How to Improve Literacy | Shabbir Ahmad

PAKISTAN is having one of the least literacy rates in the world and some of the main reasons behind this low rate are financial constraints faced by the parents, lack of sufficient number of educational institutions in the country, large number of students per teacher, lack of a competitive culture in remote areas, lack ofmotivation, inconsistent curriculum and many more. If government provide free quality education to allchildren it will help in improving the literacy rate but that seems unlikely due to limited resources. Although provincial governments are providing free education to some extent but that is clearly not enough to equip all the children with the treasures of knowledge.

They provide free education up to primary level and that is also limited to some areas. But there are some other measureswhich may not require huge sums of money but they can help us to improve the country’s literacy rate. One of such measure is to provide education up to secondary level in the local language with English and Urdu as compulsory subjects. It will encourage all those students to continue their education, who leave the schools just because they are not well versed in English and Urdu and they have to study all subjects in one of these two languages. Moreover it will also be a source of promotion of local languages. As we can see nowadays that most of the local languages in our country are on their death bed. We hardly see a young highly educated scholar, poet or writer of a local language. All those students who are interested to study literature go for either English or Urdu literature. Only a handful of them opt for a local language.

But if we start teaching young kids all of their subjects in local languages they will not only learn those subjects in a better way but it will also create an interest in that language. So in future if they want to pursue their higher studies in literature they may opt for their regional language as they already have a firm foundation for that. Apart from the inclusion of local languages, the curriculum needs to be revisited as well. Children should be taught only the basic subjects in primary schools. Then in the secondary schools they should be given choice of selection subjects on their own, of course teachers can serve as guide in this matter but subjects should not be imposed on the students. Like in the present education system students are given the choice to either study Humanities or science but still Mathematics of the same level in included in the curriculum for both science and Humanities. Due to which a large number of Humanities students never pass their matric/SSC examination. These things need to be revisited.

One of the other main hindrances in the way of educating all of our children is the insufficient number of teachers. But again, recruiting a large number of teachers at one go might not be possible due to non-availability of sufficient funds. But if the existing teachers are properly groomed, trained and motivated they can play a vital role in improving the literacy rate. They can motivate their students to continue their studies despite the financial hardships they and their parents are facing. For this purpose the services of experienced and retired teachers may prove handy. Hiring professional trainers is another option but that might cost money. Apart from training, the school teachers need to be motivated through provision of some incentives. When they consider themselves as financially stable, they will do their job diligently. Especially those teachers who are serving in FATA and remote areas of KP province, Interior Sindh and Baluchistan. Government need to give them special pay and allowances as well as bonuses for those teachers who show promising results.

Another way to ensure the provision of education to children without costing huge sums of money is to make the “ghost schools” functional. As we have seen in media reports that there are dozens of ghost schools present in different parts of the country. The infrastructure is already there, the teachers are being paid regularly but the schools are not functional. Instead these schools are used by the influential people as their “Hujras” or dairy farms. It is very unfortunate that despite the media reports, government has not taken any step to make those schools fully functional except one or two schools in KPK which were made functional by the provincial government in recent past.

— The writer is freelance columnist.


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