PAKISTAN seems to invest its limited resources in pursuits of all sorts other than those aimed at educating the next generation. This is so in spite of the fact that free education is now every child’s constitutional right. The Annual Status of Education Report, launched in various cities in the country, seems to confirm these grim realities, as have similar reports in the recent past. The wide-ranging report, which covers both rural and urban households, says that of the children surveyed in the three-to-five age bracket over 57 per cent did not attend school. Gender disparity is also a reality, as the number of girls in school is considerably less than that of boys, while children’s reading skills come across as woefully inadequate. We are truly facing an ‘education emergency’ but our government officials do not seem to care.
Policy interventions take time to manifest themselves in terms of tangible results. But from the looks of it, these interventions are not being made, at least not properly. There is no chance that Pakistan will reach the Millennium Development Goal for education by 2015. But that does not mean that all efforts for education reform should be abandoned. Rather, such indicators should serve as an impetus for the state to redouble its efforts to reverse the slide. For one, there is a critical link between educated mothers and educated children. It has been observed that educated women have healthier and better-educated offspring. As per ASER’s findings, over 65 per cent of the mothers surveyed were illiterate. While the priority should be educating children, perhaps the situation can also be turned around by supporting adult literacy campaigns focusing on mothers. Another recurring issue bringing education down is political interference, especially in the hiring of teachers. This must end while there needs to be better oversight of school managements.