Capitalising on improved education

By Manzoor Chandio
Published in Dawn on June 2, 2013

Sri Lanka’s literacy rate is 98 per cent, just one point behind that of Japan’s. But Sri Lanka is not as developed and prosperous as Japan because its school-based education does not provide for skills training and practical work.
Due to this it has failed to capitalise on its nearly universal education ratio while Japan is the third largest economy and the most prosperous and developed country in the world. A student who gets 15 years of education in Japan is more productive than one in a developing country.
Pakistan stresses achieving universal primary education literacy by 2015 under the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) set by the United Nations but that also seems to be impossible because of the government’s apathy towards the education sector. According to the State of Pakistan’s Children report of 2011, 25 million children in the country are still out of schools and the total literacy ratio is about 57pc (69.3pc male and 45pc female).
Mr Asghar Soomro of Social Policy and Development Centre says, “To get better results there should be a provision of quality education combined with skills training for all children. Schools and teachers at present lack the capacity to improve student learning. The goal should be to enhance teacher training and improve educational institutions. It will result in the empowerment of people and economic growth.”
Unesco calls for changing the traditional way of imparting education and linking it with social justice values like basic human needs, inter-generational equity, human rights and democracy.
“All persons and communities should be empowered to exercise responsibility for their own lives and for life on Earth. Thus, they must have full access to education, political enfranchisement and sustaining livelihoods; and they should be able to participate effectively in the decisions that most affects them,” says the world body.
The plan is to explore ways of providing a favourable environment to all children and the education they get should help them earn incomes and make contributions towards the betterment of their families, society and the country.
“With improved educational institutions, the society at large will witness a social cohesion, the first step towards achieving an economically-productive population,” says Mr Soomro.
Unesco’s Early Childhood Care and Education programmes could be a comprehensive guide for member countries. Children need special care about their “health, nutrition, security and learning from birth to eight years of age but poverty denies 25pc children these facilities and their parents are compelled to send them to work.
Pakistan, under the MDGs, pledges to enroll 100 per cent children by 2015. The main problem is to get children enrolled into schools. There are different figures. The government claims it enrolled 40pc children till 2012, “But ground realities such as child labour, militancy, number of children in juvenile prisons show a lack of qualitative education,” says Mr Abdullah Langah, provincial manager of the Child Rights and Civil Society Strengthening Programme of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child.
Reading and writing alone is not enough. Education combined with skills training is critical to reducing poverty and inequality because it improves incomes and increases economic growth. More than that education promotes gender equity, empowers women, reduces child mortality, improves maternal health and combats threatening diseases.
Unesco believes, “Each additional year of schooling raises the average annual gross domestic product growth by 0.37pc.”
Mr Langah says the main cause of this country’s underdevelopment is a lack of sufficiently effective education system. “Merely achieving 100pc education literacy is not the big thing but providing substantive education is necessary to achieve the goal of development,” he says.
Pakistan’s education system is marred by multi-pronged complications with abject poverty as the main reason for its failure. There is a need for supporting the children’s parents living in poverty. Parents should be made aware of the benefits of education by their children. “This means the government will have to look into the reasons why children are involved in laborious jobs at an age when they should be at school,” says Mr Langah.
There could be various action plans by Unesco and the Unicef to improve children’s welfare and health but what’s gaining importance across the world is about linking education to values like interdependence and biodiversity.
“People are a part of the natural systems. They depend utterly on them. Thus, natural systems should be respected at all times. This means to approach nature with humility, care and compassion; to be frugal and efficient in resource use; to be guided by the best available knowledge, both traditional and scientific; and to help shape and support public policies that promote sustainability,” says Unesco.
Often there is talk about the lack of budget and corruption in allocated funds. But much more can be done without funds. There are certain steps which require zero budget like setting up of debating, literary and art societies in schools.
The government only attaches importance to education but no country can make progress without a knowledge stream. Education is the knowledge of putting one’s potential to maximum use.
Schools, especially those in the public sector, stress pedagogic principles while ignoring the didactic approach for the optimum use of the prodigy students’ potential.
The capacity enhancing of teachers needs a lot of budget but setting up of debating clubs and science societies requires no budget.
Encouraging the young generation towards co curricular and sport activities will keep them away from all types of evils. Promoting such activities will provide a healthy atmosphere while maintaining a clean society. Such activities will help reduce crime and maintain children’s focus on learning. Developing a system of education combined with values and training could address the needs of the country.
In any case, the education model of developed nations like that of Japan is not recommended because of a lack of sustainability. The USA, China and Japan, the world’s largest economies, respectively, have achieved industrial growth but at the cost of ailing the entire world. Their prosperity has proved hazardous for other nations. Therefore, the underlying need is for linking education with a sustainable future.

The writer is a member of staff.

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