“Pakistan has the second largest population of out-of-school children in the world”. This population makes up of 22.8 million children being out-of-schools in Pakistan who are between the ages of 5 and 16. This also means that 44% of the population of Pakistan in this age group is out-of-schools.
The on-going pandemic of Covid-19 has further escalated the challenges in education in the country and it is said that an additional 1 million school going children will have dropped out of schools when the pandemic ends. The government of Pakistan alongside other stakeholders managed to enroll around 2.2 million children in schools in the last decade and these efforts seem to going at a loss owing to the pandemic.
The parliament of Pakistan adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the country’s national development goals in February of 2016. With the current government coming in to power in 2018, all the provinces were given a free hand in development and practicing their own priority frameworks.
The provinces were able to conclude drafting their policy framework and SDG 4 (quality education for all) turned up to be a common goal for the provinces.
Economist and public finance expert Asim Bashir Khan recently authored a white-paper “Public Investment in Education: An Appraisal of SDG 4 in Pakistan” which was published by Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) and The Education Champion Network. This white-paper takes stock of Pakistan’s progress towards SDG4 and highlights several glaring gaps that negate the high priority accorded to education on paper.
On paper, the provinces have key policies to achieve the SDG 4 targets including:
- Access to Education
- Quality of Education
- Gender Parity in Education
- Adult Literacy
- Educational Infrastructure
- Teacher’s Training
Despite a limited number of targets and poor baseline figures, the progress towards achieving the target of quality education for all has been dauntingly slow. With the current pace of progress, it seems that Pakistan will not be able to meet the targets of Agenda2030.
This white-paper presents the findings towards the SDG4 progress and also provides a concrete set of recommendations for Pakistani to meet the international commitments of SDG4. With 8 years still remaining, the federal and provincial governments must work collectively and effectively to ensure that Pakistan is able to live up to the international commitments.
A summary of the key recommendations in the White-Paper include:
Eliminating Political Inertia:
Despite the passage of more than five years since ratifying the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Pakistan is yet to begin making the preliminary but significant adjustments identified in its National Framework.
The federal and the provincial governments of Pakistan must be synced and work collectively on one agenda. The progress can’t bring any fruits if there is a different agenda on the federal level and a different on provincial level. This will ensure swift progress in the implementation and realization of the necessary steps.
Classification of Education Budgets:
It is equally important that budgets for education-related interventions, even if they are undertaken by other departments, should be classified under the education budget. The current approach under which at times large education development projects are classified under “social welfare,” “population development,” or other departments only serves to scatter the effort, making it unnecessarily tedious to monitor progress.
Alignment of education budget heads with relevant SDG 4 indicators:
First of all, there is a need to set up an SDG Committee for Equitable Quality Education-related policy scrutiny and parliamentary control. Budget must be adjusted to reflect on SDG4 targets and indicators while drafting budget proposals. SDG 4 budget tagging needs to be introduced and integrated into the Financial Management Information System (FIMS).
Enrollment in Schools:
To encourage more students to enroll in schools, the government must increase education stipend programs and introduce new ones that focus on girls and children with impairments.
Elimination of Gender Disparities:
In order to curb education inequality across Pakistan, the government should adopt gender-responsive budgeting. Solutions to track and trace out-of-school children by gender and location can greatly help identify the deserving children in need of education. There is also a dire need for a new infrastructure that focuses on facilitating continued learning for girls beyond the primary level.
Qualified Teachers and Training Programs:
To provide quality education, the federal and provincial governments must increase the number of qualified teachers with an emphasis on recruiting subject specialists in Math and Science. Investing in the recruitment of female teachers at a secondary and higher level to encourage parents to send their daughters to schools can also be a positive step towards progress.