With close to 42% of the population still remaining illiterate, Pakistan is observing the International Literacy Day today rather somberly. Despite country’s urban areas becoming thriving centers of education, the overall stats for literacy remain far from ideal.
Pakistan Economic Survey for 2016-17 puts the percentage of country’s literate population at 58, accounting for individuals of age 10 years and above. The survey said Pakistan had a literate male population of 70%, while the percentage for females fell well short of 50.
At the provincial level, Punjab leads the table with a literate population of 62%, followed by Sindh with 55%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 53% and Balochistan with a 41% literate population.
Widespread poverty, rampant corruption in the education system and lack of access to schools in many areas are usually to blame for the dismal situation. Only Afghanistan fares worse than Pakistan among South Asian states, led by Maldives with a close to perfect literacy rate of 99%.
According to the federal Education Ministry’s National Plan of Action (NPA) 2013-2016, Pakistan was amongst nine countries that had the largest numbers of primary-age group out-of-school children. One of the key findings the plan’s MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) was that there was a need to raise resource allocation to the sector to 4% percent of GDP from the existent 1.7%. The recommendation has received little attention to date.
The MAF also aimed at “enrolment of maximum number of out-of-school children in primary classes”, “in-school retention of all enrolled children and completion of their primary education” and “improvement in quality of primary education”. According to NPA 2013 report available online, the number of primary-aged (of 5-9 years) out-of-school children in Pakistan was 6.7 million in 2011-2012, with a male to female ratio of 44% and 56%. The NPA planned to address the issue aggressively, setting a target of enrolling 5.1 million out-of-school children during 2013-16 period, or 76% of the out-of-school population of primary age group at that time.
However, the 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report said 5.6 million primary-aged children still remained out of schools across Pakistan. If the GEM report is taken as is and the out-of-school children population considered as was in 2011-2012 – although highly unlikely – the NPA managed an enrollment of only 16%, or 60% below target.
With statistics like above, it is no surprise the country will only ‘observe’ the International Literacy Day, for there is really nothing to celebrate on that account.