164 governments including Pakistan agreed in the year 2000 at Dakar, Senegal, to make a solemn commitment to achieve six Education For All goals by 2015. These goals are:

Goal 1: Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Goal 2: Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, complete…. free and compulsory primary education of good quality.

Goal 3: Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes.

Goal 4: Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women...

Goal 5: Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015….

Goal 6: Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

A Dakar Framework Action was drawn up. The progress was to be assessed by an independent team commissioned by UNESCO.

Annual global monitoring reports have been compiled focusing on specific themes. Some of these themes: gender and education for all, the leap to equality; strong foundations early childhood care and education; overcoming inequality, why governance matters; reacting the marginalized; the hidden crises, armed conflict, education of youth and skills; putting education to work; teaching and learning; achieving quality for all.

In the foreword to the 2015 report titled Education For All 2000-2015, Achievement and Challenges, Madam Irena Bokova, Director General UNESCO, emphasizing quality and lifelong learning for all, has rightly observed that “there is simply no more powerful or longer lasting investment in human rights and dignity, in social inclusion and sustainable development”.

A word about some of the findings of the report; goal 2 relates to complete, freeand compulsory primary education of good quality for all children. Worldwide, the primary school net enrolment rate was 84% in 1999 and is estimated to reach 93% in 2015. In Pakistan it is around 67%.

Goal 4—Adult Literacy; this relates to achieving a 50% improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015 especially for women and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults. The world average literacy rate is around 90% while Pakistan where the target was 86% by the year 2015, will achieve less than 60%.

Another finding. For financing education, governments and donors neglected to fund EFA goals outside of primary education. As a result pre-primary education and adult literacy, in particular, remain underfunded.

It is a pity that Pakistan—in both literacy and primary education—lags behind all itsneighbours except Afghanistan. Even Nepal and Bhutan are ahead of it. In the early 50s, the literacy rate in India and China was almost the same as in Pakistan. Today, India’s is 71% and China is nearing 100%. According to its own National Plan of Action prepared soon after it committed itself at Dakar to reduce its illiteracy rate by half (i.e. 86% literacy), Pakistan today is only 58% literate. Considering rapid increase in population, no wonder that there are today around 60 millions illiterates in Pakistan. What is all the more discomforting is that despite goading and prodding by international agencies including United Nations, our ruling elite, both at the center and in the provinces are not bothered to seriously address the problem of illiteracy. Our allocation for education hovers around 2% of GDP. On special occasions, like, the World Teachers Day or International Literacy Day, a lot of promises are made andattention invited to relevant Quranic verses but little done to make the required effort. Punjab chief minister no doubt has taken commendable steps to promote education but he too has done little to open the required number of literacy centres. Punjab can boast of having a separate department for literacy but its achievement remains modest, if not disappointing. Little by way of spreading literacy is being done in the other three provinces.

We live in a fast-moving world. Already the global average literacy rate is around 90%. UN this September will be debating new goals for the next 15 years. Already a lot of spadework has been done and drafts of the new programmes are in circulation. After the international conference in South Korea in May, UN General Assembly will announce the new goals. A name has already been agreed: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It will be of interest to readers to get to know these SDGs:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 17. Strengthen the means of implementation andrevitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Last year, the EFA Global Monitoring Report in this part of the world, was launched in Islamabad. On that occasion, questions were raised from the floor about Pakistan’s poor performance. In response, Mr. Baligh-ur-Rehman, State Minister for Education, had stated that government would declare an education emergency. This, as usual, proved to be a hollow assurance.

There is little doubt that Pakistan will be unhesitatingly active in the September session of the General Assembly and will enthusiastically welcome and endorse the SDGs and later, as always, do little to meet the new goals and targets.

Unfortunate the much-awaited EFA Global Monitoring Report for 2015 remained unnoticed in Pakistan. Except for one or two newspapers, it was not even mentioned, neither in the print nor the electronic media.