The Literacy conundrum

  • The rise and fall of nations have been witnessed throughout the centuries that have passed on. It wouldn’t be hard to say that the process of the evolution looked as if the mantle was passed on from one empire to another and then, it became the duty of the successor to uphold the evolved traditions, customs and practices for the excellence and advancement of mankind. In the whole process of transfer of power with brutal or merciful way, the world saw many casualties, good and bad people losing their life at times of war, aggression, takeovers and even swift shift of power witnessed many beheadings. In spite of all the massacres and bloodbath, one sect of society has enjoyed certain immunity from the hands of tyrants and merciful kings alike, scholars. When the history is put on trial, it roars that every time an atrocity has hit the lands at the hands of heathens, the scholars and teachers have enjoyed immunity. Temujin Kahn, famously known as Gengis Kahn, the notorious killing warlord has said to wipe of 10% of entire population in his era. However, even in his time, the history experts narrate that teachers and scholars were not hurt or killed. Instead, they were asked to share their knowledge and wisdom with the rest of the empire of Gengis Kahn. Why even go so back in history when the national treasure of Pakistan, Ashfaq Ahmed, author of many books and the custodian of the pearls of wisdom narrates his story about his appearance in the courtroom. When the judge inquired why was he late to submit the fine and couldn’t appear on time, he replied that he was a teacher who was busy in some affairs. The courtroom heard the famous words by a judge which echoed in the hall, ‘Teacher is in the court’, to which all the people sitting there stood up in respect. Thus, explaining the amount of respect the court granted to a teacher. This all signifies how integral education and literacy is and how the vanguards of knowledge are treated by the history in different eras. However, the current quagmire that Pakistan is into explains at great deal about the perils of education system and the flawed policies to tackle it.  


    The United Nations is the international platform for peace, prosperity and stability. It being the parent body of UNHRC, UNSC, UNDP and others has worked tirelessly to make the world a better place by imposing many rules and regulation. It acts as a watchdog to ensure that the targets are met. United Nations Development Program (UNDP), a UN body focuses on extensive progress towards development of the people. Although, internationally the efforts were carried out before to make the world a better place as well but 30th September 2015 marked as the dawn of the era of SDGs (Sustainable Developments Goals). These are the goals and targets set by the UN for developing and under developing countries to achieve by 2030. This 2030 agenda has 17 goals out of which SDG No. 4 talks about Quality Education. This SDG talks at great length about the enrollment rate, the quality, the provision of education and steps required to literate everyone. Pakistan is one of the member countries of the United Nations and to ensure all SDGs are upheld as holy and are fulfilled is its duty.  



    The Education sector in Pakistan has seen many setbacks and has been a point of controversy since the begging of time. Currently, the education system is divided into three different systems, public, private and madrassa. The public system inaugurated by Bhutto. Article 25-A of constitution of Pakistan states that government is liable to provide free education to everyone from the age of five to 16. The madrassa system is the brainchild of Zai ul Haq. Lastly, private schooling came into existence in Musharaf’s era. The synergy of these education systems breeds a unique type of issue but to what extent has it affected literacy rate and curbing academia issues. All of these systems have gone through revolutionary steps to benefit the end user. Unions have been formed, laws passed, partnerships made and much more to put a foot down to address the education predicament that the nation dwelled in for quite some time.  

    The education policy adopted to literate 87 million people (more than the population of whole Germany combined) was formulated in 2009 which stated that Pakistan needs to allocate 7% of its GDP on Education Sector, all teachers to have at least master degree in order to be eligible to be qualified for teaching and the target to achieve 85% literacy rate by 2018. The policy itself on papers looks interesting and intriguing but the practicality of policy is seriously questionable. The country which faces serious financial crunches would not be able to contribute a hefty chunk of its GDP for a matter which would yield its results in 20 years from now. Moreover, such major part of GDP can only be spent if it ensures popularity and a big vote bank ; making the 7% GDP share allocation on education as a far-fetched dream to achieve.  Currently, Pakistan has 1.59 million registered teachers out of which 51% have a university degree, BA or above and 49% do not even have a university degree. Out of the 49%, 30% have done Private Teaching Courses. The scarcity of teachers in quality and quantity is a proof itself that having teachers with only master degree is tall claim made to gain publicity.  

    The ‘tall claim’ policy of 2009 was revisited in 2015 when Pakistan became the signatory to the SDGs. The policy of 2015 states that 4% of GDP share to be allocated for education, increasing the number of PHD students from 7500 to 15,000 by 2025 and increasing the higher education enrollment rate from 6% to 12%. This policy takes into account the current financial situation and issues of the country. However, implementation of even these key agendas seems like a far-fetched idea. Pakistan currently deploys 2.4% of GDP on education while its immediate neighbors, Iran spends 3.1%, India 3.8%, China 4% and Afghanistan allocated 4.6% of its GDP on education. The allocation of GDP on education by Pakistan’s neighbor speaks great volume about the priorities of the nation as whole. This serves as reason for low enrollment rate as well. There are 22.4 million children who are out of school out of which ¾ are non-going school kids and ¼ are dropouts.  

    The education crisis that we are into is our doing. Education sector have hardly been taken seriously and few bold attempts or concrete effort has been made to address this quagmire once and for all. The nation itself has also never raised an eyebrow when it comes to the idea of being educated.  The country has witnessed hikes, protests and sit-ins for a thousand of things but hardly ever a thorough probing has been done on this matter. The severity of the situation should be considered and tackled effectively before it is too late to repair. Illiterate population acts as ticking time bomb which shall eventually explode and cause all the stakeholders a lot of damages which will surely be irreparable.