EducationVolume 12 Issue # 11

The dismal prospect of a pervasive illiteracy

Inequality in education heightens the risk of violence and conflict in a society, and Pakistan is especially prone to this state of affairs due to its peculiar circumstances, warns a report, issued in the first week of January 2017.T he Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, prepared under Unesco, calls upon the South Asian governments to take inequalities in education seriously and take great strides and effect major transformation in the sector to achieve Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), which prepared the Pakistan part of the report and released it in the country, highlights the urgency of accessible quality education and ending disparities in the sector, to avoid increasing chances of violence and conflict in society.

The long-term study, drawing on data from 100 countries over 50 years, found that countries with higher levels of inequality in schooling were much more likely to experience conflict. The report suggests that education needs a major transformation to meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet, adding that on current trends, universal primary education in South Asian countries like Pakistan will be achieved in 2051, universal lower secondary completion in 2062; and universal upper secondary completion in 2087.
The report, Education for People and Planet, stresses the need for education systems to step up attention to environmental concerns.
Baela Raza Jamil, chief executive officer at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, says many countries in the region still have extreme disparity in education. Through the launch of the report, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi has called upon the governments in Pakistan – federal, provincial and territorial, to start taking inequalities in education seriously, tracking them by collecting information directly from families, she tell Cutting Edge at the launch of the report in Islamabad. This is not for the first time that the national and international research organisations have warned Pakistan about the serious problems facing it in the field of education. The United Nations Global Education Monitoring Report, released in September last year, revealed that Pakistan is 50-plus years behind in its primary and 60-plus years behind in its secondary education targets.

The report warned that the country is set to miss by more than half a-century a deadline for ensuring that all children receive their primary education. Pakistan has the most absolute number of children out of school anywhere in the world, including 5.6 million out of primary schools, around 5.5 million out of secondary schools (48% of lower secondary school age children), and a staggering 10.4 million adolescents out of upper secondary school;all figures startling, mind-blowing. The report revealed through authentic data that there is a wide gap between school completion rate and education attainment between the rich and poor; urban and rural-based and between boys and girls. Poor rural males have a literacy rate of 64% (official data, though educationists have always doubted these figures), but their female counterparts pale in comparison with only 14%.

There are a number of inequalities and disparities that persist in the education sector of the country from medium to syllabus, facilities on campus to qualifications of teachers. However, in the following lines, we would discuss only gender inequality prevalent almost all across the country. According to a report, released in June last year by non-governmental education initiative Alif Ailaan, a staggering 75% of girls aged between 5 and 16 are out of school, compared with 65% boys in the same age bracket in Balochistan. Girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in the province. The Alif Ailaan findings, presented at a seminar, held in the federal capital, revealed that only 25% females have ever been to school, compared with 60% males. The District Rankings 2016 showed that the total number of schools for boys in the country is 96,365, and for girls only 57,779, though the ratio of woman is higher in the country compared with men.

For these schools, there are 407,795 male teachers and 286,832 female teachers. The percentage of out-of-school boys is 43% and that of girls is 52%, showing a clear discrimination against girls in the field of education. The dropout rate among boys is 40% and among girls 42%. The percentage of the males who never attended a school is 31%, and that of females is as high as 55%. The situation is the worst in Balochistan, the most minerals-rich province of the country. The total number of schools for boys in the province is 9,399 and for girls, there are only 3,880 schools, almost one-third less than those for boys. Gender disparity is quite visible also as far as the number of teachers is concerned. There are 30,594 male teachers in the province and only 15,287 are females. Dropout rate among boys is 71% and 73% among girls. The ratio of population never attending a school is very high among girls, 83%, and among males, it stands at 46%.

As far as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas is concerned, the total number of schools for boys is 3,560, and for girls, 2,451. Out of total number of teachers, 13,033 are males and only 6,417 are females. The ratio of out-of-school boys is 45%, while that of girls is as high as 75%. Dropout rate among boys is 67%, and amongst girls it is 72%.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, the total number of schools for boys is 859, and for girls only 416, though the boys and girls ratio is almost the same. The number of male teachers in the territory is 4,458 but the female teachers number stands at 2,269. The percentage of out-of-school boys is 46% and that of girls is 53%. In Punjab, the most resourceful and prosperous province of the country, the number of male teachers is 162,117 and female teachers 158,947, though the number of schools for girls is higher than those for boys. The ratio of out-of-school girls is higher – 46% — than that of boys, 42%. The total number of children, who never attended school, was recorded at 40%, with 30% males and much higher ratio, 49% females. The report shows a wide gender disparity in schools of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also. There are 17,649 schools in the province for boys, while only 10,529 are for girls. These schools have 80,027 teachers for boys, but for girls there are only 43,264 teachers. Since there is a difference in head count, dropout rate is also more for boys (25%) as compared to girls’ (46%) at a primary level.

The second worst affected province is Sindh, as far as the issue of gender disparity is concerned. The total schools for boys is 35,551, and for girls it is 10,488, almost one-third of the schools for boys. The number of male teachers in the province is 99,493 and females number stands at 44,677. The percentage of out-of-school boys is 51% and those of girls is 61%. The dropout rate among boys is 49% and among girls is 50%. The ratio of males who never attended a school is 31%, and of that of females is 54%. Do we, as a nation, ever think that by discriminating against our daughters, mothers and sisters, we are creating an environment which is perfect for keeping our coming generations illiterate? By keeping them from schools, we are increasing the risk of violence and conflict in our society? Our rulers need not think about it, as such a nation best suits them, but what about ourselves? Shouldn’t we also ever think about it?