Educational reforms and democracy
Elections are just around the corner and there is still a time to assess reforms in our country. The eminence of educational reforms can’t be denied. The theories of education that support its positive impact are given by numerous economists, like, Schultz, Lucas, Romer, Mankiw and others.
Even Plato’s argument was about “kings to be philosopher and philosopher should be king” which supports it. Education enhances human capital that creates positive externalities. Even, lower skills and human capital lead to lower foreign investment in poor countries. Pakistan is about to complete its decade of democracy, where we stand today, we need to analyse on educational reforms.
The overall public expenditure on education meagrely increased from 1.8 percent of GDP in the year 2008 to 2.3 percent of GDP in the year 2016-17 (Pakistan Economic Survey, 2017). In terms of budget allocation in 2017, Punjab has allocated Rs 67.82 billion, Sindh has allocated Rs 20.07 billion, KP has allocated Rs 17.23 billion and Balochistan has Rs 6.65 billion. In a comparison of the year 2008-09 with the year 2015-16, nationally, the literacy rate was 57 in the 2008-09 year which increased to 58 in 2015-16 that is just 1.8 percent increase during seven years. Provincially, except Sindh and Balochistan province, Punjab and KP have significant increase in literacy rate (five percent and six percent increase respectively) when comparing statistics of 2015-16 with 2008-09 statistics (Ibid).
The better performance of Punjab province is because of educational schemes launched. These schemes are namely, Punjab Education Endowment Fund (PEEF) in 2009, the scheme of Education Scholarships by Labour and Human Resources Department in 2009, and Khadim-e-Punjab Ujala Programme was launched in the year 2017. These programs were launched not only to target bright and financial weak students, orphans but also children of lower staff in government jobs, disabled, minorities and widows. This PEEF program also provided support for higher education to the talented and needy students of other provinces AJK, FATA, Gilgit Baltistan and Islamabad Capital Territory. Similarly, Education Scholarships by Labour& Human Resources Department provided schooling facilities to 7000 children form brick kilns. This program will install solar panels in 20,000 schools of far-flung areas of Southern Punjab.
In KP province, educational schemes launched include elementary education foundation (EEF) in 2011-2012, Stipend for Girl students was launched in year 2011, Iqra Farogh-e-Taleem or Education Voucher Scheme was launched in year 2014, Chief Minister’s Education Endowment Fund was launched in year 2014, and Higher Education Endowment Fund in 2014 year. These schemes also targeted poor families to provide financial support for schooling from elementary to university level.
After almost a decade of democracy, the overall literacy rate has increased at a meager rate. Punjab and KP are leading Sindh and Baluchistan in terms of educational initiatives, budget allocation and other indicators. However, there is evidence of corruption and embezzlement in Sindh
In case of Sindh, Girls stipend by Reform Support Unit in 2001, Sindh Endowment Fund was launched in year 2002, School Girls’ Stipend through Easy Paisa/ATM Card Scheme in 2016, Jazz Cash for female students program is launched in year 2017 (Pro-Pakistani, 2017 )). These schemes were launched for improving the education system. Apart from that, it was claimed that 19 educational schemes including law college of Hala and establishing of 137 schools in Umerkot. However, these educational programs are criticized for having almost 0percent utilization in Sindh (Tunio, 2017) .
On gender aspect, comparison of 2008 educational indicators with 2016 gave great insights, especially on the provincial basis. The overall literacy rate of Pakistan show increase in literacy ratio for both; males and females. Nationally, male literacy ratio increased from 69 to 70 and female literacy ratio increased from 45 to 48 during 7 years. Provincially, both in Punjab and KP male literacy ratio increased from 69 to 72. The female literacy ratio in Punjab increased from 50 to 54 and 31 to 36 in KP. However, in Sindh province, literacy rate for male and female both decreased. Surprisingly, in Balochistan, the literacy rate of male decreased but for females slightly increased (Pakistan Economic Survey, 2008-2017).
Almost a decade of democracy is about to complete but overall literacy rate has increased at a meagre rate. At provincial division, Punjab and KP are leading Sindh and Balochistan in terms of educational initiatives, budget allocation and indicators obviously. However, in case of Sindh and Balochistan, the decreasing literacy rate even after billions of educational initiatives raises questions. On gender aspect, Sindh especially needs attention for improving male and female literacy rates. Balochistan should be appreciated for enhancement of female literacy rate and further target for improving male literacy rate. There is a need for monitoring and accountability of funds at the provincial level to trace out loopholes especially for Sindh and Balochistan. Along with that, we need to conduct an assessment of the quality of education on the account of gender and provincially dimensions. Hopefully, Democrats have a chance to govern next 5 years again, but before elections; it’s time for planning better educational policies and initiatives. The better educational reforms are the better ripple effects will occur in the economy.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.