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Illiteracy is one of the biggest obstacles to Pakistan’s social and economic progress. Literacy is a fundamental human right and is essential to social and human development. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve people’s health, income, and their relationship with the world.
It is a national shame that Pakistan’s illiteracy rate of around 46% is creating a nation oppressed by poor life outcomes, such as poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, crime, violence and long term illness.
That is why last year I commissioned international scholar Dr Azeem Ibrahim to research and put together the most comprehensive and realistic plan to eliminate illiteracy in Pakistan. After numerous discussions that went late into the night, I am pleased to announce that the PTI will publish its multi-pronged ten-year strategy to reach full literacy in Pakistan very shortly.
The plan states that the moment my party assumes power I will declare an “education emergency”.
I have vowed to increase the education budget from 2.1% to 5% of the GDP. Illiteracy in Pakistan is costing an estimated $5.86 billion or 1.2% of GDP. The one-off investment in a successful literacy campaign will have diminishing costs and increasing returns over ten years, increasing the country’s GDP and lifting the country out of its current cycle of poverty, discord and violence.
As head of the reformist party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), I unveiled my party’s comprehensive policy on education on February 20, 2013. We aim to provide equal opportunity for quality education for every citizen and to remove poverty as a barrier for children to realise their potential.
Guided by the concept of an Islamic Welfare State, our campaign will increase literacy so that Pakistan can achieve its full potential and status in the world of nations in the 21st century.
Tackling illiteracy starts with achieving universal primary education so that Pakistan’s 25 million children, who at present do not go to school, will have an opportunity for free, accessible, excellent primary education in a system that is uniform throughout the country. Educational institutions will be devolved to the town level with management at district and sub-district levels. Curriculums will be improved, teacher training radically increased and a new school building program will be initiated nationwide.
At the same time, I will create a special task force to pursue reaching full literacy in Pakistan by 2025, with a state sponsored mass literacy campaign for adults, making the best use of available resources. This will be an organised campaign using private and public sector resources, with major public media input and with programmes planned with relevance to poor and rural communities.
I believe that the people of Pakistan deserve a vastly improved national social fabric, with a more prosperous and educated working and middle class and a means to lift the illiterate half of Pakistan out of poverty.
It is time to put an end to the years of consistent underfunding of education and to overcome the political, social and cultural obstacles that have created this unacceptable level of illiteracy in our country.
I vow to create an historic starting point for Pakistan’s future as an educated nation.
It is time to act to stop this human tragedy once and for all.
Do you think Imran Khan’s policy on education will be successful?
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