THIS is with reference to Parvez Rahim’s letter ‘Pakistan tourism: lessons from Sri Lanka’ (Feb 10). The writer who, along with his family, was on tour of Sri Lanka has expressed that Pakistan, with its rich heritage like Sri Lanka’s, can also achieve wonders in the field of tourism provided there is a will to move in the direction.
A country endowed with rich heritage like Pakistan must also draw benefits of tourism. However, the proposition is not that simple.
First, Sri Lanka is a country whose literacy rate according to the statistics of 2012 is 98 per cent. It spends more than four per cent of its GDP on education as compared to Pakistan where allocation to education is a meagre sum of 1.40 per cent of the GDP.
Because of high spending Sri Lanka has achieved the maximum rate of literacy in the region.
The rate of literacy in Pakistan, according to official figures, is 55 per cent, which is sufficiently high. But don’t go by the rosy figures as the ground reality is quite different from the official statistics.
The internationally-recognised yardstick of literacy is the ‘ability to read and write’ whereas in Pakistan former president Musharraf and prime minister Shaukat Aziz invented a novel definition of literacy as the ‘ability to only sign’ (one’s name).
As a result, whosoever puts his signature is considered a literate person. Thus to bring the figure of literacy in conformity with the internationally recognised standard, those who can only sign have to be taken out so as to reach the correct rate of literacy in Pakistan.
Another problem is the standard of education. There are two sets of textbooks taught in the academia. The textbooks taught in government schools are full of distortions and inaccuracies. There are other textbooks taught in private schools. These elite schools, because of high tuition fees, mostly cater to the needs of the privileged class.
Moreover, teachers in public sector schools are lowly paid and, therefore, only those join this noble profession who fail to obtain some lucrative government jobs.
Most teachers do not attend their duties and make underhand arrangement with school officials on payment of certain percentage of their salary so as to ensure that their attendance is marked without attending the classes.
The deteriorating law and order is another problem which has caused major setback to education. Education, especially of girls, in KP is hard hit by militants. Balochistan is facing insurgency. In Sindh it is the education ministry and its subordinate offices whose deep-seated corruption and apathy has brought down education at its lowest ebb. According to a survey, more than 8,000 schools in Sindh are ghost schools.
However, at the critical juncture it is the self-less, farsighted and committed leadership that can steer the nation out of the crisis. The instance of Sri Lanka is before us. The country had suffered destruction of civil war for more than 20 years and the war had ended only one year back. However, nothing has been affected substantially in Sri Lanka.
The reason is that its educational institutions were intact and were imparting quality education to their children.
In the final analysis, no country, howsoever rich in natural resources or natural heritage it might be, can achieve progress and prosperity if its human asset is not properly educated.
ISHA KURESHI Karachi