Pakistan is currently experiencing a drastic demographic change as the population of young people is increasing very rapidly. According to UNDP, 60 percent of Pakistan’s population consists of people aged below 25 years. It is predicted that within a decade this population will reach up to 70 percent. It means that Pakistan posses a valuable asset in the form of huge energetic and potential young people.
The role of younger generation cannot be overlooked in development of any nation. Realizing the significant role of young people in their development, the developed as well as many developing countries have shown their firm commitment in providing quality education and opportunities to their youth in order to capitalize their potentials.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has been unable to provide even basic education to a large number of youth people. For example, a report prepared by Education Task Force reveals that more than 25 million children are deprived of basic education in the country. It is, therefore, almost impossible to achieve Millennium Development Goal of providing primary education to all children by 2015. On the other hand, Pakistan’s neighbors such as India, Siri Lanka and Bangladesh are very near to achieve the same target.
This inability means waiting for an explosive storm in the form of uneducated, unskilled and unemployed huge population of adult in the next few years. This will have multiple implications for the country.
There can be many factors, which affect the education process. However, the major factor is lack of political will and commitment of successive governments to do more for education. For instance, despite declaring 2011 as ‘the year of education’, there is no evidence that the government is much serious about the issue. The budget was announced in June but instead of increasing the budget for education, a decrease was observed. We do see some discussions going on the Education Task Force’s website but it lacks any practical steps at the grassroots level.
As a nation, we have to realize that without providing education to our children we cannot progress in any field. We need to understand that the future of the country depend on educated and skilled young generation. We need to be conscious about the enormous population of young people, which is growing without quality education and opportunity.
In this regard, we have to learn from other countries who progressed by capitalizing the potential of their youth. For instance, in 1970s, Malaysia was experiencing a huge population of young people as we are experiencing today. Comprehending the importance the youth, serious steps were taken by the government of Malaysia to nurture the youth through educational programs and other initiatives. Within two decades, the country turned into an Asian tiger and today progressing significantly in different fields of life. Hence, Pakistan needs serous measures to be taken to benefit from the tremendous potential and talent of youth and use them as asset for development.
First, recognizing the gravity and emergency of education, the government should demonstrate its political will and sincere commitment to address the educational issues.
Secondly, a countrywide campaign to be initiated in order to enhance to cause of education at grassroots level. In this regard, media can play a vital role. An effective monitoring and evaluation system needs to be introduced in the educational system for the continuous progress of education. People should be involved in the process of improvement in the schools.
Thirdly, a meaningful collaboration should be initiated between the government and private educational organizations to address the massive challenges of education by setting common goals.
In a nutshell, Pakistan has a valuable asset in the form of potential and energetic young people. Serious efforts are needed to capitalize their potential for the development of the country by providing them quality education and opportunities. Otherwise this asset can be threat for the society if remains uneducated, unskilled and unemployed.
The contributor is a graduate of the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development (IED). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org