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The State of Education

The State of Education

On need to prioritise education reforms

Quality education is the most powerful weapon for change, but the successive governments in Pakistan have been largely indifferent to the need to equip people with the power of effective education. Sadly, despite great importance of education in today’s globalised world, there are still around 24 million out-of-school children in the country and the government does not have a feasible plan to immediately enrol them at schools.

Quality education, undoubtedly, provides the concrete foundation upon which a nation builds its strong socioeconomic and political future. So, how will Pakistan brighten its future with such a staggering number of out-of-school children? What is most alarming is that the incumbent government has miserably failed in evolving and implementing a pragmatic national education policy.

Pakistan’s current political structure is based on a feudal democracy. Most legislators belong to the country’s aristocratic, plutocratic and feudal classes who employ massive wealth and influence to win supposedly ‘democratic’ elections. In such a system, dynastic lawmakers deliberately avoid providing critical and qualitative education to the people. Their major apprehension is that if the poor acquire education, they will oust the crooked politicians and will permanently bar them from using their ill-gotten wealth to win elections.

According to Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan, the government has to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and sixteen. But, since 1973, all the successive governments have systematically dragged their feet in terms of giving effect to this significant constitutional provision so as to keep the people in the dark and rule over them. Our unscrupulous leaders are acutely aware that uneducated people tend to become economically weak and intellectually ignorant. As a result, they choose these politicians to continue their loot and plunder of the country’s exchequer.

Almost all the political and military setups are responsible for shattering the Quaid’s dream of building a highly-educated and skilled nation. The incumbent government must stay cautioned that if it further delays the direly-needed educational reforms, it will be tantamount to making Pakistan a beggar state as the country will continue to indefinitely knock on the doors of the US and international financial institutions for timely economic bailout packages for its underperforming economy.

Pakistan is among those developing countries which spend less than three percent of national GDP on education. In South Asia, India and Sri Lanka spend more than three percent of GDP on education but, in Pakistan, the 2017-18 budgets of the federal and the provincial governments have meagre allocations for the education sector.

More perplexing is the reports that a large portion of even this meagre amount remains either underutilised or gets wasted on account of the massive corruption inherent in the country’s educational structure. So, it is vividly clear that with this paltry budgetary allocation to education, the government cannot reform and update the outdated syllabi of educational institutions, let alone increasing the faculty capacities and build more learning centres.

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About Ayaz Ahmed

The writer is a former senior researcher at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), and now an independent researcher and columnist based in Karachi.

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