Consultation Findings: Pakistan Coalition for Education

In April, the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) hosted a consultation to discuss the challenges of education financing. This specific issue was selected as the topic of discussion for the consultation given government funding to education is extremely low in Pakistan at around 2 percent of the country’s GDP.  With the release of the country’s national budget just around the corner, education financing was a pertinent issue to discuss with representatives from civil society, legislators, government officials and representatives from the Ministry of Education.

There are several challenges facing Pakistan’s education sector starting with the fact that there is not enough investment in education. The answer to why education is not a funding priority in Pakistan lies in the simple reality that most people in our country are not aware of all the long-term benefits of receiving a quality education. The lack of quality education in Pakistan has left citizens deprived of knowledge and understanding. This has become a compounding problem in the country as parents that are uneducated don’t see how education leads to enormous positive psychological impacts, social growth and economic empowerment.

Education in developing countries is one of the most neglected sectors. Many developing national governments, including Pakistan’s, fail to realize that ensuring all youth and children receive a quality education is critical to a country’s socioeconomic development and economic growth. As a result, the lack of funding for education creates major problems in Pakistan, such as poor quality teaching and learning, unequal access to education, and low levels of school enrollment and attendance.

Aside from budgetary constraints, one of the biggest obstacles inhibiting Pakistan from achieving quality education for all is the lack of trained and competent teachers. In government schools across Pakistan, it is common practice that teachers are not hired through meritocratic standards, but rather are elected through political appointments or hired through nepotism.

When it comes to improving the quality of education in developing countries, political will is the most important factor–even more so than budgetary constraints. Political will lies at the heart of the issue and if motivation is needed to change the status quo, it must come from the highest levels. Historically, the Pakistani government has not had the political will to focus on assessing education indicators and outcomes. Instead, it has focused most of its attention on keeping the country safe from internal and external threats. From border skirmishes and nuclear threats, most of the political will in Pakistan is geared towards building up the country’s military and defense system, which explains the large budgetary allocations to defense in contrast to funding for education. Since the inception of Pakistan, each government has pushed their own respective agendas forward, each more aggressive than the last. However, no government has reformed education to make it more accessible. Unfortunately, the lack of political will to prioritize education at the highest levels of government in Pakistan flows to lower provincial and district levels. As a consequence, schools in Pakistan often have low levels of learning, and poor academic performance and educational outcomes. Other obstacles that schools often face are the lack of security systems and basic facilities.

In order to address these problems, there needs to be a focus on transparency, accountability and monitoring systems. There also is a need to engage the general public in the budget-making processes so that the demands of the community and civil society are listened to by policymakers. The government cannot work in silos and it is essential that linkages with the relevant departments are established to initiate greater policy change.

As a nation, we have not prioritized education as a catalyst for growth, instead it has often been sidelined by other national priorities. During the consultation, participants agreed that improving education in Pakistan will require the following strategies:

  • Implementation of the right to education across Pakistan.
  • Government must increase the education budget to 4 percent of GDP and education reforms must be aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Equity in education must be ensured by making provincial and national governments accountable for providing minimum standards in public schools for disadvantaged groups.
  • Education should be linked with other development sectors such as climate change, poverty reduction and economic growth to have a holistic approach to sustainable growth and development in Pakistan.

Nashwa Shaklee is a Program Coordinator at the Pakistan Coalition for Education.