With the deteriorating socio-economic condition of Pakistan, it is no surprise that the Annual Status of Education Report Punjab Rural 2021 has revealed that ratio of out-of-school children in the province has reached 14% – an increase of 5% from 2019 Alarmingly, the number of out-of-school boys has surpassed that of the girls by 2% in the rural areas of the province. The report also indicates that private school students are performing much better than those in government schools while boys continue to outperform girls in literacy and numeracy skills.
These statistics not only outline the immense learning losses the country is facing but also highlights grave inequalities resulting from the archaic education system inherited from the Britishers. This is not restricted to Punjab and the entire country suffers from a learning deficit. Socio-economic inequalities are perpetuated through many different forms and have managed to fracture the education system of Pakistan. On the one hand you have private schools recruiting professional teachers who are able to provide standard education. And on the other, government schools continue to be marred by corruption, nepotism, ghost teachers and outdated syllabi. This fracture has further been affected the pandemic as schools found it difficult to shift to online education systems and not all students could afford tech devices. Availability of internet has also been a huge issue in many rural areas. All this has urged parents and children to reconsider sending their children to school. The rate of out-of-school boys has increased significantly because in times of inflation and uncertainty families would prefer that their children work and earn money to support the family. The PM’s initiative of adopting the Single National Curriculum seemed a promising one that could have helped eradicate some of these inequalities. But it was poorly actualised, without consulting experts.
The PTI’s promise of focusing on education remains hollow. One wonders when officials will realize that educating and uplifting the masses is a better investment. Only after this will the strengthening of the economy follow.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th2022.
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