Though 2.1 percent of GDP is insufficient for managing the country’s educational emergency, increasing educational expenditure is not Pakistan’s first priority.
The Pakistani government spends a mere 2.1 percent—the lowest in the region— of its GDP on education when 7 percent is recommended to garner a substantial development. A high illiteracy rate reflects half of school children aged 6-16 who cannot read or write. The Pakistan Education Task has reported that one in every ten of the world’s unschooled children is a Pakistani. While neighboring countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are expected to reach a millennial milestone of educational development, Pakistan’s future remains dim.
The 2013 Human Development Report brought on by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) places Pakistan under the low human development category. According to the report, Human Development Index (HDI) of Pakistan is 0.515, which ranks the country at 146th out of 187 countries and UN-recognized territories.
When countries poorer than Pakistan have higher schooling rates, improving Pakistan’s educational system is imperative in addition to increasing national expenditure on education. The absence of a coherent and comprehensive educational system excludes millions of children from access to education. Because of a dire discrepancy between private and public education systems, more rural children are dropping out of school thereby increasing the urban-rural regional disparity. Additionally, the current ratio of boys to girls in primary schools is 10:4, which posits a serious challenge of tackling gender discrimination.
The quality of public education is ruined by corruption and incompetency. Majority of public school teachers are unprofessionally trained, displaying corruption and a high rate of teacher absenteeism despite their higher salary compared to teachers of low-cost private schools. When less than half of children complete primary education and only 25 percent get lucky to continue into secondary education, the right to free education for children aged 5-16 guaranteed under the 18th Amendment of the Constitution remains to be only nominal. Needless to say, the security situation is volatile as shown by the story of a teenager Malala Yousafzai who was shot last year by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating gender equality in education.
Yet, many Pakistanis anchor their hope on the recently-elected the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (P.M.L.-N.) who has promised to increase the education budget to 4 percent of GDP. The P.M.L.-N.’s attention on education in Punjab, where the party has been ruling since 2008, has shown optimistic records of a dramatic increase in education budget by 900 percent. However, concerns are continually rising up as the first third-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif takes the spotlight away from education to economic crisis. Ironically, the ultimate answer to solving the country’s economic crisis seems to lie on the improvement of educational system.
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