ISLAMABAD: In the PILDAT-UNESCO All Parties Conference on Education for All in Pakistan, scheduled for Tuesday at Islamabad, central leadership of the 17 political parties of the country have confirmed to participate. A Joint Declaration, the draft of which has been prepared by PILDAT and UNESCO, is under review by these political parties and is expected to be signed at the APC.
The 17 political parties which have confirmed participation at the APC and are expected to sign a Joint Declaration on basic education and literacy objectives include Awami National Party – ANP, Balochistan National Party (Awami), Balochistan National Party (Mengal), Jamaat e Islami Pakistan, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F), Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Markazi Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadeeth (JAH), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), National Party, Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, Pakistan Muslim League (F), Pakistan Muslim League (N), Pakistan Muslim League, Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan People’s Party (s) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Some of the key issues that are expected to be raised at the All Parties Conference may include the poor state of education in Pakistan which is directly relevant to the questions of poverty, unemployment, violence and lack of democracy but has been almost totally absent from the political and electoral discourse in the country.
The latest figures released by the international agencies including UNESCO indicate that about half of adult population in Pakistan can not read and write. Pakistan has been placed by UNDP at 136th position on the Human Development Index which is lower than some of its regional neighbours like Sri Lanka (99), Maldives (100), India (128), and Myanmar (132), mainly due to its low literacy rate and low primary level enrolment. The illiterate population has increased from 22 million in 1961 to 48 million by 2005 in Pakistan.
It is feared that by 2015, illiterate population in Pakistan would have risen to over 52 million which is larger than the total population of several countries such as Sri Lanka, Spain, South Africa and Myanmar etc. The Primary Enrolment Rate of around 53 % is among the lowest in South Asia and only 23% rural girls are lucky enough to be enrolled in primary schools in Balochistan as compared to almost twice that ratio (47%) in rural Punjab. About one third of the enrolled children drop out before completion of primary education.
Out of 100 fortunate children enrolled in Grade 1, only 22 reach Grade 10, and only13 are able to pass Secondary School examination. Pakistan is spending 2.4 % of its GDP on Education against the UNESCO-recommended norm of a minimum of 4% and against 3.8 % spent by India, 7.5 % by Maldives and 3.4 % by Nepal. Despite this critical state of primary education, more than 50% of the allocated non-recurrent education budget goes unspent each year because of the poor capacity of the system.
The international agencies also report that average remittance from a Pakistani worker abroad is US$ 680 only, compared with US$ 1385 by a Filipino and US$ 1259 by an Indonesian worker mainly because of poor education of most of Pakistani workers.
The APC, timed to be held ahead of February 2008 general election, is a means to get leading political parties of the country to ponder over the critical state of education in the country and make a public pledge on the provision of quality education to all citizens by allocating certain budgetary and policy priorities in the field of education.
The objective of the conference is to brief the political leadership of the country about the existing state of primary education and literacy in the country in comparison to the other developing countries especially the neighbours in South Asia; review progress made over the past years and to identify and agree on the way forward. A draft declaration prepared by UNESCO and PILDAT and shared with the invited parties is expected to be signed and released at the end of the APC.
The scheduled APC on Tuesday is aimed to be a non-political consultation, intended to pool support of all the political parties and their leaders committed to the development and transformation of Pakistani society through quality educational for all.-SANA