource constraints, large establishment bills due to a large salaried-workforce and heavy debt interest repayments, arising from different priority commitments of the country. 

Tags: Pakistan