Over 55 years 30% literate
45-55 years 40%
35-45 years 50%
25-35 years 60%
15-25 years 70%
|Literacy Rates in 1950. Source: UNESCO|
Pakistan has come a long way in terms of literacy but it still lags its neighbors, particularly Iran, which had lower literacy rate than Pakistan in 1950s, now has well over 90% of its adult population literate. Education was a key focus of the Shah Reza Shah Pehlavi, the Shah of Iran from 1941 to 1979. The Shah invested a significant chunk of his country's oil revenues to improve education, health care and infrastructure. Iran's education spending increased 1800% during the Shah's rule.
Although literacy in Pakistan has grown by about 13% during President Mushsarraf's rule to about 56%, it still remains woefully low when compared to its neighbors.
However, Pakistanis now spend more time in schools and colleges and graduate at a higher rate than their Indian counterparts in 15+ age group, according to a report on educational achievement by Harvard University researchers Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee.
Barro-Lee data shows the following:
1. India's overall schooling rate of 67.4% exceeds Pakistan's 61.9% in 15 and over age group.
2. Pakistan's primary schooling rate of 21.8% is slightly higher than India's 20.9% of 15+ age group
3. India has a big edge with its secondary enrollment of 40.7% over Pakistan's 34.6%, but India's completion rate at this level is a dismal 0.9% versus Pakistan's 22.5% of the population of 15+ age group.
4. India's tertiary education enrollment rate of 5.8% is higher than Pakistan's 5.5%, but Pakistan's college and university graduation rate of 3.9% is higher than India's 3.1% of 15+ age group.
5. Pakistan's combined graduation rate at all three levels is 45.7% versus India's 22.9% among the population age group of 15 years or older.
6. UNESCO's Global Education Digest shows that, as of 2009, nearly 16% of Pakistan's adult population (25-34 years age bracket) has completed higher education as of 2003, higher than the figures of 12% for India and 8% for Indonesia among emerging markets.
|College Graduation Data. Source: Global Education Digest|
Barro-Lee data also shows that the percentage of 15+ age group with no schooling has gone down in both nations in the last decade, particularly in Pakistan where it dropped dramatically by a whopping 22% from 60.2% in 2000 to 38% in 2010. In India, this percentage with no schooling dropped from 43% to 32.7% of 15+ age group.
Here's some data on out-of-school children in Pakistan:
1. The actual number of out of school children of primary age in Pakistan is 5.1 million.
2. The out-of-school figures of 50% in Punjab, 61% in Sindh, 65% in KP and 78% in Balochistan are for pre-primary children ages 3 to 5 years, not for ages 6-16 years.
3. In 6-16 years age group, 7% of urban and 23% of rural children are out of school.
5. According to Pakistan Standards of Living Measurements PSLM 2011-12, the country's literacy rate is 58%.
|Source: 2012 Global Monitoring Report|
I do not see any justification for the usual expressions of extreme pessimism that follow every alarmist report in the media. I do, however, see an urgent need for higher spending and greater focus on education by Pakistani government to make faster progress, particularly in closing the gender gap in school enrollment. A recent report about significant education successes in Punjab prepared by Sir Micheal Barber gives me hope that the PML (N) will perform better than the last government in responding to the challenge.
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