WEB DESK: How weak is the government commitment towards public sector education is plain from the findings of “Pakistan District Education Rankings, 2016” report jointly prepared by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and an advocacy group, AlifAilaan.
The report covering 151 districts across the country as well as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan shows only 52 percent of government schools have all the four school completeness facilities, i.e., toilets, boundary walls, electricity and, drinking water. Of these, as many as 81 percent are primary schools, which of course means those wishing to continue education to higher levels have extremely limited opportunities. Sadly, this has gone on despite the fact that as per Article 25-A of the Constitution, the state has the responsibility to provide free and compulsory matric-level education to all children under the age of 16.
AJK schools show substantial betterment and the ones in GB too relative progress. Among the provinces, Punjab turns out to be the best performer with 93 percent of its schools meeting the completeness criteria as well as improvement in learning outcomes. Although, three south Punjab districts continue to lag far behind central and northern regions they too fare better than the last year.
In KPK there is progress in both enrolment and gender parity, but the retention rate has declined which is attributable to the fact that 50 percent of the schools in the province continue to lack the four basic facilities even though the provincial government claims to have assigned high priority to education. Balochistan and Sindh make a poor showing both for learning outcomes and infrastructure. Balochistan is at the bottom rung in all of Pakistan, which holds serious implications for that restive province.
When the various development projects come to fruition the Baloch people will not be in a position to fully benefit from them. The report card for Sindh is no less worrisome. According to a parallel account of the state of education in Sindh provided by another non-governmental advocacy organisation, ASER, based on its sixth survey report on the status of education in the province, 24 percent of Sindh’s children aged 6-16 remain out of schools, and the other 76 percent are not learning much either.
The ASER survey also found that the number of children going to government-run schools is decreasing as compared to private schools – a vote of no-confidence in the government school system. Both reports are a damning indictment of public sector education. The country has already missed the 2015 target of ‘Education for All’ by a huge margin that it undertook to achieve as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The problem is not only low budgetary allocations but also corruption, incompetence, and the ruling elite’s indifference towards the rights and needs of ordinary people. Among the millions out of school children there surely are many minds who could make great scientists, mathematicians, and artists or excel in other fields of human endeavour but are denied the opportunity to achieve what they are capable of.
Hopefully, the provincial governments can grasp the fact that education is not only an individual’s right, it fosters tolerance – in extremely short supply in this country – and is the building block of socio-economic progress, leading them take urgent measures to set things right.-Business Recorder