Dalrymple on India and Pakistan

Posted on August 23, 2007
Filed Under >Raza Rumi, Education, Foreign Relations, Politics, Religion
29 Comments
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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. Mubarak says:

    When all conveniences and comforts of life can be achieved with a little mischief, with breaking law, with bribing police, with bribing Patwaris etc etc……. and when you are respected by your money and not your character and when a person having political affiliation is more respected than a professor or a doctor or an intellectual then why would anybody care about having higher education.? Why?.

    Does anybody think that these corrupt rulers from “Benazir to Nawaz Sharif to Musharraf to Altaf Hussain etc…., they ever want some good to happen to the country. Never!

    No hopes for this country. Absolutely No Hopes!

  2. Babar says:

    Well ofcourse for the english speaking class public education is not a problem. Some one had very aptly said
    “tujhe parai kia padi tu apni nabed” :)

  3. Raza Rumi says:

    Glad to see that this post has generated thoughtful comments. Even though the launch of this post was related to Darlymple’s comment, the purpose was to highlight a critical issue that somehow with all best intentions, and even flow of funds in the recent years is not getting its due attention.

    We have a population profile where youth is now the majority and by 2015 the demographic composition will have younger men and women in overwhelming majority. Given the state of education: the access, curricula, teaching standards, relevance of our degrees and skills imparted, we face a grave situation.

    However, if we were to correct this situation now, perhaps we can avoid a grim future scenario.

    Search for solutions is not just the responsibility of the state (though it has the major obligatory role) but it also includes the middle classes (as pointed out by Alvi Saheb in the comments above), the parents who have to demand better services, the media and the civil society that this issue is of far greater importance than the ‘sell-able’ news and stories; and the philanthropists who have to give more to our society for its future stability and strength.

    Our neighbours, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have made great progress in education sector (particularly higher education) and we need to learn more in this age of knowledge transfer and information highways.

  4. Gets to the root doesn’t it , you all can do something, please visit the link and sign this petition, we urge you all to promote these goals , we need everyones help , hdd has worked ten years in education and development sector and we think we need to change the discourse of social discussion to these goals.
    follow the link
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/HDFpetition07/i ndex.html

  5. Sridhar says:

    On the issue of higher education, a quote from the cover story of the latest National Geographic magazine caught my eye. The story is about Pakistan and mentions Pervez Hoodbhoy saying that when he was talking about the movement of tectonic plates as the cause of the Kashmir earthquake in his graduate level Physics class at Quaid-e-Azam university, several students put up their hands. These students objected to his scientific explanation for earthquakes and instead wanted the religious explanation for them. It would obviously not be correct to generalize from this incident, but it would be interesting to know if any attempts are being made to reverse the injection of religion into educational institutions during the Zia era.

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