Pakistan faces an ‘education emergency’ with millions of children out of school, crumbling infrastructure and constantly shrinking education budgets. — File Photo

KARACHI: According to a report to be released on Wednesday, Pakistan faces an ‘education emergency’ with millions of children out of school, crumbling infrastructure and constantly shrinking education budgets.

Yet the report claims the situation can be turned around in a matter of years if there is political will for change.

Education Emergency Pakistan, published by March for Education, a project of the Pakistan Education Task Force, contains well-researched statistics about the extent of the crisis facing Pakistan and possible ways to exit the quagmire. The organisers of the project will also present a petition to the provincial chief ministers at the end of the month calling for the state to maintain education budgets.

The report points out that under the Eighteenth Amendment the state is constitutionally mandated to provide free and compulsory education to children between five and 16 years. However the Millennium Development Goal for education is now out of reach for Pakistan, while India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are on track to meet this particular MDG.

The report says that seven million children in the country are not in primary school while three million will not see the inside of a classroom. Pakistan is second in the global ranking of out-of-school children. It says that at the current rate Punjab will provide all children with their constitutional right to education by 2041 while Balochistan will reach this goal by 2100.

Education Emergency Pakistan says that the economic impact of the crisis is as expensive as a flood every year. It points out that education budgets are falling in the country; however, 26 countries poorer than Pakistan manage to send more children to primary school. The report says that less than 1.5 per cent of the GDP goes to public schools, which is less than the subsidy the state gives to corporations like PIA, Pakistan Steel and Pepco.

In an indication of the growth of private education in Pakistan, the report says that even in rural areas over a quarter of children attend private schools while the majority of urban children are believed to attend low-cost private institutions.

About the poor state of educational infrastructure, the study says that 35 per cent of schools in Sindh have no building or are in a dangerous condition. Nationwide over 21,000 schools have no building while only 39 per cent have electricity. Across Pakistan merely 36 per cent of public schools are said to be in “satisfactory” condition.

Challenging the presumption that public school teachers are not motivated due to low pay, the report says that in fact government school teachers are highly paid. Yet the relatively high wages do not translate into committed teaching as on an average day 15 to 20 per cent of public school teachers will be absent from work.

‘Change is possible’

The report says that despite the considerable odds facing Pakistan’s education sector, change is possible and that we may be able to see results within two years by sticking to “determined education reform”. Citing an international success story the report says that the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh taught an additional 2.5 million grade five children to read in two years.

The document says that though there have been 10 education policies since independence, none of these have borne fruit because the policies have not attracted the “sustained political will needed to turn aspirations into better education”. It adds that leadership is the most important ingredient required to translate “good education policies into results”.

Putting things in black and white, the report says that Pakistan will require Rs100 billion extra every year to meet its long-term educational goals. Hence, it says, “the main priority is to ensure funding for education is sustained in the 2011-2012 budget”.

The report suggests that as 2011 has been declared the ‘year of education’ by the prime minister, the year should be used to turn around the situation and head off the “impending disaster”.

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