World Bank (WB) has termed the learning poverty rate of 75 percent in Pakistan a big crisis and recommended for political and financial commitment to mitigatte and overcome the challenge Learning poverty is defined as the percentage of 10-year-old children who cannot read and understand a simple story.
Pakistan is currently spending around $500 per student a year which is amongst the lowest and one of the reasons behind the fact that 75 percent of children in Pakistan have trouble in reading a story by age 10, said Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education, World Bank Group. He said Pakistan needed to invest more in education to improve the quality of education.
Saavedra was addressing at the lunch of a National 100-day Action Program to support girls' education and women's economic empowerment at Quaid-i-Azam University, supported by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Human Rights, and the World Bank Group.
"This is a moral and economic crisis, which can and must be addressed urgently," said Saavedra. "Not being able to read by age 10 means that a child is 'learning poor'. What is required is a learning revolution that involves everyone: parents, teachers, school principals, policymakers, and partners to rally around one goal: getting rid of learning poverty," he added.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No 4 ensures that all girls and boys complete free, equity and quality primary and secondary schooling by 2030.
Three in every four children in Pakistan cannot read and understand a simple story by age of 10, highlighting that learning poverty in Pakistan is at 75 percent, which is substantially higher than the average in South Asia of 58 percent.
He said there were two underlying factors to this. First, 27.3 percent of all children remain out of school, which particularly affects girls who are more likely to never be enrolled and to drop out faster in early adolescence. Second, 47.5 percent of children cannot read and comprehend a simple paragraph by age 10, even though they make it to school. This means that literacy instruction in schools is not adapted to the needs of children, particularly those from illiterate families.
The difference between the learning poverty in Pakistan and other countries was different as around 22 million children in the country were out of school while learning poverty was around 48 percent among the school going, he added.
He further said that 250 million children across the world were out of school while only in Pakistan the number was 22 million. He further said the speed of improvement was very slow as witnessed during the last 15 years and with that speed it was expected that just 10 percent improvement and learning poverty may reduce to 43 percent by 2030. There was much needed to bring it by half at least, he added.
The WB official said that relentlessly call attention was needed to mitigate the crisis in Pakistan and the urgency to accelerate efforts. He said there was need of persistent political and financial commitment and need for more investment.
Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood admitted that the country was facing the crisis and maintained that they were working within the government as well as with donors to make a pitch for increasing investment in the sector. It was agreed that helping children achieve their full learning potential was critical and requires effective use of technical and financial resources.
Mahmood highlighted that quality education was the single key factor required for building human capital. He further said that to tackle the issue of learning poverty, the government was revamping the curriculum and working to devise uniform curriculum. He further said the government was also looking at innovative solutions rather than just relying on conventional as the latter was no more working. He further said students would be engaged through new technology. Mahmood said that improvements in the education sector would be visible in next 1-2 years.
"Girls and women are central to Pakistan's long-term aspirations to become a prosperous country when it turns 100," said Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. "The World Bank is committed to supporting all stakeholders to prioritize actions for girls to excel in education and women to thrive in the workplace." He further said that learning poverty was a big challenge in Pakistan and the Bank would continue its commitment to support the country in achieving the milestone of improvement in the education sector.
The 'Girls Learn, Women Earn' (GLWE) initiative was launched here on Wednesday with an evidence for policy-making conference. Sessions focused on challenges and opportunities in eliminating learning poverty and increasing women's economic empowerment. The initiative highlighted statistics that show that 55 percent of Pakistan's 22.5 million out-of-school children are girls and only 26 percent of women are active in the country's labor force. The 100-day campaign calls for awareness, advocacy and action on a national scale to address this.
The 'Girls Learn, Women Earn' conference concluded with a roundtable discussion on women's participation in the labor force, led by Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Program. The session focused on enabling women as a crucial aspect of inclusive growth, and on ways to provide more women with the education, skills, opportunities and environments to become contributing members of the economy.
"Women in the workforce hold the key to a vibrant economy. Pakistan's goal is to increase women's participation in the workforce from 26 to 45 percent, and the World Bank is ready to support the government achieve this, said Louise Cord, Global Director for Social Development, World Bank. Concerted efforts are needed to empower women and girls by expanding their skills, access to information, mobility, along with access to finance and assets."
The 'Girls Learn, Women Earn' initiative invites any institution to sign up to be a GLWE champion from December 31, provided they meet the registration criteria, which will be set by an independent panel of advisors. The GLWE campaign began on December 1, 2019 and will continue until March 10, 2020, just after International Women's Day on March 8.