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Education key to peace and economic stability

Published on 21st Apr, Edition 16, 2014

 

Based on demographic profiling, Pakistan has a population of 180 million people with a median age of 21.5 years for both male and female. Based on literacy which is defined as those who have attained the age of 15 and are able to read and write is estimated at 49.9% with male literacy at 63% and female literacy rate being 36%. Pakistan primarily comprises of a young population, which brings an additional challenge for the country to provide avenues where this talent is trained and educated with the required skill set enough for them to earn a livelihood. In order for the talent to be able to meet economic and business challenges, quality education at par with international standards is the paramount need of the country.

Pakistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. One of the reasons for high literacy is the lack of focus by government towards providing quality education and vocational training for improving such skills. Pakistan only spends 2.1% of its GDP on education where as neighboring countries e.g. India spends 4.1% with a literacy rate of 74% and Sir Lanka spends 5.5% of its budget on GDP with a literacy rate of 96%. It is evident that the more the government spends on quality education and training, the higher the literacy which leads to economic development. The lack of focus on education by current and previous governments has resulted in widespread unemployment, brain drain and increase in the level of crime year-on-year. Since employment opportunities are further squeezed due to downturn in the economy and recessionary gap, younger generation seeks employment opportunities elsewhere by moving abroad.

Lack of education has direct correlation on crime. The poor seek easy money and Pakistan provides lots of opportunities in form of street crime. Coupled with poor vigilance by the police, crime is uncontrollable and completely in the hands of criminals to carry out their activities as they please. Those who run few successful deals are involved permanently unless they get caught. It is disappointing to learn that there are no go areas in Karachi where the police do not go. When a vehicle is snatched and taken to a no go area, the police seems helpless.

We have witnessed time and again that many who fall at or below poverty line forego education to earn a living working on a basic wage. Specialized training is particularly required focused towards improving the skills of workers who are involved in manufacturing, land improvements, construction, trading, farming and machinery coupled with education and related experience which leads to worker specialization to assist in reduction in overall cost of manufacturing. Such focused training helps an individual increase his competency in performing a particular task. The specialization and technical skill set eventually leads to sharing of knowledge to improve the competency of those who are less trained. The government ran a campaign titled ” zara suniye” by giving examples of people who were able to make a name for themselves through education. The results of this initiative are unknown.

Observing the operating condition of government controlled schools, colleges and universities show that neither the budget allocated for education in Pakistan is sufficient nor the utilization of allocated funds is done as required due to corruption leading to under and mis-utilization of recourses and budgets. Pakistan lacks vocational training institutes, which are instrumental to provide skills to those who are less fortunate and eager to attend schools. Vocational training is specially important for special people to make them productive resource capable of earning money. Those who receive vocational training are facing difficulties in finding the jobs for which the skill is acquired due to economic recession. Additionally, blue collar jobs in Pakistan, specially in rural areas are ideally given through personal contacts, race and ethnic background, which further adds to the challenge to look for jobs. Those categorized as special and have acquired skills for certain jobs are discriminated against due to their disability. Secondly, employers do not kept a provision to hire special people and pay lower than market average if they are hired. With change in technology and means of carrying out a particular task, vocational schools do not provide advance trainings as the instructors themselves lack training. Pakistan is estimated to have 3,100 vocational training institutes, which could be instrumental in providing vocational training to the rural community if budget allocated for its improvement, which does not seem a possibility with current economic situation. Based on current facts, 53% of the vocational training schools are located in Punjab were as 20% in Sindh followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 13% and Balochistan 9%. Considering the lack of focus quality education, there continues to be a dire need of increasing the number of vocational institutions throughout Pakistan with concentration on rural areas.

In recent times, we have witnessed an increase in emigration abroad from Pakistan due to lack of employment opportunities, political instability, economic depression, health risks and high inflation. Human capital flight is not something encouraged by any nation since resource, which can be useful for the economy, serve other nations in their development. Pakistan, however, receives an average of US$1.0 billion a month in worker remittances seen as a positive sign. Lack of employment opportunities due to poor GDP has resulted in large scale migration from the country in search of employment, through it has been seen as a blessing in disguise reflected through influx of worker remittances. Through it cannot be quantifiable in monetary terms, a sizable portion of inflows through worker remittances are received through illegal channel commonly known as Hawala, which is equally prevalent in India and particularly common, which those who do not have bank accounts.

When the British ruled, America and Europe was focusing on research and education by setting up Universities. Oxford University started Phd education in mid 1850s. This is one of the reasons why these economics are far better than Pakistan. The improvement in skillset and education in Pakistan will only start with efficient allocation and use of budgets for education, vocational and technical trainings. As more individuals are trained and pursue a job in line with their training, the success can be measured through reduction in crime rate. Once again, this cannot be seen in isolation since the government needs to provide avenues through development projects to create employment opportunities in line with those who are trained. Pakistan has always been viewed as a net importer. Perhaps, human capital flight i.e. export of skills may just be Pakistan’s largest export to ensure dollar inflows through worker remittances to help increase Pakistan’s dollar reserves and reduce budget and trade deficit.

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