Editorial - Damning report - Monday, March 14, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=36076&Cat=8

The real cost of failing to educate our children is exposed with clinical accuracy by a new report on the state of our education system. The report is a product of the Pakistan Education Task Force and it makes grim reading. Reports of this nature tend to be serial dust-gatherers, but this one might have a life beyond the desktops of concerned educationalists and education providers or policy planners. The PETF has launched a website that went live on March 9 which enables anybody with a net connection to follow its work. The data at the heart of the report leaves no room for equivocation. One in ten of the world’s population of out of school children is from Pakistan – equivalent to the population of Lahore. The Millennium Development goals for education are not going to be met – they will be missed by a mile and we look askance at India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as they streak ahead in the race to achieve these goals. Astonishingly, no citizen of this country alive today will see universal education as defined by our Constitution, and at current rates of progress Baluchistan will not see universal education until the year 2100.

Truly, we face an emergency of the gravest nature in our education system. It has been neglected by successive governments since partition, and wilfully neglected at that. There are 26 countries listed as being poorer than Pakistan but all of them send a higher proportion of their children to school – so the claim that education for all is too expensive holds no water. It is about will and the effective articulation of demand – of people getting up and demanding their right to education as enshrined in law. We are not too poor to provide sufficient funds to improve the system, and with an additional spend of Rs 100 billion over the next two years there could be a significant improvement in this gloomy picture. The operant word here is ‘could’. With budgets devolved to the provinces they are not spending up to their capacity in the education budget line – they lack the capacity to effectively spend the money and education slips further down the list of priorities. Our governments happily subsidise white elephants like PIA, Pakistan Steel and PEPCO but doggedly refuse to invest in one of the few genuine assets we have – our human capital in the form of school-going children. This timely and damning report goes beyond being a wake-up call, it is a final notice. Either we invest in the education of our children or we fail to thrive as a state. And for that we have nobody to blame but every government that never thought it worth bothering with.

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