An overview of education in Pakistan Haroon Mustafa Janjua Across the country, over 21,000 schools have no buildings, only 39 percent have electricity, and 64 percent of schools are said to be in an unsatisfactory condition There is no denying that proper education is the bulwark of all civilised societies. It is the only way that accumulated knowledge and wisdom of humans is translated into the concrete framework of the social, economic and cultural aspects of society. It has always been the enabler of civilisation, and in the present time, with its diverse and distributed knowledge, it is even more so. Pakistan has not managed to reach the desired standards in present day education, although the 21st century makes decent education a sine qua non to be counted among developed and civilised nations. A historical perspective of our nation reveals that along with basic health infrastructure, political maturity, legal reform and economic development, education has also suffered serious setbacks as a result of political instability. While the madrassas operating in every nook and cranny of the country do impart some basic level literacy, they are so unilateral in their objectives as to be of no practical use in producing balanced and upright citizens who would advance the nation. As long as they are not merged with the mainstream curriculum and continue on their declared path of imparting narrowly defined religious ideology to the youth, they cannot be expected to make any positive contribution. In fact, they attain quite the opposite by sowing the seeds of intolerance, bigotry and a refusal to adopt the modern ways of the civilised world towards socioeconomic development. Teachers can be the real catalyst for positive social change by imparting true knowledge and value systems if they themselves are truly educated. Yet this evidently does not happen because I have seen apparently â€˜educatedâ€™ people â€” both young and old â€” voice the same bigoted and prejudiced views against other communities and nations. This isnâ€™t exactly getting us anywhere at all. The education system lacks cohesion and even proper distribution since Pakistanâ€™s inception. One of the most dismaying aspects is that in some places, particularly the northern tribal areas, the education of girls is strictly nixed on religious grounds. We have buried female talent somewhere amongst the household chores. Low female literacy rate is one of the mainsail causes of womenâ€™s abject involvement in political, economic and social activities. They cannot achieve their rights and compete for available opportunities in the job market. Time and again, various governments failed to translate words into actions due to lack of vision and governance structures. If we agree with the premise that the true purpose of education is to produce leaders in every field of human endeavour, then it is easy to see that we are far from doing that. All our colleges and universities manage, at best, is to give an individual some skills to seek employment opportunities, and most madrassas do not even achieve any employability. But even the mainstream education is solely geared towards the creation of an education industry, and in some cases, an education mafia. There does not seem to be an iota of effort to impart value education that would truly boost the ethical and moral standards of individuals as well as collective society by producing real leaders of substance. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the right of every man, woman and child on the planet. Goal number two says: â€œAchieve universal primary education by 2015â€, and the status is not encouraging. As per the Education Emergency of Pakistan (EEP) report, Pakistan is second in the global ranking for the total percentage of out-of-school children. As of now, seven million children are deprived of proper primary education and three million have never seen a classroom. Only 1.5 percent of the GDP is allocated for education, which is less than the subsidy the state gives to corporations like PIA, Pakistan Steel and Pepco. Across the country, over 21,000 schools have no buildings, only 39 percent have electricity, and 64 percent of schools are said to be in an unsatisfactory condition. On the basis of the facts and figures on the education sector, MDG number two seems to be out of reach for Pakistan, whereas India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh appear to be better placed to meet the target. Like every other worthwhile enterprise, it is not easy to attain the professional standards of excellence in any academic field. A college education â€” if imparted and undertaken in the right spirit â€” is only a start. Any achievement will be fraught with repeated trials and failures before success is finally achieved. However, a good education does impart the passion, rigour and courage to persist in the face of failure and adversity. The chief evidence that this does not happen is the fact that I have seen many people quitting their fields in academics because of lack of job opportunities. The required level of ethics and professionalism does not exist here to ensure the development of such job opportunities. This is further compounded by the drastic disparities in the opportunities and quality levels of education available across social class, gender, and rural versus urban educational setups. The aim should be not only to greatly enhance the reach of mainstream education across all these divides, but also to inculcate the right values. After all, bona fide intent and a willingness to really work are far better qualifications than mere academic knowledge. On the plus side, Article 25-A has been introduced in the constitution, making it compulsory for the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children five to 16 years of age. The active involvement of provincial governments in promotion of education has also shown comparative improvement. But there is still a dire need of promoting creative writing and analytical thinking for learners rather than rote learning, which is still observed in many institutions across the country. Paper chasing and the grading system have created the glaring deficiencies we now see on ground, and we desperately need to implement modern education practices including value education if we are to see significant gains in this direction. Education needs to ingrain and inculcate diversity, tolerance, commitment to peace and respect for diverse viewpoints even if we disagree with such views. The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at [email protected] Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan ********************************************************************************** This is how education pans out in Pakistan. Issues of how religion and historical baggage of animus made compulsory by Zia, is missed out except for euphemistic reference, that indicates the flawed education.