Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality in a country, and lays a foundation for sustained economic growth. Progress and prosperity of a country depends upon the equal educational choices available to the masses, both men and women. Education not only trains the young ones to understand and cope with the complexities of economic growth, but also serves as a lever for its enhancement. It guarantees the quality of human life which ensures socioeconomic growth in a country. The literature on economic growth provides significant evidences on the importance of human capital accumulated by education. Productivity can be enhanced by investing more in girls’ education.
Patriarchal values heavily govern the social structure of Pakistani society, especially in the rural areas. This has been a cause of gender discrimination in the education sector for ages. There are many social, economic, institutional, cultural and technical factors related to this discrimination. Some of the main reasons for gender inequality in education are, shortage/distant location of girls’ schools, especially in rural and remote areas of the country. Shortage of qualified and trained female teachers; high opportunity cost of a girl attending school as she has to undertake or help out in household chores; the cultural factors especially among tribal and conservative segments restricting female mobility; and the overall deteriorating law and order situation are other barriers, discouraging parents from sending their daughters to school. To counter these issues, sensitization of gender equality and the problems related to gender disparities should be highlighted through awareness campaigns to reach out to the general and more specifically the rural public. The population needs to be sensitized about the importance and advantages of girls’ education for socio-economic development and the government needs to build population friendly policies for girls’ education, addressing all the problems that are stopping girls from attending schools.
Although the government, along with many NGOs and CBOs, is contributing towards the promotion of equity in education but the statistics still show a lag. Educational indicators of Pakistan are still dismally low, although steady progress has been noticed during last few decades. According to the Education for All 2015 National Review by UNESCO, at present, about one third primary school age children are out of school, 42% population (age 10+) is illiterate. Wide discrepancies persist in education indicators pertaining to provinces, location (urban vs. rural) and gender. At the national level, about two third women of age 15+ cannot read and write, and 35% girls remain out of school. Gender Parity Index in case of participation in primary education is 0.82. It is estimated that over 6.7 million children are out of school, and majority of them (62%) are girls.
The negligence of a child’s fundamental right to education is a tragedy in itself, while in Pakistan’s context, one must also understand the economic value of educating our girls. According to a study published by the World Bank, if 1 percent more women had a secondary education, economic growth would increase by 0.3 percent. The positive relationship between female education and overall development outcomes is well established yet widely ignored by the population. We know that educating boys and girls, men and women, is morally right and important. But educating girls and women is especially effective because when we educate them, the benefits are felt throughout the whole community. It’s an automatic multiplier in the development equation.
If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family. It is an attractive proposition: invest in women and girls, and the benefits flow not only to them but everyone around them, too. Sadly, the reverse is also true. Deny girls and women education and the whole community suffers, not just them as individuals. Offering girls basic education is one sure way of giving them much greater power, of enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to lead. This is not a luxury, this is a necessity, a basic human right. Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women. It is also an area that offers some of the clearest examples of discrimination women suffer.
The recent report issued by the World Bank shows that a country would bear an immense loss of earning and life time productivity of a girl if she stays out of the school. The report says that limiting educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education costs countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion dollars annually. Interestingly, the report also finds that primary education is not enough and across many indicators, benefits from primary education are limited. Too many girls drop out of school prematurely, especially in low income countries and low educational attainment for girls has negative consequences not only for them, but also for their children and household, as well as for their community and society.
Study after study has revealed that giving every girl at least 12 years of education would have a world-changing effect on our global economies. Girls with secondary education become women who are more likely to participate on equal terms in the labor force, lead healthier and more productive lives and be decision-makers at home and in their communities. In addition, teaching the girls digital skills could reduce the global gender pay gap by 21 percent.
In Pakistan, we have one of the lowest rate of women’s participation in the national labor force and the obvious reason for this alarming situation is deprivation from education. In many rural and even urban households, girls’ education is still considered unimportant and they are kept to menial house work. This is precisely the reason why mass awareness campaigns are needed to make parents realize the importance of educating girls. Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; complete all levels of education with the skills to effectively compete in the labor market; learn the socio-economic and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world.
More resource allocations on girls’ education especially on higher education sector which will have important contributions to the economic growth process of Pakistan and will have positive effects on the performance of Pakistan’s economy by increasing the transfer opportunities of knowledge production and sharing and manufacturing process of universities. The government needs to take concrete steps for promoting female education in our country. People need to recognize female illiteracy as a crucial drawback encumbering Pakistan’s success as a nation. Poor should be facilitated to get higher education so that the polarization in higher education may further be minimized. Pakistani women having good literacy skills earn 95 per cent more than those with weak literacy skills, according to fresh data released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). So investing in education, especially for girls, is essential as it alleviates extreme poverty through securing substantial benefits for health and productivity, as well as democratic participation and women’s empowerment.
To unlock educations transformative power, however, new development goals must go further to ensure that all children benefit equally not only from primary education but also from good quality secondary and higher education. The formation of the human capital through investing educational processes remains a global responsibility for all individuals and governments.
Ms. Fatima Khalid
NOTE: VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THE PERSONAL VIEWS OF WRITER AND DO NOT REPRESENT PAGE