The UN Millennium Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a component of Pakistan’s development agenda, with the aim of eradicating poverty and improving the socio-economic profile of the people. In this context, SDG 4, which concerns quality education for boys and girls, has been adopted as a “priority goal” by the government of Pakistan. However, the achievement of SDG 4 has yet to reach a momentum where it can begin to deliver locally for the benefit of the masses.
According to the 2021 SDG Status Report, progress on SDG 4 has remained stagnant overall, with the national literacy rate remaining at 60% from 2015 to 2020. There is a need to develop an effective strategy to ensure quality education for all across Pakistan. . However, the question arises as to how this objective can be achieved given the current financial crisis and its impact on all sectors, including education.
The education sector in Pakistan faces multiple challenges ranging from the gender gap in the enrollment rate of boys and girls to the availability and utilization of funds for the operation of various schools, colleges and universities. The problem of the lack of technical training at the college level to ensure employment after graduation, the presence of thousands of ghost schools with ghost teachers, the lack of teacher training associated with private and public educational institutions and the resulting appalling standards of education are just some of the major problems facing the education sector in Pakistan today.
An appropriate way out of the current fiscal crisis is to adopt a smart and sustainable approach in policy-making at different levels. In terms of socio-economic development, it is necessary to group together certain projects and plans with similar development objectives. A key project that has captured attention in Pakistan and around the world is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is a $65 billion mega project that has entered its second phase. In its ongoing second phase, the project has focused on the education sector in Pakistan, such as opening a technical education institution and initiating and strengthening student exchange programs . Given the demands of the youth bulge in Pakistan, there is a need for greater emphasis on building new schools, technical and vocational training centers and tertiary institutions, while upgrading the elders.
If aligned with SDG 4, CPEC can help improve the quality of education in Pakistan. While working towards SDG 4, the federal government has attempted to support provincial governments to improve teacher recruitment and student enrollment rates, particularly for girls, to improve the overall literacy rate of the country. On the other hand, CPEC has also worked in the same direction, where the need for better technical education facilities has been realized in remote areas like Gwadar and FATA. To date, 25 solar schools have been set up to help facilitate local communities.
All the measures taken either for the achievement of SDG 4 or within the framework of the CPEC project for the promotion of better educational facilities must be synchronized with each other. If money and resources, which have been spent separately, were combined, it would not only strengthen the will to promote quality education, but it would also prove to be cost effective. The only need is to start thinking in this direction with a clear roadmap and a list of priorities.
Some key areas in this regard may be ensuring free primary education, emphasizing the promotion of girls’ education, prioritizing computer and other technical skills, and promoting the culture of research. and development. With rising inflation and high poverty rates, free primary education can provide respite to large swaths of the population who cannot afford to send even a single child to school. . The construction and modernization of primary schools with basic services such as the availability of books and stationery should be compulsory near all CPEC projects, and the result of these initiatives should be taken into account in the realization of SDG 4.
It is commendable that CPEC has focused on promoting technical and vocational training to meet the requirements of projects in various fields such as energy, transport and infrastructure by building up a localized skilled workforce. There is also a need to link the gains of these initiatives to the achievement of SDG 4. This can be further broadened to develop the research and development component in higher education institutions – a relatively neglected area in the policy arena. socio-economic and development of Pakistan. Furthermore, given the demands of this technologically advanced era, the CPEC-SDG collaboration mechanism should focus on the areas of information technology and climate change – areas that have huge employment potential for young people. . Women should be given special incentives and attention in CPEC projects and there should be a special quota for female students in technical and vocational schools. They should be given priority in any job opportunities created under the CPEC.
These small steps can not only solve the problems of ordinary people across Pakistan by giving them opportunities and exposure, but can also save the human resources and financial capital needed to achieve SDG 4 in particular and others. SDGs in general.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd2022.
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