Dalrymple on India and Pakistan

Posted on August 23, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, Education, Foreign Relations, Politics, Religion
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Raza Rumi

William Dalrymple’s article published in the Guardian is an insightful piece that attempts to be unbiased and reflects on some pertinent issues that afflict Pakistan. The piece examines the media stereotype – successful India and failed Pakistan – a little deeper and identifies a creaky education system as one of the major issues with the country.

While this is no news for us Pakistanis, it nevertheless makes us think why this crucial issue is not highlighted by the opinion-makers in Pakistan. There are endless debates on national media on politics and government-opposition stand-off. Perhaps the Pakistani upwardly mobile classes are a little removed from this debate since they have long abandoned the state run education facilities and chosen the private sector services. Hence the disconnect.

Dalrymple writes:

…its desperate education crisis. No problem in Pakistan casts such a long shadow over its future as the abject failure of the government to educate more than a fraction of its own people: at the moment, a mere 1.8% of Pakistan’s GDP is spent on government schools. The statistics are dire: 15% of these government schools are without a proper building; 52% without a boundary wall; 71% without electricity.
…. out of 162 million Pakistanis, 83 million adults of 15 years and above are illiterate. Among women the problem is worse still: 65% of all female adults are illiterate. As the population rockets, the problem gets worse.

It can be argued that improved political system and democratic governance is essential to overcome this state of affairs. However, this may not be enough. After all, Malaysia achieved amazing success in building human capital under authoritarian rule. I am not suggesting that democracy is irrelevant but I think there is a deeper cause somewhere locked in our social and cultural ethos that needs to be identified.

Education requires utmost attention and advocacy by all those who want to see Pakistan progress and flourish in the long term.

“The Poor Neighbour” by William Dalrymple can be read here.

29 responses to “Dalrymple on India and Pakistan”

  1. Raza Rumi says:

    Another great article by Isa Daudpota in the News – http://tinyurl.com/35tth3

    I am pasting an extract here:

    “In Pakistan, we continue to operate our educational practices on the pattern developed in the 19th century because of the inherent inertia in our large educational system. Our ways of teaching — largely bound to lecturing with a passive student audience — disregards the enormously diverse sources of information that have become available to the modern student through the internet and other electronic sources. Today’s student needs to become a lifetime learner, able to change jobs and careers whether through an internal desire or the demand of the market. The simple training of the past is no longer adequate and new ones cannot be taught in an authoritarian atmosphere of the standard school or institute of higher education.”

  2. Reluctant Expatriate says:

    One thing we have to learn is to make complicated and difficult problem into a number of small and easy problems. I do not know how to solve difficult problem of democracy and education overall. However, if we start on a small scale and try to help one muslim student or a child get education, we can eventually solve this problem in 25 years.

    I hope we can learn to donate time and money. I have found this lacking in me and others of similar background. ATP can ask its readers to sponsor a one room girls school in a village. You educate a girl, it will change a family for generations. Other small act is to sponsor a needy student at your alma mater.

  3. Raza Rumi says:

    Muabarak – I agree with your comments that the values in our society have become anti-education. However, at the same time there has been a massive growth in the private schools and colleges which not only indicate high demand and value for education but also show that people are willing to pay exorbitant fees for ostensibly high quality education. (So you travel in small towns and see Oxford radiant way school, Quaid Cambridge public school etc etc. – could be another post:))

    However, such a growth in school services still excludes the poor or the less affluent sections of our society –

    And this leads to the insightful remark by Aqil as to why little philanthropy goes to mainstream education? Perhaps madrassa education has a religious/salvation dimension for the philanthropist.
    We surely need philanthropists to contribute more – to ensure quality education that is low cost and accessible.

  4. Aqil Sajjad says:

    On the subject of ghost schools, a few months back, Hoodbhoy suggested the use of sattelite monitoring. His article can be read


    I also like PMA sahibs point about paying for the full education of students who can not afford it.

    One strange thing is that Pakistanis spend a lot of money on charity, but not enough of it is directed towards mainstream education. The madrassas are after all, running mainly on donations, so the question is how this amount can be directed towards proper schools.

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