Monday, April 7, 2008

EDUCATION FOR ALL

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

Education is a life-blood of a nation. We can not enter and survive in an era of globalization without developing a human resource capable of coping with the phenomenal changes taking place around us. Radical reforms taking into cognizance historical, socio-cultural and economic realities as well as the emerging challenges of the post modernism are needed. The basic issues must be resolved to formulate sustainable policies with inbuilt mechanism of implementation, audit and accountability. This of course can only be possible in a truly democratic society- a goal for which we must keep striving.

Education is the foundation of broad-based economic and poverty reduction. No nation can take advantage of trade and development opportunities in a technology driven and rapidly integrating economy without making major advancement in education. At the same time, without rapid and substantial improvement in access in the quality of education, poverty reduction efforts will be slow. Education offers an escape from poverty by empowering people and enhancing opportunities for greater participation in the labor market.

An over all result in the education sector in Pakistan remains disappointing. Pakistan's primary enrollment rate is well below its neighbor in South Asia. Net primary enrollment rate is 65% in Pakistan, 75% in Bangladesh, 77% in India, and close to 100% in Sri Lanka. Pakistan's lowest school enrollment rate and poor quality education means that it will lag behind its neighbor in improving literacy in the future.

According to the international definition of international literacy, a person who can read and write is considered to be literate. The Pakistan government has merrily declared a 51.6% literacy rate, including in this statistic those people who can barely manage to sign their own names. If we apply international criteria to calculate our literacy rate, it comes out to be a mare 29%. A shameful statistic indeed, for an economy that claims to have the second fastest pace on the road of development after China. Keeping that in view, Pakistan has lagged behind almost every other country in the world in term of educational attainment for most of the last two decades, an educational emergency needed to be declared. Not only lack of literacy, but also falling standards at all levels need to be addresses.

The close link between economic development and education needs to be acknowledged by accepting the fact that education is a responsibility of a state. More funds must be diverted to this sector, cutting down on others that have a lesser impact on human welfare and future growth within a country.

As an initial step, funding must be enhanced to at least the minimum of 20% of the gross national product (GNP), as recommended by UNESCO. An immense chunk of the 277 million defense budget (this figure includes the estimated, hidden, defend expenditure) can easily re-channalized to supplement the major of 4 million educational funds, without jeopardizing the lives of the citizen of that state.

· How these educational funds are distributed to all levels of education needs huge consideration. Previous governmental policies, formulated under bureaucratic pressure and political bickering have lead to the "inverted pyramid" of education with higher education amassing most of the educational funds and primary education getting almost no funds at all.
· Higher funds for primary education are essential. They must be used to create incentives good enough to motivate the poor to send their children to schools. Some of these incentives could be, free food at lunch breaks in schools and scholarships for those whose value is closed to what poverty stricken children could have earned elsewhere through labor.
· Primary education is even more essential for girls because they are the mothers of the future generation. The continuing gender disparity in education must be ended. The factors preventing girls from attending schools. Whether religious, cultural or traditional, must be identified and dealt with.

Education is the most important aspect which distinguishes the poor from non-poor. If the government of Pakistan is sincere in its efforts to eradicate poverty and to improve the quality of life of its citizen then it would be imperative for it to pay heed to the aforementioned recommendations.

This is ironical that we are illiterate being follower of a religion that maintains: "Acquisition of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim man and woman" and "acquire knowledge, it is an ornament in society and an armament against foes."

The policies, schemes and programs initiated by various regimes up till now for achieving "Education for all" more or less were not in comparison with the national aims and objectives. Our problem is not the enactment of good schemes but their implementation. There is no dearth of good brains in Pakistan to suggest good schemes but the availability of a team of sincere, responsible, honest and selfless people to execute the enchanting schemes has always remained at the level of a dream yet to be realized. A few more suggestions are being presented which may contribute in architecting a policy of achieving "education for all" in conformity with objectives and ideology of education.

· Education can only ensure living means if it is planned in accordance with the future requirements of the country both administrative and technological.
· More emphasis should be given to primary and secondary education. As the statistical analysis in the developing countries indicates that the returns to society from a Rupee invested in primary education are the highest followed by secondary education and higher education showing the lowest return. It is very sad that primary school enrolment in Pakistan is just 47% against almost cent percent in China, Kenya, South Korea and Sri Lanka. The schooling should be made compulsory for every child between the age of 6 to 10 years.
· "Education for all" can be met if government, NGO's, philanthropists and people all over take their responsibility and utmost interest in developing the nation. The noble sentiments and selfless efforts are what country needed the most in achieving this objective.
· More funds needed to uplift literacy rate from grass-root level. Education sector never gets due share of government attention as for as allocation of appropriate funds are concerned. Its share in terms of percentage of GNP ranged from less than 3-3.6 over a period of time. The already scarce funds many times were subjected to diversion to other sectors. This was due to the fact that government is more inclined to spend on the sectors capable of showing prompt results than the education sector where has to wait quite for a long time to observe any tangible result after investment.
· The present scene reflective of corruption, crime and malpractices in every sphere of life indicates that our education system badly failed to produce men of character and integrity. The political actors, elites and feudals should not be allowed to create their spheres of influence in achieving the objective of education for all.
· Free basic and primary education is inevitable in creating awareness in rural areas should be made possible as soon as possible. There has been some progress too but this is a process where things never remain static. But the tragedy is that the progress has not been properly planned and has taken place in fits and starts. Priorities among the various sectors have been set and reset every few years, universal primary education, adult literacy, female education and higher education being the slogans heard from time to time. The private schools, colleges and universities with fancy foreign names and dubious affiliations and credentials sprang up at every street corner of our big and small cities and towns. Instead of regulating this mushroom growth of substandard commercial enterprise, the government has gone on a spree of opening new colleges and universities of its own and renaming existing colleges as College Universities as if hanging new sign boards will convert them into centre of excellence. It is also introducing self-finance schemes in its institutions and appears keen to privatize some. It is indeed a sorry story in all extent.
· Women are more then 50% of population of the country. Basic and primary education is their birthright in raising the nations' growth. Special emphasis should be given to women education, because the future lies in the hands of educated mothers. Someone rightly says, "If a mother of today is literate, the next posterity will be literate but if mother is ignorant; no nation can make progressive strides. An educated mother can nurture her kids in a better way than to that of educated father in many ways. The discrimination between woman and man in obtaining education must be ended.

Without education progress in any walk of life is inconceivable. Education is the only important element, which breaks the inertia to bring socio-economic development in the society. It also improves the decision making power of the general public. It enables the people to protect their rights against any exploitation. It brings the general awareness and courage in the masses and helps in establishing the institution of public accountability. For obtaining these objectives of "Education for all" or "Literate Pakistan", it is a moral duty and responsibility of all individual to act accordingly to make country a better place to live, with the blessings and utilization of education. Education assists in better deployment of people's potentials and exploitation of the country's hidden resources, thus it helps in establishing a Welfare State in a real sense.

With the new political set-up, one is very optimist that this government would make revolutionary policies in empowering the education sector. If at any juncture, the state renders its services to provide basic education facilities free of cost to all masses and majority of people still not pay the heed to grab that opportunity, then there would not be a better advice to them then to this, "if you think education can not bring a change into your life, try ignorance"!

The author is a freelance columnist from Islamabad

Published in daily THE POST on 9th April, 2008, Weekly Cutting Edge, Dec 28-Jan 03, 2006 and in Pakistan Observer on 29th Nov, 2005

Originally written for an Essay Writing Competition 2005 organized by Pakistan Science Foundation, Islamabad & National Museum of Science & Technology, Lahore

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/ 2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com

Tania Shah Emails from Islamabad: Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 5:47 PM
ladke...
tum to strategist bante ja rahe ho...
good to see the suggestions rather then just beating the drum.
good
wese i propose ke education ka bhi eik hidden budget hona chahiye...

Taniya Shah

M.Phil

Department of Anthropology

Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan

No comments: