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World Literacy Day!

In Pakistan and all over the globe, today is World literacy day. But are we heading towards achieving our goals set by our forefathers related to literacy? All the leaders of the Pakistan movement gave emphasis on the youth getting state of the art education and the time is important now than ever to follow their instruction.

According to UNICEF, Pakistan has more than 65 million young people between 10 and 24 years old, that is the largest group of young populations in South Asia. These people need education and after finishing the school, they need jobs.

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Government of Pakistan has announced numerous projects to make students get technical education so they can learn some skills with the conventional education.

While celebrating the world literacy day this year, highlighting the problems of youth, and exploring the possible options for future generation, the following details are mandatory for the authorities and the youth to set the future pattern.

All the numbers you need to know!

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According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement district level Survey 2019-20, the literacy rate of Pakistan is stagnant at 60 percent in 2019-20 since 2014-15.

The difference is quite visible as the literacy rate is higher in urban areas (74

percent) than in rural areas (52 percent).

Furthermore, the breakthrough shows that the province Punjab has the highest literacy rate, with 64 percent followed by Sindh with 58 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Excluding Merged Areas) with 55 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Including Merged Areas) with 53 percent and Balochistan with 46 percent.

Cumulative education expenditures by federal and provincial governments in Fiscal Year 2020

stood at 1.5 percent, which was at 2.3 percent of GDP in 2019.

Total expenditures on education had been rising gradually till 2018-19, but in 2019-20 education-related expenditures witnessed a decrease of 29.6 percent i.e, from rupees 868.0

billion to rupees 611.0 billion.

Former Minister for Education Punjab, Rana Mashood Ahmad Khan claimed that the current government has been proven as the worst administrator for the education department.

While exclusively talking to Minute Mirror he said, “This PTI [ruling party] has reduced scholarships, university grants and all of the special funds which we started as an investment on our future generation. Even they have reduced the annual task to get 30-32 lac students in the schools to 26 lacs.”

On the other hand, according to the latest economic survey of Pakistan, the overall education situation based on the key indicators, such as enrolments, number of institutes and teachers have shown ‘improvement’.

The total number of enrolments during 2018-19 was recorded at 52.5 million, which is an increment of 2.9 percent in comparison to previous year. The number of institutes are recorded at 273.4 thousand during 2018-19 and it was estimated to increase to 279.4 thousand in 2019- 20.

According to the official data 0f 2018-19, there were a total of 182.7 thousand functional primary schools, 47.3 thousand reported middle institutes and a total of 31.7 thousand secondary schools were functional at national level.

A total of 5.9 thousand higher secondary schools / inter colleges, 3.9 thousand technical and vocational institutes, 1,659-degree colleges, and 211 universities in both public and private sector are functioning at the moment.

The overall enrolment of students in higher education increased to 1.86 million in 2018-19 and it is expected to increase by 2.5 percent to 1.91 million in 2019-20.

For all of these bright mind students Pakistan has recorded 1.76 million teachers in 2018-19, that is estimated to increase to 1.80 million during 2019-20.

Education in COVID-19

According to United Nation’s (UN) latest report the education of millions of children is hanging by a thread, due to a serious threat of pandemic and climate crisis.

Around the world the conventional class rooms changed and parents who had no training in teaching, had to convert their living rooms into a class room and took the role of a teacher for their children.

The UN estimates that, for the first time in history, about 1.5 billion children were out of school during the pandemic, with at least a third unable to access remote learning.

They titled this group as the ‘lost generation of the learners’. Focusing towards Pakistan where according to a report there were 61.34 million internet users recorded in January 2021, a huge chunk of population still doesn’t own a device on which they can use internet or have access to internet.

Dr. Taimur Rehman, Associate professor of political science at Lahore University of management sciences said, “Almost half of the students in my university are on scholarship under National outreach program, who have come from far flung areas of Pakistan. They were the most effected from COVID as the hostels were shut down and they did not have any access to free internet.”

Single National Curriculum (SNC)

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf’s government has took a decision after coming in power which is still today is one of the most controversial decision, that was ‘Single National Curriculum’.

This curriculum is supposed to bring all the institution on one-page either they are public or private. All the schools, madrassas and other institutions of the country has to follow one curriculum and approved books by the government’s authority.

Earlier in August, claims surfaced that private schools like Aitchison College were granted exemptions in SNC enforcement.

In an interview with a private news channel, former Punjab education minister Imran Masood said that the SNC had not been implemented in the coveted all-boys school and others like Lawrence College, Saqib Public School and Lahore American school.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood categorically denied that any such leeway was given to Aitchison College.

On the contrary, in a recent rift, Minister Education for Punjab, Dr. Muraad Raas issued a letter to the principle of Aitchison college and said that a letter has been sent to Aitchison College Lahore for not ‘implementing’ Single National Curriculum in its entirety by Punjab Curriculum Textbook Board.

He added, “I will not let anyone challenge the writ of the government.” In response, the principle Aitchison college Michael Thompson wrote a letter to the parents in which he said that that Aitchison isn’t implementing the Single National Curriculum and, “Aitchison’s education program is in the right spirit.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan launched nationally the first of three phases of the SNC on August 16 to end education based societal discrimination.

The first part would enforce the SNC for grades I to V in the academic year 2021-22. A key feature of the SNC was religious studies, with specific provisions for students from religious minorities.

Constitutional framework, national policies and Quaid-i-Azam’s vision for the country would also be stressed upon in schools under the SNC.

Academics all over in Pakistan were divided on this decision, some said it will create equality and some criticized the government for eliminating the inclusivity from the society.

“This is not a democratic thing when you snatch parent’s right to select what education they want to give to their children. I am an Aitchisonan and after completing my school when I went abroad for further studies I was able to compete with the best. Government should be implementing the curriculum of better schools in the rest of the institute rather than pulling them down”, Rehamn lamented on government.

Hope in the Darkness: Rasool Pur village

With all the rigmarole of curriculum, deciding the right school, setting goals for sustainable development goals and trying to achieve them, there is a perfect existing model which is still unseen at the government level and that is Rasool Pur village.

Situated in the district of Rajan Pur which was for a particular time also knows for a higher crime rate, Rasool Pur village has had not registered any FIR in last 100 years.

Rasool Pur has a population of 2,500-3,000 people, with most of its residents being ethnic Ahmadani Baloch. Their ancestors due to flash floods migrated from Pakistan’s Balochistan province to the district of Southern Punjab in 1933-34.

Their elders being smart at that time understood the importance of education and used this skill for the permanent source of income.

Rasool Poor has two high schools and a primary school, which has 100 percent enrollment over past few decades.

“I have more than 300 girls in my school and there is almost the same number of students in the boys’ school. We do not believe in how the United Nations defines literacy – as the ability to sign one’s name – every person here has to finish high school, otherwise, the elders do not give them permission to participate in the society” said Mehtaab Jahaan headmistress government girls high school.

After the completion of high school, the studenst go to a college in the nearest township of Jampur city, which is 8-10 kilometers (5-6 miles) away and then move to nearest cities for graduation.

Minister for Education Dr. Muraad Raas said, “we take immense pride in the community engagement towards educational enrichment at Rasool Poor, which boasts of 100% literacy rate and zero crime rate.”

“It is a commendable effort done by community engagement where the importance of education is exercised with great vigilance and compassion.” He further said.

The abovementioned problems with the education system of Pakistan along with the non- responsive campaign related to technical education, which is need of the hour, shows that there is a communication gap between the authorities and the masses.

Despite facing all the problems if a small village like Rasool Pur can achieve 100 percent literacy rate then all the cities and towns can achieve that by just realizing the sense of responsibility towards development citizenship.

The government should consider building a consensus on which teachers, parents and all the academics can give their feedback and Pakistan can make the best system of education. With every literacy day, small targets should be set which could be an easy task for both the parents and the authorities.

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