Syeda Summiya Zahid
With a population of more than 180 million, Pakistan bears the burden of one of the most illiterate countries of Asia. About half of the male population is illiterate and two third of the female population can’t even write their names. Generally, the degree of matriculation classifies a person as being literate. In our surrounding region, Pakistan with its 58.7% literacy rate is even lower than Nepal and Bangladesh, which have literacy rates of 64.7 and 61.5 percent respectively. Other countries like the Maldives and Sri Lanka have achieved far more impressive results given that above 90 percent of the population in both these countries is literate. Even India has a 61 percent literacy rate, despite its enormous population. According to literacy rate estimates by last year’s National Economic Survey, there seem to be tremendous variance between literacy rates in the Provinces. Balochistan has the lowest average since only 33 percent of the Province is literate compared to the national average of over 50 percent. Moreover, only 27 percent of women in Balochistan are literate. This problem of illiteracy exists both due to broad policy hurdles and some on-ground factors. In policymaking, it is the lack of political will, which can be seen due to insignificant amount of budget allocated towards education, delays in the passing of funds, and institutional inefficiency and corruption. Resultantly, the lack of sufficient infrastructure in the form of school buildings and facilities, low professional capacity of teachers due to the non-availability of proper training institutes, uneven teacher-student ratios, lack of teaching aids, as well as low public awareness concerning the value of education, all contribute towards continuation of low educational rates at the ground level.