Bordered by Iran, Afghanistan, and India, Pakistan is an Islamic country currently faced with many economic, international, and political concerns. It has a population of about 230 million, its government is a federal republic, and 96.4% of the country is Muslim. Pakistan has a Freedom House score of 37/100, and it is considered “partly free” due to many limitations to individual liberties, domestic and international religious terrorism, and a large misuse of military force. One of the most devastating issues in Pakistani society is, however, the deficiencies in its school system. Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with only 49% of adults in the country recognized as literate. Primary school enrollment is only 56%, and secondary school enrollment is even lower. According to Ghulam Memon of the University of Karachi in Pakistan, 32% of female children and 46% of male children are in secondary school. This prompts the question: Why are enrollment and literacy levels so low in the country? Certainly its tumultuous political atmosphere and threats of terrorism are factors in this, but what lapses in the Pakistani school system are also contributing?
One of the most significant factors is a lack of commitment on behalf of the government to implement policies related to education in the country. Although many Western governments, including the United States, have sought to hold Pakistan to a higher standard of education and sent millions of dollars to aid in restoring and balancing their school system, the Pakistani government has never fully enforced any educational policy nor have they spent the money appropriately to accomplish real change.
Barriers to Attendance
Another major factor is the lack of incentive for children to attend school. 24.3% of Pakistani people live in poverty, and children are often forced to work in order to provide for their families rather than show up to class. Girls, especially, are often looked towards to take care of the home, cook, and clean while their parents work, leaving little time for education. It can also be rather unsafe for students to attend school in Pakistan. Many low and middle-income Pakistani families cannot afford to send their children to private schools, where the boys and girls are separated, so in public Pakistani schools, girls and boys attend school together. Schools may also be too far for students to safely travel to. For example, in the case of Abbottabad City, Pakistan, 17% of schools are out of its city boundaries, and the city has much harsh weather, steep hills, and forested areas.
Inadequately Trained Teachers
Finally, there is a lack of adequately trained teachers in Pakistani schools. The requirements to teach in Pakistan include only ten years of general schooling and a one-year training period where they receive a Primary Teaching Certificate (PTC). This is considerably different from the standards for American educators, who receive twelve years of general schooling, four years of undergraduate schooling, and in some states, even a master’s degree before being allowed to teach. They also have to pass multiple state certification exams and accreditation programs. Pakistani teachers, on the other hand, score less than 40% on all of these exams.
What Can Be Done?
It is important for us to be aware of what’s going on overseas because it not only broadens our horizons and prevents us from taking for granted the freedoms we have here in America, but it also requires us to look deeper into how to change these situations for future generations. But what can inspire this change? To start, requiring higher levels of accountability in the Pakistani government as well as eliminating terrorism in the country should be the focus of Western governments. Providing safe and affordable public transport would also go a long way in encouraging students to attend school. Furthermore, additional training of teachers and higher standards of competency should be introduced in the country. The inequality, poverty, and political chaos in Pakistan will not be solved overnight by any means, but reforming the Pakistani school system is a good first step in creating actual change in these areas and in others as well.
Feature image courtesy of UNICEF.org