No doubt, Education being the fundamental human right stands most significant element in evolution of human progress and nation development. It develops capabilities to fight against injustice, violence, corruption and many other social evils. Sustainable socio-economic development of a country depends on substantial investment in its human capital by education and skill development. Educated people work as an effective tool in accepting and adopting innovative ideas and means of productivity/technologies, ensuring the elimination of economic and social ailments. Further, as a dividend, it brings socio-economic progress also prosperity in to the country.
An educated and skilled nation is productive enough to accelerate economic growth through expanded vision, creativity and, innovations in the country. According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2020, Pakistan is ranked 154th out of 189 countries with the Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.557.
The present government of Pakistan is committed to attain Goal 4 of SDGs i.e. “Quality Education”, which stipulates equitable education, removal of discrimination, provision and up-gradation of infrastructure, skill development for sustainable progress, universal literacy, numeracy and enhancement of professional capacity of teachers. As per Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan “State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16-year” therefore, the government is working on various initiatives to offer quality education to its citizens. A Single National Curriculum (SNC) has been planned with the vision of one system of education for all, in terms of curriculum, medium of instruction and a common platform of assessment, so that all children have a fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality education. SNC will be implemented in three phases, Phase I: Development of SNC and textbooks for Pre I-V classes in March 2021, Phase II: Development of SNC and textbooks for VI-VIII classes in March 2022.
Presently, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 in the country, conducted through Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) was designed to examine the impacts of Covid-19 after the unprecedented school closures of 2020 and early 2021. Experts recorded that primary school students are experiencing a learning crisis as a consequence of school closures. Learning losses are more common in younger children who have not yet organized a solid basis for learning. Pakistan’s learning crisis is embedded in a deeper crisis of fairness, with girls, children from low-income families, and children from certain geographic regions suffering the biggest learning deficits. The survey was carried out in 16 Pakistani rural districts (four each in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh provinces). A total of 9,392 homes with a total of 25,448 children aged 3–16 years, counting 21,589 children aged 5–16 years, were surveyed (43 percent of girls, 57 percent of boys). In addition, 457 government schools and 198 private schools were surveyed to examine their capacity and readiness to follow government standards for restarting schools safely.
The epidemic of Covid-19 has altered society and worsened social and economic disparities. Governments globally have banned face-to-face teaching in schools as a part of measures to halt its spread, affecting 95 percent of the world’s student population—the greatest disruption to education in history. As per UNESCO facts from April 2020, Covid-19 caused school closures for 1.6 billion students globally, with 188 states closing schools. As a result of Covid-19, Pakistan was one of the first countries in the world to implement widespread school closures. Schools in Sindh province were closed on February 27, 2020, and the rest of the country followed suit on March 14, 2020. Classes 9–12 were reopened on September 15, 2020, followed through classes 6–8 on September 23, and nursery to class 5 on September 30, 2020 respectively. Following the third wave of the pandemic (from April to May 2021), all learners, whether in private or public schools, began attending classes on alternating days.
Even before the epidemic, Pakistan’s education system was in crisis, with 32 percent of children aged 5 to 16 years out of school and dismal learning outcomes for those who were enrolled. The closure of educational institutions as a result of Covid-19 has had a direct impact on 40 million school-aged children, ranging from pre-primary to secondary school, amplifying the dangers and vulnerabilities of an already weakened educational system.
According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) district level Survey 2019-20, the literacy rate of population (10 years and above) is stagnant at 60 percent in 2019-20 since 2014-15. The literacy rate is higher in urban areas (74 percent) than in rural areas (52 percent). Province wise analysis suggests that Punjab has the highest literacy rate, with 64 percent followed by Sindh with 58 percent, KPK (Excluding Merged Areas) with 55 percent, KPK (Including Merged Areas) with 53 percent and Balochistan with 46 percent.
No doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only created a health crisis in Pakistan but also adversely affected education sector as well. In order to mitigate the learning losses of students during the closure of educational institutes, the Government of Pakistan has launched initiatives like Tele School and Radio School to offer distance learning and addressed provision of education to the children in pandemic. The present government is focusing to enhance both the quality and coverage of education by effective policy interventions and improving allocation of resources, but the required reforms in education sector cannot be attained without active participation of private sector.