Wilson Center report on “Pakistan’s Education Crisis: The Real Story”
Report says the public system must work if Pakistan is to be educated, but change will not be quick, easy or painless
By Ali Arshad
LAHORE: As many as 24 million children are out of school in Pakistan and more than half of eight-year-olds are unable to read despite the budget being doubled to $7.5 billion in the last six years, found a report from the US-based Wilson Center.
The report said that with the rapid increase in the budget for education, literacy and dropout rates remain abysmal and ghost schools remain a problem despite the decline in their numbers. There were now fewer ghost schools than in the early 2000s, when up to 20 per cent of all schools across the country were empty, the study titled Pakistan’s Education Crisis: The Real Story said.
The study’s author, Nadia Naviwala, in the introduction said, “In dozens of interviews, experts and officials were unanimous: Pakistan’s education crisis does not come down to how much the country spends, but how the money is spent. Pakistan needs to spend better, not simply spend more”.
She further said, “Pakistan faces the challenge of changing what over 600,000 teachers do in more than 140,000 schools every day. In many cases, these are teachers who are not even used to showing up to school. The public system must work if Pakistan is to be educated, but change will not be quick, easy, or painless”.
Naviwala explains, “In the mean time, a discussion on education in Pakistan is anemic without discussing private schooling. Almost 40 percent of Pakistani students are enrolled in low-cost private schools. These schools charge between $3 and $25 per month. Their per child cost is half of what the government spends, but they produce students who are two grades ahead of those in government schools. The mushrooming of private schools suggests that the public is not apathetic – demand for quality education is high.”
The study said that the United States, Britain and the World Bank to counter extremism had poured money into the country’s public education system. But it says that the number of out of school children were second only to Nigeria. The country had an adult literacy rate of 56.4 per cent, as many parents saw little use in putting their children in schools, it added.
The study found that, although the combined spending in the public and private education sectors was above four per cent, money was not being spent wisely.
The study found that there had been improvements in the education sector and in Punjab teacher absenteeism had dropped from 20 per cent to six per cent between 2010 and 2015. In Sindh, standardised test scores of fifth and sixth grader children aged 10 and 11 showed no improvement between the years 2012 and 2014. Improvements in other provinces were also found to be marginal.
The study says, “The “double the budget” mantra is overly simplistic, to the point of being misleading. It has probably gotten the education budget to increase to the current level of 17 percent to 28 percent of provincial budgets, but it is time now to focus on how the money is being used and misused.”