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Ambitious educational spending

  • A compulsory COVID recovery plan for developing nations

There is no doubt in the fact that Covid-19 pandemic impacted each and every aspect of Life leading towards the most dangerous recession in the entire world. Apart from its health or medical implications developing countries in specific and the world in general may face its enormous consequences on capital accumulation which obviously have negative results on the long term growth of their economies.

History witnessed the every pandemic not only impacted the capital formation but disproportionately widen the gap of gender divides in educational attainment for which every developing nation already struggling for. Similarly like other struggling developing nation, this pandemic harmfully impact the educational system in Pakistan. According to annual educational report of PSLM 2018, Pakistan stood second in the world where almost 17% or 20 million children are out of school and only 53.03 million students are enrolled and out of these 3/4thof the students are enrolled in public sector government schools while the remaining 1/4th students are enrolled in non-government (almost 20% in private schools and 3% in Madrassas) and a very small proportion of population who belongs to high income families are studying in standard private schools. The pandemic enforced the school closure has not impacted these elite educational organizations as they instantly started virtual classes to facilitate their students but most of the students and their families are struggling in this regard and try to search for alternatives, Since there is no physical access to schools, one feasible alternative could be studying at home from parents or with the elder siblings but the main issue experienced here is the education levels of both parents to understand whether such alternative works or not which is given below (1st father Educational status, 2nd Mother Educational status from PSLM 2018).

Literacy Status of Father and Mother in Pakistan

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If we talk about an alternate to get education from parents Government also start tele schools for primary to secondary (till class VIII) via PTV along with the virtual classes but access to internet and required devices is a big challenge for the public sector and widen the inequality to access online education. In Pakistan students with access to various facilities like Television is 55.12%, Internet is almost 38.95%, Computer is 10.37%,Laptop is 8.78%, Tablet is about 2.25% and Mobile phones are 96.98% while apart from this siblings will share the same devices and facilities within their families causing intra household disparity among the families and subsequently this inequality has long consequences for the student’s competitiveness in the future job markets domestically and abroad. Even all provinces are not capable to provide equal facilities to access education that results in the striking inequalities across students at all levels of education. At the primary and middle level, students from government schools and low-end private schools can either be taught by their parents or can access Teleschool through television but as we discussed 2/3rd of the students have illiterate parents and half of the students do not have access to television. At the tertiary level 1/5th of the students cannot access the internet to attend their virtual classes while 2/3rdof the university students would fail to perform their assignments efficiently due to no computer/laptop facility available at home. Across provinces heterogeneity in incidence of inequality is also strikingly high and deep study proves that female’s bias to access online education is higher than that of males causing higher gender inequality as well. If we ensure that all girls are finishing secondary education by 2030 could boost the gross domestic product (GDP) of developing countries by 10% on average but these inequalities have huge impact on long-run human capital formation in Pakistan? Not only has zero learning during school closures had negative effects on the human capital formation of students lacking the access to television, internet and electronic gadgets but for primary and middle students these inequalities also widen the grades gap among students with and without these facilities. Similarly, university students without access to the internet and computer might have to freeze their semester or pay in terms of lower CGPA (low attendance and poor quality of assignments). In the long run, the impact of these disparities might translate into job market outcomes. Especially, students from the rural areas, who already lag in competing for high-end jobs, will find it more challenging to compete for these jobs in the future. It is also necessary to note another reason for why a greater proportion of university students have access to computers/laptops. Intuitively, students belonging to high-income households are more likely to attain higher levels of education and these are the students who can afford modern means of communication. Furthermore, we need to keep in mind that the government of Pakistan (and provincial governments) has been distributing laptops to university students in the past. Policy focus, when it comes to education and human capital formation, should be on the lower levels, which has the majority of the students (22.9 million students are enrolled in schools).

Another reason for the focus on lower levels is to retain the number of dropouts at these levels since already 20 million (or 17 per cent) of the children are out-of-school by keeping in mind the local and international disparities in the quality of education at lower levels in Pakistan. The COVID-19 pandemic can expectedly have severe consequences for school going children which can deteriorate the quality and reduce the number of undergraduates and graduates in the future. On the other hand, income inequality, which leads to inequality of affordability of computers/laptops, would lead to the unequal formation of human capital. Government intervention is needed more than ever in the field of education to secure the basic right to education for the students in rural areas, and those belonging to lower-income strata.

Beside all problems where there is a will there is a way, developing nations like Pakistan have the chance to gain from the experiences of front-runner nations while structuring and formulating policies that address their own issues and fit the local needs through transformation and it is also the responsibility of state to provide digital framework to access education, doing business, implementation of laws and governance of cyber security laws that will encourage digitalization process. Ambitious educational spending and mastering the digital transformation process is no easy task, but it defines the competency of the 21st century!

Urooj Aijaz (Faculty Dept. of MS BBS, KC; Bahria University Karachi/MD Innovation Summit by IRP)

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