Human survival and evolution rest upon two critical pillars viz. (1.) an environment which provides access to contemporary learning skills in a rapidly changing global setting, and (2.) a political framework for participation according to constitutional and legal entitlements without discrimination. Democracy cannot flourish without active citizen participation. Participation requires capacity for the cultivation and application of democratic principles. The capacity to develop, understand and apply democratic principles must be generated in turn through an education process.
Unfortunately education has consistently failed to be a priority for Pakistani leaders. In 61 years of Pakistan’s existence, Universal Primary Education (UPE) has remained an elusive goal. Fifty percent of Pakistan’s 170 million population is below 18 years of age, and only 56% of primary age group (5-9) are able to enroll in primary schools, 18% of middle age group (10-12) and 10% of matric age group (13-14), are accessing education facilities. The urban-rural, female-male and provincial variations make the education apartheid even more severe. Chronic lack of resources, shortage of facilities beyond primary level, lack of competent teachers/managers, terrorism and emergencies are severely jeopardizing possibilities for human development and participation. The gross enrolment rate (including under/over-age children) at the primary level is only 86% (PSLM 2006-07) out of which 33% drop out while out of those who complete primary school and are eligible for middle level, only 18% enroll in the latter stream. Of those who make it to grade 10, only 30% successfully complete matriculation and 3% make it to the tertiary level. Options for non-formal and livelihoods education are very few compared to the enormous needs. Each successive stage of education is operating at sub-optimal levels reflecting chronic systemic problems and an exclusionary culture, not conducive to promotion of learning for the majority.
The social responsibility for these gaps lies jointly with the government and citizens to ensure the right to quality meaningful education. The alarming statistics manifest a chronic malaise of a post-colonial society and state, unable to design an embedded national education enterprise. On a positive note, the experiences of the past six decades hold many lessons, which can contribute towards the re-design of our education system.
Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) or the “Centre of Education and Consciousness” Public Trust, is thus a response to the profound crisis of education and multiple crises forming the nuts and bolts of the Education Challenge. ITA was born out of a growing realization that the most critical of human entitlements, the right to learning, knowledge systems, citizenship skills and a 9,000 years of living heritage is being denied to the citizens of Pakistan.Share