THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, LAHORE, 10th SEPTEMBER 2013:
Around 70 per cent of young Pakistanis can read and write, something which only half the general population is capable, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Uneso).
Unseco’s Pakistan Director Dr Kozue Kay Nagata shared these figures with media personnel at a ceremony on Monday to mark International Literacy Day. She said that the global literacy rate had risen to almost 84 per cent.
Dr Nagata said the primary school survival rate – that is, the proportion of students who get through primary school – was significantly higher in the Punjab, at 76 per cent, than the rest of the country, at 70 per cent. However, she noted that there was a gender gap, with girls showing a primary school survival rate of 72 per cent and boys 80 per cent.
The Punjab government spends around Rs6,900 on each primary student per year, she said. “With the population and relative size of the province, coupled with its political leadership, the Punjab seems to be paving the way for the entire country in regards to education,” she said.
Literacy and Non Formal Basic Education Secretary Dr Pervaiz Ahmed Khan said that the government aimed to make sure that there were no out-of-school children aged 5 to 9 in the province by 2015. It was also targeting a literacy rate of 88 per cent by then.
He said while the country as a whole was lagging behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the Punjab government was working to meet them. He said that his department was assisting the Schools Education Department in the Punjab Emergency School Enrolment campaign. So far, he said, the department had educated almost 700,000 formerly illiterate adults and out-of-school children.
The department is currently running more than 7,000 non-formal basic education schools across the province. It is also planning a pilot project to establish non-formal vocational middle schools in southern Punjab.
Additional Literacy and Non Formal Basic Education Secretary Nadeem Alam Butt said that the department was adopting modern training and education methods. The department was working on programmes to provide literacy online and through mobile phones, he added.
Education Minister Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan defended the government against “needless criticism of effective interventions” in his speech at the ceremony. “The enrolment campaign is not a political slogan,” he said. “It is time to move beyond political mud-slinging. The elections are now over.”
Khan said that the Punjab government had allocated 26 per cent of the budget to education. The government was serious about education reforms, as evident from its awarding of scholarships to students on merit and the enrolment campaign.