We are living our lives as a distracted nation with political tantrums disrupting the daily working of government while the field of education is as usual taking a backseat. Not once have we been able to see or hear issues of free and efficient healthcare, access to education, the improvement of the public education sector be a major part of a political mandate. The HDI index measures human development in terms of progress in education, health, and living standards. With an HDI score of 0.537, Pakistan is ranked among ‘low human development’ countries, in the company of Sub-Saharan African countries like Angola and Nigeria. We trail behind Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. A child in Pakistan is expected to complete only 7.7 years of schooling. Pakistan’s education problem is rooted in its low primary gross enrolment ratios and high dropout rates. What begins poorly then ends badly. Only 33.2 percent of the population above the age of 25 has received some form of secondary education. We are in dire straits. The most recent victims of this lack of concern for education is the destruction of education in North Waziristan due to Zarb-e-Azb and the pre-planned murder of regional languages in KP.
The programme under which regional languages were introduced as a compulsory subject has stopped as the government has been too lazy to print textbooks beyond the first grade. These include Hindko, Kohar (Chitrali), Saraiki, Pashto and Kohistani. The last ANP-led government had introduced five regional languages in 2012 in all educational institutions up to the intermediate level, but it seems the change in government has killed this programme. The regional languages were made compulsory under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regional Languages Authority Act, 2011. Any regional language has to be taught in the area where the local residents speak it and thus the government has a legal responsibility to these people and languages.
The clearest example of the failure of national education is our petty leaders who have stooped to becoming nothing more than rabble-rousers. Education is quite literally the most effective long-term solution to extremism but since it does not translate into instant PR points, or votes, it always takes a backseat. Those who have power including the Sharifs, Imran Khan, Qadri, or whoever wants to be the next poster-boy for democracy, need to love Pakistan more than they love themselves. The national curriculum itself is a mess and needs serious updating. Not to mention what is being taught in unchecked madrasas. The problem doesn’t start or end at the madrassas. Even private schools teach a narrative of hate against India and minorities. Children need to be taught compassion, sensitivity and tolerance. But first, children need to be taught.