Yet another report has been published bemoaning the lack of funds for education in Pakistan. The Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) presented its report regarding the financing of education in Pakistan during 2015-16 on April 28. To the surprise of no one, the report stated that Pakistan spends a measly 2.14 per cent of is GDP on education, the lowest in South Asia.
Consequently, we have failed to come even close to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of raising the literacy level to 88 per cent. Currently, the literacy rate in Pakistan is at 58 per cent but this statistic does not present the full picture. The report unpacks the myriad of problems created by years of underfunding and ignoring of the education sector. A huge portion of the current budget is used for meeting administrative expenses such as employee salaries. Only 15 per cent of the budget is set aside for development projects.
Then there is the huge disparity in numbers that exists at different stages of education. Primary schools form the bulk of educational institutions in every province of the country with numbers rapidly increasing. Higher secondary schools are only one per cent of the total. Even those counted amongst the literate are barely getting past the stage of doing basic arithmetic and learning to read and write. That is enough for a developing country one might argue, but with only Rs4.4 billion allocated for teacher training, the quality of education being provided to children, especially in underdeveloped parts of the country, is doubtful. Education is often hailed as the cure all for the ills plaguing this country. From terrorism to violence against women and minority religious groups, conversations often revolve around the positive role education could play in changing mindsets. However, despite the numerous inches devoted to this topic by newspapers, reports published both by government-funded and independent researchers and the statements issued by top government officials, there still appears to be no momentum towards changing this dismal situation and the education sector in Pakistan continues to operate on a shoestring budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2016.