The fact that basic education has been recognized a fundamental right of children for the past ten years, as well as the fact that it is also a basic right in many other nations and jurisdictions, is not enough to persuade a lot of individuals here that all children should be educated.
Every child, regardless of family wealth, gender, religion, region, aptitude, or other factors, has the right to an education. Furthermore, education is regarded compulsory in the majority of countries. Even if a child or her family does not want her to be educated, she can be ‘forced’ to do so. Education has been compulsory in most jurisdictions due to the public good and positive externalities. A youngster who is educated gives more to society as a whole than a child who is illiterate. That’s all there is to it.
In the instance of Pakistan, our Constitution expresses the ‘right’ to education as follows. “Article 25-A: Right to Education: The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children aged five to sixteen years, in accordance with the law.” As part of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010, Article 25-A was added to the Constitution. It’s in the Constitution’s section on fundamental rights. It’s critical to note how the Article is phrased, namely “free and compulsory.” The word ‘compulsory’ expresses that it is required.
Despite this, some in Pakistan believe that we should not or cannot afford to educate all of our children. They certainly do not comprehend the concept of a ‘right.’ Fundamental rights are considered to be trump cards, meaning that their protection must take precedence over all other factors. If you want all children to have ten years of schooling as a fundamental right, this provision must take precedence over all other concerns that do not invoke other fundamental rights. This should be sufficient motivation to ensure that all children receive an education. However, it appears that rights are meaningless in our country. So, let’s have a look at some more concerns.
Developed countries were not as wealthy as they are now when they chose to invest in education. Unemployment among educated young people is high. It tends to be high in countries where the rate of economic growth and job creation is insufficient. In these countries, the rate at which jobs are produced is lower than the rate at which young people enter the labor force, resulting in an excess supply situation. But how can this be a justification for restricting access to education? Growth rates fluctuate a lot in the short to medium term, but education is provided over decades, therefore you can’t start or terminate education systems based on short- to medium-term considerations.
Educated individuals are the catalysts for both innovation and growth; they generate new concepts and methods for organizing and delivering services. On the sociopolitical front, education has significant positive externalities in terms of reduced fertility and population growth, health and education benefits for families with educated mothers, female empowerment and labor force participation, marriage age, and the functioning of democracy in a country. Even if the rights argument isn’t convincing, how can all of these advantages be sacrificed on the altar of fluctuating growth rates and unemployment rates?
Take a look at the opposing side of the issue as well. Assume we do not teach our children. Pakistan is a young country in the midst of a demographic transformation. Can we afford to look after millions of uneducated youths? Individual and familial transitions can be facilitated by education. Can we afford to deny all of our children this opportunity? What would Pakistan’s future be like if there are millions of uneducated kids to feed? In a recent speech, Daron Acemoglu, an economics professor at MIT, stated that because of the way labour markets are changing as a result of technological progress, countries with significant populations of illiterate youth will face very challenging economic, and thus social and political, situations. Does that appear to be a more hopeful option than attempting to educate all children and dealing with the problem of unemployment among the educated?
Another common justification for denying everyone the right to education is a lack of financial resources. Pakistan, it is believed, does not have the financial means to educate every child. We only raise around 10% of our GDP through taxes, and given the pressing demands in other sectors, we can’t afford to spend more than 5% to 6% of GDP on education. Even the current 2 percent of GDP spent on education is difficult and tough to achieve.
Financial resources are limited, to be sure. Keep in mind, however, that they are and have always been strict for all countries. Others, on the other hand, have taken different decisions. When today’s industrialised countries began to invest in their populations’ education, they were not as wealthy as they are now. Examine the history of mass education in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States, and even Japan. For a variety of reasons, they all chose mass education at a time when they were also struggling financially. However, all agreed that education was necessary to a) generate better labour, b) avoid falling behind other nations, c) cultivate a sense of citizenship, and so on.
Even in the recent few decades, we’ve seen developing countries make educational decisions that differ from Pakistan’s. Even within our region, India, China, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka give unique instances. Aren’t these countries resource-strapped?
It’s hard to imagine that we’re still debating whether or not all children in Pakistan should have access to education, and that there are still those who believe we shouldn’t and can’t afford it. This, I believe, accurately depicts the country’s political and economic concerns. The needs of the elites supersede everyone else’s rights, a pattern that can be seen in many other state choices.