For decades, the children of Pakistan have been beset by a failing educational system. Despite years of ordinances and attempted overhauls, the country’s school system currently lacks sufficient teachers and safe places to learn. As a result, millions of children may never become literate, or pursue any education past primary school.
Pakistan is home to tens of millions of children, with about one-quarter of the country’s current population believed to be under the age of 16. In fact, one in ten school-aged children worldwide are Pakistani. Yet as of 2016, 25 million Pakistani children are out of school – meaning 47 percent of school-aged children are not receiving an education. This lack of schooling and vocational training puts nearly half the future adult population of Pakistan at a severe disadvantage for improving their circumstances, pursuing a career, or increasing their income, all of which lead to missed opportunities for the nation as a whole.
To make matters worse, historic and current gender-disparate educational issues exist, especially in some of Pakistan’s more rural provinces. Nationwide, 55% of out-of-school children are girls. Where boys’ top-cited reason for a lack of attendance is an unwillingness to attend, the most common cause of girls who do not attend school is parents who do not allow their daughters to study.
Largely, however, that gender disparity does not match the values of the Pakistani people. 86% of Pakistanis believe education is just as important for girls as it is for boys, and an addition 5% believe it is of even greater importance for girls. Those are encouraging statistics in a country where female literacy rates still trail double-digit percentage points behind their male counterparts’.
Why Pakistani Schools Struggle
So what contributes to these statistics? One of the biggest factors is a lack of sufficient infrastructure. Of the four critical components of every school – toilets, boundary walls, electricity, and drinking water – only 52% of Pakistan’s schools hit the mark. Especially in rural communities, the lack of just one or two of these components can dissuade students from attending class – especially young females. Imagine your daughter longs to attend school, but has begun to get her period for the first time. If your community school does not have private toilet facilities or clean water, it can be embarrassing and potentially dangerous for her to make the journey from home each day. And this fear of embarrassment, or causing offense, has prevented millions of Pakistani girls from receiving an education.
For a country that desperately needs–and wants–a stronger educational system, insufficient infrastructure has the potential to undermine the efforts of both government and private schools. And this is where the Central Asia Institute has identified our ability to make a massive impact on the lives and futures of Pakistan’s youth. By refurbishing school structures that need upgrades, and supporting construction of new schools where communities have a need, we can provide safe places for boys and girls to learn, and eliminate one of the largest barriers to better opportunities for all Pakistanis.
We are at a potential turning point. With one in ten of the world’s school children residing in Pakistan, the nation is tasked with educating and empowering a massive percentage of future world citizens. Let’s join together to make a positive impact on the lives of the girls and boys of Pakistan. Their access to primary and higher education, and the problems they can learn to overcome, could benefit the future of the planet.
Fast Facts On The History Of Education In Pakistan
August 1947 – Pakistan achieves independence from a century of British colonial rule. 85% of the population is illiterate.
November 1947 – The firstNational Education Conference is convened, highlighting a goal of primary education for all Pakistani youth within 20 years.
1950-77 – A series of Five Year Plans invest in school construction, teacher training, and student enrollment, with limited success–as of 1971, when East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh, 78 percent of the new Pakistani population over the age of 5 remains illiterate.
1977 – A nonviolent military coup called “Operation Fair Play” overtakes the ruling government, and eventually replaces the government’s education strategies with new policies. In the years to follow, increasing Islamist influence on state-run education places greater weight on vocational training and women’s education.
1998-2010 – Revised constitutional policy in Pakistan identifies education as a fundamental human right. Further attempts to improve the educational system have marginal success.
2010-present – Power over educational control and reform passes from the national government to individual provinces; problems such as poor infrastructure and teacher absenteeism plague schools.
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