United Nations Millennium Development Goals categorically presses the need for provision of primary education to all whereby the situation of education in Pakistan is cynical. With just 55% literacy rate not only the provision of education is questionable but the quality of that education is of serious concern too. To understand the system of education in Pakistan mainly the supply side of education in response to UN’s MDGs, we will consider a strategical province-vise model of supply of education.
Due to the highly decentralized nature of the Education Management System in Pakistan, each province using national policy as the guide formulated its own education policies to achieve the target of universal primary education. Some of the key policy actions undertaken by each province are as follows:
The Government of Punjab to achieve the goal of universal education adopted the National Plan of Action of Education for All and the National Education Policy. The education system in Punjab is diverse and rich at primary level. There are varied kinds of institutions, imparting education to the masses. In order to increase access to education, the government provided free text books in the public schools. Punjab Education Sector Reform Program (PERSP) has also been introduced to improve access to quality education in the province (Malik 31). Net Enrollment Rate in Punjab is 61.83% (PSLM 2010-11).
The focus of national education policy at elementary level is to ensure access and retention in schools and transition to higher levels of schooling. The major education reform programme in Sindh is SERP (Sindh Education Reform Programme). The SERP planned to achieve increased school participation, reduce gender and rural-urban disparities, increase progression, and improve the measurement of student learning (Ali 8). Due to these policies Net Enrollment Rate (NER) in primary schools according to PSLM 2010-11 reached 53%.
Education Sector Reforms prepared in 2001 focused on universal primary education have been in place in the province. Furthermore “Balochistan Action Plan” incorporates the adoption of the two important sub-sets of national policy on education-the National Curriculum 2006 and the National Textbooks Policy 2007 (Khan 11). NER in primary schools of Balochistan was 47% in 2010-11.
Data on the national policy is largely unavailable however data on the number of educational Institutions, students enrolled and their teachers’ strength for years 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 shows that the absolute number of primary schools, both for boys and girls, have shown a marginal increase. The Madrassah’s or Mosque schools that also provide primary education in the province have increased over these years.
All of these policies focus on increasing access and improving the survival rates of children but have not successfully achieved the specified targets. Multiple reasons may attribute to this. Main reason is the low public investment as budgetary allocations for education have remained under 2 percentage points of GDP; out of which major amount is spent on administrative costs (Tahir et.al 11). Another reason is low enrollment rates caused by very high drop rates and high growth in population; such that, in absolute terms there are more children not in school than ever before. Inadequacies in quality, availability of teachers, schools, relevance of education primary level to life and parental attitudes especially in case of girls are some other factors. Access to school is a critical issue, especially in Balochistan where almost 45% of settlements are without transportation facilities.