Pakistan has witnessed an improvement in the field of education. Education is the fundamental right of every citizen, and the Constitution of Pakistan has ensured access to free education for children aged five to 16 years. This initiative has proven to be one of the main factors of education among underprivileged children, giving them the opportunity to avail this constitutional right. Undoubtedly, it has contributed to the development of not only the citizens, but also the nation.
According to the National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS), there are currently 51.5 million children in Pakistan between the ages of five and 16, and around 50.29 million students studying in 317,323 institutions in the country, out of which are 196,998 public institutions while the number of private institutions is 120,273.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, which was approved in 2010, entrusted the responsibility to provincial governments to provide education and spend in this field. However, the Federal Ministry has limited powers, notably in curriculum development, accreditation and the financing of research and development.
The government has given considerable attention to education and it has taken several initiatives for building a solid educational foundation of the country.
The National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) is formulating a National Plan of Action (2018-2025) that has been entrusted by the Planning Commission to achieve 90 per cent literacy in the country. There are still 57 million illiterate people in the country and 50.8 million children between the ages of five and 16 years. Out of this, 24 million are out of school.
The rates of dropout students are high. Unfortunately, terrorists have been targeting schools and threatening teachers, particularly in the remote north. It was in this context that they had launched an attack at an Army school in Peshawar in December 2014, where 149 people were killed, including 132 schoolchildren.
In Punjab, the government recruited 22,000 teachers to ensure the quality of education, and upgraded over 300 middle and primary schools. In order to increase the literacy rate among girls, the provincial government has allocated Rs6 billion.
Not only that, the Punjab government has launched a major eLearning initiative to improve education opportunities in the province. A variety of components are included in this move. The programme will feature lectures, animated films, interactive tests and user-generated content in addition to free digital textbooks.
The 11th five-year Development Plan (2013-18) is aimed to enhance management and administrative capacities in the education sector at all levels, encourage public-private participation and enhance private sector investment. It also includes governance reforms and adoption of regulatory and structural improvements in the education system.
The provincial governments in the country have allocated between 17 per cent and 28 per cent of their budget to education in 2016. It is important to note that the global average was 14 per cent.
The allocation of financial resources and improvement in the quality of education has given a big boost to higher education in Pakistan. Universities are being upgraded through various programmes of faculty development, scholarships are being offered to the poor, alongside a revision of curriculum, while laboratories and libraries are being properly equipped to match international educational standards.
There are other initiatives that are changing the education situation of the country, such as the United States International Development (USAID) that are making an impact in education in Pakistan by providing aid. Besides granting scholarships, the agency has helped renovate over 1,000 schools and trained thousands of teachers.
The Malala Fund, co-founded by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, is another important initiative towards the education of girls. The organisation helps renovate schools and raise the enrolment of girls within the underprivileged Pakistani and international communities.
There are several universities and professional institutions in Pakistan that have excelled in the country and contributed to the career development of the students. The country has 10 universities in the overall Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Quaid-i-Azam University is the highest-ranking university in the country.
With the change in overall environment and with the era of competitiveness, Pakistan is set to take a giant leap in the field of education.