Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Education emergency in Pakistan

Call it comedy or call it biblical contradiction. But something is just not right. For the past three days, Pakistan has been in the news for the bizarre reasons, as if it had never really been. "Pakistan is crippled by an education emergency" that "threatens the security of the country," says a report by the Pakistan Education Task Force.
Hard on the heels of this report, came the news that "Pakistan is trying to purchase [more] F-16 fighter jets from the United States to enhance its air capabilities." The task force report says that "Pakistan--in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh--has no chance of reaching the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for education by 2015."
But, Pakistan is not concerned about its education or development disparity with India. If it is concerned at all, it is about asymmetrical stockpile of weapons. "Because of the disparity with India, our needs are huge."
Today, Pakistan is at war with itself. How can F-16s come in handy to win this war? If weapons can ensure anything in such a situation, that is a total and certain defeat. Guardian newspaper points out that the elite educates its offspring at expensive schools in Pakistan and abroad, and so education has slipped off the agenda.
Right from 1947, Pakistan has been a paranoid state forcing it to put military security ahead of everything else. A lion's share of the GDP goes to the defense budget, while just peanuts are left for development and education. It had been an old doctrine of 'security is development' that necessitated such allocation of funds. This doctrine changed in early 1990s to 'development is security', but we have stayed put seeking development in security.
Nothing is more worrisome than the emerging scenario: a 180 million strong country armed to the teeth, afflicted by illiteracy and stuck in the pit of poverty. Heydays for extremism and terrorism!

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