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Beyond lip-service


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IT has been argued that if one were to look for a starting point that has led Pakistan to the woeful place where it is today, it may be lack of education. Alongside the low literacy levels, the curricula, the lack of oversight and the knowledge base of even those who have been to school have continued to be called into question. The challenges faced by the country on this front are myriad and multi-dimensional and begin from the general lack of infrastructure. A population skewed heavily towards the young features low enrolment and high dropout rates, with one in every 10 out-of-school children in the world being Pakistani. Add to this a worsening economic climate which forces parents to keep their children out of school, and the targeting of schools by terrorists, and it is hardly surprising that, as a study undertaken last year estimated, there are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan, but that send more children to school.

Fortunately, though, in the recent past there have been a couple of developments that give some hope. As a consequence of the 18th Amendment, Article 25-A of the constitution directs the state to provide “free and compulsory education” to children aged between five and 16 years. And on Tuesday, the National Assembly adopted the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2012 — it has already been passed by the Senate — and called upon the provinces to adopt similar bills. The legislation has worthy features, including infrastructure development and teacher training, stricter regularisation of private schools and punishment for employers who do not send children working for them to school. There is no denying that much would improve if the country could educate its children.

As usual, though, the devil lies in the detail. Has the state the will to undertake the change in mindset that is necessitated to put every child in school? To put every child in school, we would immediately have to see teachers being trained and schools being built on virtually every street. We would need a countrywide strategy to reduce the need for children to work, or for their parents to keep them out of school for other reasons, to create employment opportunities for matriculates or incentives for further education, and to install an educational net that embraces all children, everywhere. And doing that would require far more spending — by some estimates six or more per cent — than the 1.7 per cent of the GDP currently being spent. So, the question then becomes one of political will. Is the state willing to put its money where its mouth is?

Comments (9) Closed

Dr. D. Prithipaul Nov 15, 2012 07:01pm
Another substantial advantage accruing to the state with the availability of free eduction to every child would be the corresponding strengthening of the ideology of the nation. With the kind of books currently prescribed for public school use the ideology of hatred for everything Hindu would thus be more securely entrenched. And with education designed to swell the heart of every citizen with hating the Hindu as a patriotic responsibility and as nourishment for the institutionalized nationalist fervour as the raison d'?tre of the PureState there would be no reason to doubt that such a development would also be of immense benefit to India.
irfan Nov 15, 2012 06:51pm
i can't undrstand the policy of punjab government regardng educational reforms... the most literate province hs many number of ghost schools and teachers... the govermnt should concenterate on providing the quality education with sound infrastructure to far flung areas rather gifting the laptops
altaf Nov 15, 2012 08:39am
Wonderful Wonderful wonderful
Arif Butt Nov 15, 2012 06:52am
Throughout the history of Pakistan, successive government have not shown any solid commitment to provide resources required to ensure provision of up to the mark facilities/infrastructure for education for all youngs of the state. Even, PPP has its fourth turn in the goverment and the Act is made in last few months. We may recall the fate of Iqra Surcharge levied in the past with a noble cause but proceeds thereof lost in mist.
Tanvir Nov 15, 2012 03:57pm
Let's see if the Pakistani elites and landlords are really sincere in educating the children of the masses. Besides, Pakistan has to be able to collect enough taxes to pay for the free education of its children.
Muhammad Nov 15, 2012 02:48pm
The article is good, and the comments are right. But this is the first step, 'identification of the problem'. The next steps are 'planning a solution' and 'action'. The second and third steps were never taken. Without these steps, status quo will not change. The only thing of consequense is what we do, not what we say. Government is busy in full time politics, and the people are complacent. I have no hope.
M. Asghar Nov 15, 2012 11:57am
All the necessary legal and constitutional elements have been on the ground, but the things are deteriorating simply because of the state's absence in the field.
Iftikhar Husain Nov 15, 2012 12:25pm
The editorial is correct to point out the need to education but hardly any body in the government is planning on this subject. It seems that the last worry the people in power have to educate the masses aleast this paper is showing interest in this respect.
Haroon Nov 15, 2012 11:48pm
And how and who will employee these half literate youths when they come out of the schools and starting asking for work?