Dream of 100% literacy rate yet to become a reality

KARACHI:09 september: Pakistan being the signatory of Millennium Development Goals 2015 lags far behind in terms of literacy rate enhancement in the country despite the promises made by political parties of Pakistan to improve the literacy rate, say educationists.

As per the basic definition of literacy its stands at only 58 percent for the aged 10 years and above of total population. The literacy is defined as the ability of a person to read and write a simple letter with understanding in any language. In urban areas literacy rate is 74 percent while in the rural areas it is only 49 percent.

Although, Constitution of Pakistan clearly explains in its various Articles hold state responsible to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.

The Constitution further illustrated that "the state will remove illiteracy and will make sure to provide free and compulsory secondary education within the minimum period. The state will also make technical and professional education generally available and higher education equally accessible by all on the basis of merit".

Apart from the state responsibilities and promises of the political parties, Federal Ministry for Education and Professional Training published a five-year national plan of action to reform education in 2013. One of the commitments included in the plan was for the state to ensure 50 percent improvement in literacy levels within 2 years. But those plans were never materialized.

According to the manifestos outlined by various political parties for election 2013, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) had promised to initiate a roadmap to achieve 80 percent universal literacy.

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) promised to focus on illiterate adults aged 15 to 30 years and invest resources to provide functional literacy to them. Following the PTI's manifesto for education Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) had also anticipated that to increase adult literacy rate from 54 to 85 percent.

Similarly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), now MQM-Pakistan vowed to introduce an evaluation system through Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to be monitored by the Community Management Boards at taluka or tehsil and district level to sustain the growth of literacy and standardized education.

In these tall and big claims Jamat-e-Islami (JI) also claimed to ensure 100 percent literacy in 5 years. However, JI and MQM were unable to make their governments in centre or province but they shared power with other parties.

Statistics show that, comparatively, Punjab has the highest literacy, 62 percent, followed by Sindh 55 percent. Whereas literacy rate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 53 percent. Alarmingly, Baluchistan has the lowest literacy rate in the country which is only 41 percent.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS)' data for the year 2016 reveals that Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi are amongst the cities with the highest literacy rates in Pakistan whereas Dera Bugti, Torh Garh and Kila Abdullah are at the bottom of the table.

This year when the world was marking the World Literacy Day, students and teachers were on the roads of mega city to show solidarity with Muslims brethrens of Myanmar, who are subject to harsh brutalities.

"In most of the educational institutions, World Literacy Day was not celebrated this year as it was celebrated previously", said Professor Dr Kamal Haider, Chairman, Department of Education- Federal Urdu University for Arts Science and Technology. It might be because the students and teacher were busy in protests against the genocide of Muslims in Myanmar, he added.

He pointed out that Pakistan is the signatory country of The Millennium Development Goals 2015 by United Nations but these goals were not achieved by our country. "The federal and provincial government have no well to uplift the education system through enhanced enrollment ratios in schools".

"There is no need to celebrate Word Literacy Day except to take concert steps for the improvement of education", said Professor Dr Muhammad Ahmed Qadri, Dean of Social Science of Karachi University. Everyone is talking about the improvement of education system but reality is that government has no intension to make the system correct, he added.
Published in Daily Times, September 9th 2017.