If we are asked to sum up the current state of education in Pakistan in one sentence, it can be said that there is “education apartheid” in the country, even though it may not be as explicit as was the case under Bantu Education Act in South Africa, which essentially ensured that African children only learn enough to enable them for working in factories or other menial labor to serve the whites. They were denied any education or skills which would enable them to compete with their masters.
In Pakistan the education system is supposedly open to all citizens regardless of their socioeconomic status or other considerations. But in reality, it has been set up where it not only perpetuates but strengthen the class-based system. In the past few decades we have seen privatization of education where now it has become a commodity which can be bought according to one’s buying power just like clothes, shoes, housing or food. Those who cannot afford have to be content with lesser quality products. While clothes, shoes, housing may not have direct effect on the future of a human being, food and education lead to an everlasting impact on human life. Whereas lack of quality food leads to stunting of physical and intellectual growth, lack of quality education leads to effective exclusion of the poor from practically all opportunities needed for their equal participation in political, social and economic arenas of the society. Both of these factors have direct relationship with unequal distribution of wealth which impacts many other facets of life.
In simple words it means that the poor, various levels of middle class and elite, each have specific kinds of schools where they send their children. As these children enter practical life, they go back to their respective socioeconomic class with little chance to ever crossing that barrier. And that is how the elite class maintains its hold on the reigns of power and wealth.
Article 25-A of Pakistan’s constitution which was added in 2010, calls for the provision of free and compulsory education to all children ages 5-16. It was a promise to the children of Pakistan that state is responsible for educating them. However, not only that promise remains unfulfilled, the promise itself is short of the ideal which should not be just access to education only to primary level but access to quality education for as far as the person is willing to go.
Pakistan ranks 177, globally, in the community of world countries in terms of public spending on education; just seven developing countries in the world spend less on education than Pakistan. Out of this meagre amount, 83 % is allocated for current expenditure and only about 17% for development. And budget allocation is not actual budget spending, which is reported at the end of fiscal year. In the years 2012-2013 the actual education development expenditure for all four provinces, was less than 50% of what was allocated to the sector. These figures are taken from UNDP report.
At this time there are about 22 to 25 million children out of school. Enrolment in primary schools is only 57% and drops to 38% at secondary and 26% at high school level. This shows high drop out and poor completion rate. Three out of four high school age children are not in school. In a country with 60% of population being under the age of 30, these numbers do not bode well for future of the country. Uneducated and unemployed, angry and frustrated youth can unravel the whole social fabric of society.
Gender gap in education is another dimension which has not been addressed in spite of repeated promises by successive governments. For example according to UNDP only 7 per cent of 14-15 years old girls in Baluchistan and 18 per cent in KPK are in school. Over all literacy rate in males is 69 percent compared to 45 per cent in females.
Due to the negligence of successive governments education has become a complex problem. One of our core beliefs is equality of access to quality education for all children and all those who want to continue this quest for longer periods of their lives.