ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood said in the Senate on Thursday that literacy rate in the country had declined by two percentage points to 58 per cent within two years due to growing population and lack of efforts to arrest the trend.
He was replying to a question raised by Usman Khan Kakar regarding percentage of literate persons in Pakistan.
The written reply received from the relevant department highlighted that the definition of literacy was ‘one who can read a newspaper and write a simple letter in any language’ and it was 60pc in 2014-15.
The reply also highlighted that the literacy rate in the country was only higher than that of Afghanistan in the region.
Shafqat Mahmood blames growing population and lack of efforts to check the trend for the situation
It referred to the Unesco Global Education Monitoring Report, which says the literacy rate among the population of 15 years and older in Pakistan was 57pc in 2019, while it was 86pc in Iran, 73pc in Bangladesh, 92pc in Sri Lanka and 99pc in the Maldives.
Contrary to the expectations of the critics, including Senator Kakar, over the low rate reported about Pakistan by the international body Mr Mahmood said that he was ready to acknowledge that the literacy rate had gone down.
“The population is increasing while nothing is being done to promote literacy among the citizens and there is a serious concern about the illiterate adults in the country,” he said.
The minister said there was another issue of a high number of children out of school, “but that does not mean that only the girls were not going to the schools, the number of girls out of education set-up was higher than that of boys but the gap was narrow”.
Mr Mahmood said it was a matter of concern for the whole nation that in 70 years parliament was still discussing the issue of low literacy among the population.
He said that although literacy was a provincial matter after the 18th Amendment, the present government wanted to introduce new policies and projects in this regard.
“There are several ideas. I want to give an outline to enhance adult literacy and it is expected that we can increase adult literacy rate by 10-15pc through it,” he said.
The minister said that an adult literacy campaign was being launched but there was a need to introduce a compulsory subject of social work after Class-12 and the students would be inducted in the programme to impart basic reading and writing to the adults.
Such a programme would require legal changes as well as the consent of the provinces, he added.
Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018