Education crisis

Published January 26, 2024

WHILE private organisations have for long been raising the alarm over the national ‘education emergency’, the state’s own figures, too, paint a grim picture. The recently released Pakistan Education Statistics 2021-22 report, compiled by the Pakistan Institute of Education, a government body, highlights considerable deficiencies where enrolment and educational infrastructure are concerned. The new administrations that take charge after next month’s elections at the centre and in the provinces would do well to consult this report in order to improve educational outcomes. The most disturbing finding pertains to out-of-school children; the report says that over 26m youngsters fall within this category. As a percentage, this comes to 39pc of the children in the country. While this may be an improvement over past years — for example in 2016-17, 44pc of minors were not in school — the percentage of children not going to school remains unacceptably high. To put things in perspective, nearly 40pc of children in Pakistan today have no chance of acquiring a basic education, which translates to a life of exploitation and poverty as adults.

The status of the educational infrastructure is no less distressing. In an age where young minds — in states more concerned about their next generation —are being introduced to AI and robotics, only 15pc of schools in Balochistan have electricity. Lack of toilets is another problem in many schools. Meanwhile, the report says the teacher-student ratio in primary schools is 1:39. Experts are of the view that smaller class sizes, especially at the primary level, deliver far better results. The question is: which of the parties vying to rule Pakistan have a vision and a plan to change this dismal scenario? And here, we do not mean rhetoric, but solid plans backed by research. The answer would be disconcerting. Perhaps aware of the crisis, President Arif Alvi reiterated the need for “out-of-the-box” solutions while addressing a World Education Day event on Wednesday. It is clear that Pakistan will never be able to change course unless it succeeds in educating all its children, and that too with the tools needed to compete in the global economy — not simply regurgitating ideology or outdated lessons. The mainstream parties must vow to address Pakistan’s educational deficiencies, and start the transformative process that can make us a member of the league of nations that values knowledge.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2024

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