By Khalid Khattak
LAHORE: Pakistan is home to eight percent of the world’s out-of-school population, reveals the latest policy paper jointly released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report on Friday.
According to the report some 263 million children and youth are out of school and some 21.5 million of them are from Pakistan. The report divides out-of-school children and youth in three age groups i.e. children of primary school age (6-11 years), lower secondary school age (12-14 years), and upper secondary school age (15-17 years).
Globally there are 61 million out-of-school children of primary school age, 60 million of lower secondary school age and a whopping 142 million of upper secondary school age.
Interestingly, in each age group Pakistan has been ranked second. Pakistan has some 5.6 million children of primary age out of school (second after Nigeria which has 8.7 million such children), in lower secondary school age Pakistan has 5.5 million out of school population (followed by India which has 11.1 million) while in upper secondary age group Pakistan has some 10.4 million followed by India which has 46.8 youth not going to schools.
It is pertinent to mention here that as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) retired in 2015 and the world adopted the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries have promised to achieve universal completion of primary and secondary education by 2030 under SDG-4 which deals with education.
Elaborating the reason behind the high upper secondary out-of-school numbers (142 million), the report notes “While primary and lower secondary education are compulsory in nearly all countries, the same is not true for upper secondary education. In addition, youth of upper secondary age are often of legal working age and thus have both a right to employment and a right to education.”
The report also observes the global number of out-of-school children of primary school age has remained almost the same for the past five years.
“Countries have promised to provide every child with a primary and secondary education by 2030. These new findings show the hard work ahead if we are to reach this goal, “said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Our focus must be on inclusion from the earliest age and right through the learning cycle, on policies that address the barriers at every stage, with special attention to girls who still face the greatest disadvantage.”
The challenge Pakistan is confronted with is manifold. It’s not just limited to access or provision of educational facilities. The missing component of quality in education remains a big issue and that too for years. The poor quality of education in public schools has resulted in mushroom growth of private schools.
“Millions of Pakistani children do not attend school, and those that do must deal with absent teachers and poor learning environments, among other things” observes Wilson Center’s Public Policy Fellow Nadia Naviwala in her latest report “Pakistan’s Education Crisis: The Real Story”. She also observed “Many donors and experts working on reforms today have come to believe that the poor quality of learning is linked to low enrollments and dropouts.”
It is pertinent to mention here that free and compulsory education was made a right to all children of the age of 5 to 16 in Pakistan under the historic Article 25-A in April 2010. However despite passage of six years, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan governments have yet to introduce respective necessary legislations. Though other provincial governments have introduced the RTE laws the subordinate legislation—the Rules of Business—are still missing on which implementation of these laws is dependent.
In May this year the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)—a United Nations body had expressed concerns over lack of compulsory education laws in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan and poor enforcement of the right to education (RTE) laws in provinces where they exist.
All this certainly portrays a grim picture. Nonetheless with the growing debate, within the country, on the quality education and lack of RTE laws and the poor implementation one can hope for the better.
Note: This story also appeared in The News International on July 16, 2015 but is not available on the newspaper’s website. Following are the screenshots from the e-paper.