WASHINGTON: The United States should focus its assistance to Pakistan on helping public schools instead of reforming madressahs, says a rare editorial by the Bloomberg news agency.

This is one of a series of articles, stories, editorial pieces and statements on the current state of education in Pakistan in various US media outlets following the San Bernardino terrorist attack in California earlier this month.

“The sorry state of public schools in Pakistan has encouraged a great proliferation of religious madressahs -- estimated to number anywhere from 18,000 to 33,000 and to graduate at least 200,000 students a year,” the Bloomberg editorial board points out.

“More important than trying to impose reform on the madressahs is for Pakistan to provide children with good public-school alternatives,” it adds.

The editorial notes that as of 2013, more than half of public schools in Pakistan lacked electricity and 42 per cent had no working toilets. “As many as 25 million children may be out of school altogether.”

Noting that the national and provincial governments together spend only about 2.5 pc of gross domestic product on education, which is among the lowest in the world, it urges Pakistani rulers to raise it to 4 pc.

The editorial notes that under the “national action plan” formulated after the Peshawar massacre, the authorities are mapping all madressahs, auditing their accounts and regulating any foreign funding.

It praises efforts to introduce more secular subjects into the curricula at religious schools but notes that this may not be enough to help students learn religious tolerance and is not an alternative to a good public school system.

Another article in the Eliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University’s magazine, urges the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to design and initiate specific educational projects in Pakistan.

“These projects must engage the Pakistani Education Ministry, provincial ministry, and local communities in efforts to revamp existing public schools and build new public schools where necessary,” writes the author, Meera Eaton.

Last week, Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee, advised Pakistan to close 600 Deobandi madressahs, describing them as an “infrastructure of hate.”

“Unless that infrastructure of hate is shut down, Pakistan will never win its struggle for internal peace,” Mr Royce told a Congressional hearing on Pakistan.

Mr Royce said he favoured “close strategic partnership with Pakistan” but proposed a new policy for fighting terrorism.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2015

Opinion

Editorial

Slow start
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Slow start

Despite high attendance, the NA managed to pass only a single money bill during this period.
Sindh lawlessness
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Sindh lawlessness

A recently released report describes the law and order situation in Karachi as “worryingly poor”.
Punjab budget
15 Jun, 2024

Punjab budget

PUNJAB’S budget for 2024-25 provides much fodder to those who believe that the increased provincial share from the...
Budget and politics
Updated 14 Jun, 2024

Budget and politics

PML-N, scared of taking bold steps lest it loses whatever little public support it has, has left its traditional support — traders — virtually untouched.
New talks?
14 Jun, 2024

New talks?

WILL this prove another false start, or may we expect a more sincere effort this time? Reference is made to the...
A non-starter
14 Jun, 2024

A non-starter

WHILE the UN Security Council had earlier this week adopted a US-backed resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza...