Pakistan’s Education Emergency: Failing the Future

Islamabad: British High Commissioner says transformational reform of education is necessary but achievable to rescue Pakistan’s future

Delivering a keynote speech to the English Speaking Union in Karachi today, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan warned of the ‘education emergency’ threatening Pakistan’s future.

The High Commissioner, Adam Thomson, acknowledged that although the current situation is ‘disastrous’, there has been some progress. But this progress is not yet fast enough.

In his speech the High Commissioner highlighted:

• The global average primary school enrolment is 87%, Pakistan’s is 56%

• Seventeen million primary school age children, equivalent to the entire population of Karachi, are out of school in Pakistan

• UK aid from the Department for International Development will help support four million children into school, train 90,000 teachers, fund six million textbook sets and rebuild schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa destroyed by militants or floods.

The UK is already working with Pakistan to assist in this necessary transformation in Pakistan’s education, the High Commissioner said, arguing that the UK has more to offer Pakistan on education than any other country in the world.

At the end of the speech, Adam Thomson cited Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s strong personal conviction that “education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan.”

Warning about the ‘Education Emergency’, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson said:

“The economic opportunity cost of not educating Pakistan’s children is the same as suffering a 2010 flood every single year. This is an education emergency.

“No country can follow the path to a happy future if it cannot read the road signs. Children are a country’s future. Pakistan is failing its future.

“It’s disastrous for the economic and physical health of the country and it’s systemic. It’s on a scale only soluble by Pakistan’s provincial and federal Governments.”

Arguing that an education transformation is possible, he said:

“In a province in Brazil, the literacy rate among eight year olds jumped from 49 % to 73% just three years after a reform program was launched. Pakistan could expect to start seeing the results within two years.

“Imagine lifting primary school enrolment across Pakistan to the world average of 87% within 5 years. It is entirely possible. Imagine the social and political partnerships that would have accomplished this -between media, civil society, the private sector and politicians, with parents mobilized to demand, and political leaders galvanised to deliver, better education for children.

“Imagine then how good the nation would feel about its achievement and how much it would want to complete the easier rest of the journey to 100%. All it needs is leadership.”

Highlighting the strong links between Pakistan and the UK on education, he said:

“The UK and Pakistan are linked by history, language and educational testing. More Pakistanis still take English exams than any other nationality outside a formal government education sector.

“We are connected, joined at the hip. We cannot flourish if you do not flourish. You cannot flourish if your population is uneducated.

“This is why UK will support four million children in school and is set to provide £650million, equivalent to almost R100billion, over four years for primary and secondary education in Pakistan.”

For more information, contact:
Mike Girling
Press Attaché
British High Commission
Tel: +9251 201 2000
Cell: +92300 500 5306

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