Scroll down to also read of the country's "Education Emergency" and early 2013 promises of "Education for every girl"
Although the literacy rate in Pakistan has increased over the years but because of high population growth, the absolute number of illiterates has increased. (White Star)
Education is considered a fundamental human right and an essential ingredient for individual as well societal development. Article 37-B of the Constitution of Pakistan, given under the heading ‘Promotion of social justice and removal of social evils’ reads as follows:
The state shall “remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.”
Recently, under the 18th amendment, a new sub-clause 2-A, pertaining to Right to Education has been added, which reads: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
In addition to these constitutional provisions, Pakistan is also signatory to many international treaties and conventions which obligate it to provide equal access to education to all of its citizens without any discrimination on the basis of gender, race and ethnicity. Apart from other indirect provisions, two important conventions are worth mentioning: the 1990 Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (EFA) and the Dakar Framework for Action 2000.
The Jomtien Conference reaffirmed the right of every person to receive education, which satisfies his or her basic learning needs. This declaration announced the six goals of EFA, which are to be achieved by the year 2015. These EFA goals include expanding early childhood care and education; providing free and compulsory primary education for all; promoting learning and life skills for young people and adults; increasing adult literacy by 50 per cent from the level of 1990; achieving gender parity by 2005 and gender equality by 2015; and improving the quality of education for all.
The Dakar Framework of Action (Senegal, 2000) was adopted in which the international community once again recognised illiteracy as a priority issue; it set a number of goals to be achieved by the year 2015. By signing these two documents, the international community, including Pakistan, affirmed their commitment to eradicate illiteracy within a stipulated period of time. It is believed that illiteracy not only hinders the development of individuals’ full potential and their participation in a democratic society, but also has repercussions for the rest of their lives. It affects personal and family life of the individuals, deprives them of the benefits of development and hinders the enjoyment of other human rights.
The Dakar Framework of Action not only announced eight goals, commonly known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) pertaining to various aspects of human life, but also set measurable targets and indicators to monitor progress of the societies in this direction. Out of these goals, two exclusively relate to education.
Goal two pertains to achieving universal primary education, and the relevant target reads “ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015”. Attainment of this target requires an increase in the net enrolment ratio of children at the primary level and improving the completion rate of primary schooling.
Goal three encourages the international community to promote gender equality and empower women; it reads “eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and at all levels by 2015”. Achievement of this target requires improving the ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Twenty-three years down the road since the declaration of EFA, and just about two years away from the target year 2015, it is high time to assess Pakistan’s achievement and progress in this direction, particularly with reference to universal education and gender parity. According to MDGs, Pakistan was expected to achieve 100pc net primary enrolment rate by 2015 and 100pc completion/survival rate to Grade V by the same year.
In terms of literacy, it was expected to achieve overall 88pc literacy rate for 10+ years aged population. To achieve steady progress in this regard, Pakistan announced three education policies in 1992, 1998 and 2009 and a number of development plans, including National Plan of Action 2001-2015 and Education Sector Reforms (ESR).
These policies and plans set different dates to achieve the millennium development goals. The National Plan of Action on EFA (2001-2015) declared to achieve increase on the following indicators by 2005.
Literacy from 49pc to 60pc:
Net primary enrolment from 66pc to 76pc
Middle school enrolment from 47.5pc to 55pc
Secondary school enrolment from 29.5pc to 40pc
Higher education enrolment from 2pc to 5pc
The Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) 2005-2010 set the target to achieve 77pc net primary enrolment ratio, 80pc completion/survival rate to Grade V and 77pc overall literacy rate for 10+ years population by 2010. Similarly, in terms of gender equality, Pakistan was expected to achieve full gender equality in primary enrolment ratio as well as youth literacy by the year 2015. The relevant target set under MTDF was to achieve 0.94 Gender Parity Index (GPI) for primary enrolment and 0.85 GPI for youth literacy.
The analysis of available data reveals that progress of Pakistan toward achieving the MDGs is not only unsatisfactory; rather highly disappointing. We are not only far away from achieving these goals by 2015 rather under the current pace of development these goals seem to be totally unachievable.
Although the literacy rate in Pakistan has increased over the years but because of high population growth, the absolute number of illiterates has increased. At present, the literacy rate of 10+ age population as well and the net enrolment rate at the primary level is about 58 and 68pc respectively, with higher gender disparity index in literacy rate than in primary enrolment rate.
The overall literacy rate is higher in Punjab and Sindh, with lowest in Balochistan. Similarly, the lowest literacy and enrolment rates are observed in the female population in Balochistan. The achievement of MDGs requires an expansion of primary education opportunities for children and reducing the drop-out rate. In post-9/11 era, Pakistan received a lot of aid for various sectors, including education. There was a huge campaign of increasing educational opportunities for different age population.
However, the available statistics about primary schooling in Pakistan reveals a negative trend. This is particularly true for female literacy rate in the country. As discussed earlier, to fulfil the commitments made by the government of Pakistan for achieving MDGs, Pakistan was expected to achieve full gender equality in primary enrolment ratio as well as youth literacy by the year 2015.
However, literacy figures recently released by the Unesco Institute for Statistics reveal that absolute number of female illiterates has risen from 31,101,011 in 2005 to 32,106,848 in 2009. That is, about one million females were added to the illiterate lot. On the other hand, it is encouraging to note that there was a decrease of about 0.6 million in the number of male illiterates during the same period. However, this has resulted in an increase in gender disparity.
This is mainly because of the faulty education policies during the previous regime. Available data indicates that during the Musharraf government, instead of expanding primary education in the public sector, the number of primary schools decreased from 159,330 in 1998-99 to 156,400 in 2009-10. His government implemented a devolution plan and accordingly the primary, middle and secondary education was devolved to the district governments. This was done on the pretext that the decentralisation process would enable the district governments to effectively manage the education system. However, the devolution policy resulted in decreasing the enrolment rate, especially in the public-sector schools and closure of about 3,000 schools during the last decade.
Primary schools are the basic unit of education and an important instrument for imparting literacy and basic education. These figures also reveal that despite increase in primary age population, primary schools were not increased proportionately. Instead, higher expansion in middle and secondary schools was achieved. Against about 29pc increase in the primary school population, about 2pc decrease in the number of primary schools has been observed during the same period.
If the same trend is continued, this will be in total defiance of the MDGs and Pakistan will never be able to achieve the MDGs’ targets, particularly in the case of the female population. Taliban are condemned for eroding female schools in Fata, Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but what if the government does the same thing in the name of rationalisation policy or uses other pretext to close public schools?
Education for all, gender balance, better equipped educational institutions, new uniform curriculum and much more. Will the PTI be able to achieve its ambitious education goals? By Tahir Ali
As per its commitment during elections, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has declared education emergency and planned various initiatives to improve education standard in the province.
The main focus of new projects is to ensure education for all, create a gender balance and fulfil the requirements of educational institutions regarding staff, equipment, furniture, teachers training and essential repairs. It also intends to devise a new uniform curriculum in the near future.
A working group comprising education experts, coalition partners and education administrators deliberated on the problems of education sector and prepared its elaborate recommendations for the sector.
The budget for both the elementary and secondary education (E&SE) and higher education has been increased to Rs29.7 billion against Rs22.12 billion in 2012 with the E&SE being the biggest beneficiary, accounting for Rs24 billion in the total ADP of Rs118 billion.
KP Chief Minister, Pervez Khan Khatak, says schools will be run by Management Councils comprising parents of students, local bodies’ members, elders of the localities, teachers and former students of schools. “It is a revolutionary step, first of its kind in the country. Teachers’ progress will be conditioned with the result of their students,” he adds.
A Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Commission is being formed with eminent education experts as its members who would work for uniform curriculum, transparent examination system and education for all.
For efficient and proper monitoring of schools and offices, a modern monitoring system is being developed comprising 500 impartial monitors with an expenditure of Rs500 million. It will also be supported by a third party monitoring system.
Female education administrative officers will get 50 per cent of their basic pay as incentive in six less developed districts for one year which will be made permanent if teachers’ attendance and performance improve.
Some other schemes include ‘Chief Minister’s Endowment Fund’ for sponsoring higher education of needy students and Iqra Education Promotion Scheme’ for poor children both of Rs500 million each; Expansion of Rokhana Pakhtunkhwa Public-Private-Partnership in Education Programme of Rs800 million; ‘Education Fund’ for establishing private school in areas having no public schools worth Rs500 million; the ‘Stori da Pakhtunkhwa’ initiative worth Rs360 million and increase in the number of beneficiaries from 10 to 20 position holders for all boards of intermediate and technical education.
The E&SE department has asked all the heads of schools to give their demands for staff, furniture, books, funds and other requirements immediately. These, according to an official, will be fulfilled before August 31st.
“The government has asked us to repair and whitewash all the rooms, lavatories and boundary walls around the schools. Water availability must be ensured. We were also asked to get telephone and internet connections and the government says IT teachers and labs will be provided in all schools,” according to a school principal.
Clusters: “To improve standard of education in public sector schools, clusters have been formed wherein 6 primary and 2-3 middle schools will be given under the supervision of one principal or head master of a high or higher secondary school. The latter will be responsible for monitoring the attendance and working of teachers and will also serve as their salary drawing and disbursement officers,” he said.
“CM Khattak, in his first assembly address, had asked teachers to improve upon their performance or face the music. But education standard could hardly be improved in a situation where schools lack teachers, books, and labs. Also, the head masters/principals will have to be empowered to take appropriate action against the staff found negligent in duties. And political intervention will also have to be eradicated,” added the principal.
Management of a school requires strong commitment and sustained and fullest attention towards it on part of the principals. “We’ll have to monitor the schools, report to district education officers of any irregularity and ask the district accounts officer to issue/stop payment to teachers and other staff at the cluster schools which will consume a lot of our time. Monitoring of schools will take much time especially when there is no transport facility available. Those having no vehicle would either avoid or only nominally do the monitoring job. They should be given vehicles or sufficient travelling allowance. Then, principals and head masters should have vice-principal and assistant head masters at schools,” he said.
Curriculum change: The PTI government also wishes to change the curriculum. KP E&SE Minister Atif Khan has given a tentative date of March 2014 to enforce uniform curriculum across the province.
The diverse curriculum taught in the public and private sectors and ‘religious’ madaris has divided the nation in water-tight compartments. To promote national cohesion, moderation and tolerance in our society, uniform curriculum is the need of the hour.
Curriculum change is, however, an arduous process that requires strong will and competence on part of executers, billions of rupees, lot of time and mutual consultations and spirit of compromise between coalition partners and stakeholders, political stability and support from the federal government. Will the PTI be able to successfully cope with these issues?
As KP is dependent on federal transfers and donor funding for implementation of its plans and projects, it will have to approach donor agencies like World Bank, USAID, Asian Development and UK’s DFID and the Agha Khan Foundation. Donor agencies are ready to finance the process but they want due representation in the working groups and the committees for the purpose. They would also attach some strings to their support.
The Jamat-e-Islami has been vocal in opposing heavy presence of donor agencies personnel in working groups and authoritative role for them in the process. It fears that giving too much leverage to the donor agencies would give them enough powers to exclude religious contents from syllabi which would be unacceptable. But beggars, after all, can’t be choosers.
While the JI presses for all-encompassing religious contents in curriculum, donor agencies may consider it an attempt to spread extremism.
Curriculum from first to intermediate level was changed by the previous ANP provincial government and the process was to complete in next academic year. The ANP had to face severe opposition from the JI, then in opposition but now a coalition partner in the PTI-led government.
There is still ambiguity whether or not seminaries and their boards and the private schools chains would be included in the process. And whether it’ll be done by banning private schools or by privatising public schools?
There will be opposition from certain quarters. “The elite class and their private education systems, the text book commission mafia and incompetent teachers would resist the move,” a professor said, adding that the government should implement the curriculum in stages.
Hitches The PTI wishes to introduce uniform curriculum, increase state spending on education to five per cent of GDP, reduce the dropout rate at elementary level by offering incentives, encourage greater public-private partnership in qualitative improvement and quantitative expansion of education. But there are many hitches.
Ghost schools, teachers absenteeism, outdated teaching techniques, low admission and high dropout ratio, dilapidated school buildings with no facilities, outdated curriculum, flawed examination system, faulty monitoring system, indifference of teachers and administrators, overcrowded classrooms, weak supervision, mounting political interference and little attention and resources to developing teachers’ competencies, etc., are some of the main problems in the sector. Without removing these, any hope for improvement in the system will only be wishful thinking.
Teachers’ competencies should be the main focus as high quality teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education. With computer based learning tools, educational institutions can provide the supportive productive environment teachers need to reach, teach, and support each student’s learning needs and potential.
But the KP’s provincial assembly was informed last year that only around 300 high and higher secondary schools in KP had computer labs while around 2000 lacked computer labs and 4,500 computer teachers were needed.
While the government says it will achieve millennium development goals in the educations sector by the end of 2015, KP MDGs Report-2011 says they are unlikely to be achieved in KP by then. The net primary enrolment ratio in 2011-12 was 67 per cent and the Primary Completion Rate and Literacy Rate stands at 67 per cent and 50 per cent against the targets of 100 and 88 respectively.
There should be a mandatory uniform national curriculum from class one to twelve. At the intermediate level, all the students in the country should take a federal examination on the pattern of developed countries.
Like other parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami also places emphasis on education for all to woo voters By Javed Aziz Khan
Almost all the political parties have announced their election manifestos with claims to bring revolutionary reforms into the system and make Pakistan a model state. The season of claims and promises is on and political parties are trying something new to attract more voters and get their sympathies for election candidates.
Most of the political parties are claiming to give top priority to education once they come into power in the country. There are claims of establishing more universities, upgrading the already existing institutions with providing them all the basic facilities and setting up more primary schools to improve the literacy rate.
The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has also announced its election manifesto recently with more emphasis on educating every child with quality education for free.
“Our slogan is Ilaj, taleem, rozgar har fard kay leye….Saaf pani, bijli aur gas har ghar kay leye (health, education and job for every individual and clean water, electricity and gas for every house),” says deputy chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Sirajul Haq.
Siraj, who has served as senior minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government, is of the opinion that this is the responsibility of the state to provide free quality education to its people.
The JI is more focused on education for girls and want to launch educational emergency in the country for this purpose. “We want to launch educational emergency in the country so that every girl gets education because an educated female can prepare a better nation,” says Sirajul Haq, who headed Islami Jamiat Talaba, a student wing of the JI, for years. He stresses for arrangements so that every girl can get higher and professional education without any harm to culture as well as local and Islamic values.
The Jamaat-e-Islami wants a law that could penalise parents for not sending their children to schools. “We want the private educational institutions should work in partnership with the government. Private schools, colleges and universities should not be an industry but it should be part of the mission to educate the Pakistani nation,” says Sirajul Haq.
The JI was part of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six-party alliance of the religious groups that ruled the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province between 2002 and 2007. The MMA was part of the opposition in the center during the five years. In 2008 general elections, the component parties of the MMA parted ways. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, the largest party in the MMA, and other parties contested the polls while the JI boycotted the last general elections.
The Jamaat is contesting the coming general elections without forming any alliance with religio-political groups. It has, however, started negotiations with various political groups for seat adjustment in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country.
Besides improving the education standards, the JI manifesto has a number of targets to achieve after winning the general elections. “We want to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. Our model is the Islamic state established in Madina where people will rule the country and there will be no difference between a common man and a ruler,” says Sirajul Haq.
In the sector of education, the party wants changes in the syllabus as its leadership believes that every year changes are made in the curriculum on foreign pressure. He believes that primary education would improve if the nation starts giving respect to teachers.
“We will develop a system under which a student will be required to choose his profession after 12th grade. After intermediate level, every student will be given education in a specialised field so we can produce more specialists in every field,” says the JI deputy central chief.
As a religio-political party, the JI wants to bring reforms in the seminary system too. “We want to develop a system in seminaries where a student graduating from these institutions would have adequate knowledge of literature, science, computer and other required fields. We also want to introduce one system for all the religious schools in the country so that no one could trigger any sectarian issue,” says Sirajul Haq. He says there are five different boards of the religious schools all over the country which have thousands of schools affiliated with them. “We will bring reforms and introduce one standard course for these schools after consulting heads and senior members of all the five boards. This will help end sectarian differences.”
Some JI leaders are running modern seminaries while others are supervising few chains of regular schools with a touch of religious education all over the country. The party is having a student wing which is organised in most of the universities and colleges of the country. The student wing arranges educational related activities on regular basis.
The JI has floated a novel idea of planting one tree by every student. “A student will be asked to plant a tree and take care of it. This way, we will have millions of trees planted every year to help us improve the environment,” Siraj suggests.
“Our government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had established a female university and a medical college so that female students could get higher and professional education without any difficulty. We also established 61 new colleges and recruited 46,000 teachers on merit. There was no college in Kohistan and other remote areas, but we established colleges and schools there. If we come into power, we will establish a separate university, medical college and engineering college in Fata,” says the JI deputy amir.
“We will increase the budget for education from 2 per cent to 11 per cent so we are not left behind India and Bangladesh,” says Sirajul Haq.
The writer is senior reporter of The News at Peshawar and can be contacted
and followed on twitter @JavedAzizKhan