AS the results of a recent survey show, the state of education in Pakistan quite expectedly continues to be abysmal. Indicating that the ‘education emergency’ is not over (indeed it may be getting worse), the Annual Status of Education Report 2012, launched at the Planning Commission in Islamabad on Monday, throws up a number of depressing facts. For example the survey, carried out in public and private educational institutions across the country, shows that the number of students who drop out of school before reaching class X is staggeringly high at 75 per cent. What is more, Pakistan’s students are underperforming even when it comes to the basics. The survey says that 81 per cent of class III students could not read class II-level English sentences. The figures for students who could not do simple sums much below their grade level were similarly disappointing. At the provincial level, Balochistan and Sindh have the most worrisome set of indicators. With the province already plagued with violence and lack of governance, the future of Balochistan’s children looks increasingly bleak; 34 per cent of youngsters are out of school. Sindh follows close behind.
The problems on the education front are multifarious: while a disturbingly large number of children are out of school or habitually absent, those who do show up are not learning much. Surveys like these are instrumental in producing solid data that identify the problem areas. The next, more difficult, step is implementing long-lasting solutions. It is hoped that those in power, and those who will follow them, take note of these dangerous portents and devise sustainable strategies that can reverse the decline, and ensure that these are immune to political tinkering. The unfortunate reality in Pakistan is that the real issues — education, health, economic planning etc — get lost in the hurly-burly of politics.