The Economic Survey 2020-21 presented a dismal picture of Pakistan’s education sector, noting that the literacy rate is stagnant at 60 percent in 2019-20 since 2014-15, while cumulative education expenditures by Federal and provincial governments in the fiscal year 2020 stood at 1.5 percent of GDP as compared to 2.3 percent of GDP in the fiscal year 2019, says the Economic Survey 2020-21.
The Survey noted that according to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) district-level Survey 2019-20, the literacy rate of the population (10 years and above) is stagnant at 60 percent in 2019-20 since 2014-15.
The literacy rate is higher in urban areas (74 percent) than in rural areas (52 percent). Province-wise analysis suggests that Punjab has the highest literacy rate, with 64 percent, followed by Sindh with 58 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Excluding Merged Areas) with 55 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Including Merged Areas) with 53 percent, and Balochistan with 46 percent.
Cumulative education expenditures by Federal and provincial governments in the fiscal year 2020 stood at 1.5 percent of GDP as compared to 2.3 percent of GDP in the fiscal year 2019. Expenditures on education had been rising gradually till 2018-19, but in 2019-20, education-related expenditures witnessed a decrease of 29.6 percent, i.e., from Rs. 868 billion to Rs. 611.0 billion.
The Survey noted that the education-related expenditures witnessed a decline in the fiscal year 2020 due to the closure of educational institutes amid country-wide lockdown and a decrease in current expenditures (other than salaries) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, there was an increase in expenditure of other Social Sectors, i.e., health, natural calamities, and other disasters, Benazir Income Support Programme, Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal, etc.
Gross Enrolment Rates (GER) at the primary level, excluding Katchi (prep), for the age group 6-10 years at the national level during 2019-20 declined to 84 percent compared to 91 percent in 2014- 15. Province wise data suggests that GER declined in all provinces, i.e., Punjab witnessed a decline from 91 percent in 2014-15 to 84 percent in 2019-20, Sindh from 79 percent to 71 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Excluding Merged Areas) from 92 percent to 89 percent and Balochistan from 73 percent to 72 percent.
Net Enrolment Rates (NER) at the national level during 2019-20 declined to 64 percent compared to 67 percent in 2014-15. Province-wise comparison reveals that NER in Punjab and Balochistan remained stagnant at 70 percent and 56 percent, respectively, while a decline in NER has been observed in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Excluding Merged Areas), where NER decreased from 61 percent to 55 percent and 71 percent to 66 percent, respectively.
The NER is either stagnant or decreasing due to the fact that 32 percent of children aged 5-16 years are currently out of school at a national level. The percentage is highest in Balochistan with 47 percent, followed by 44 percent in Sindh, 30 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Excluding Merged Areas), and 24 percent in Punjab.