On Education in Pakistan: What’s Next?

Nearly 450,000 university graduates and 10,000 Computer Engineers are produced in Pakistan every year. However, the country’s literacy rate hovers around the 60% mark. In fact, Pakistan ranks 113th out 120 countries in terms of overall literacy. In terms of the out-of-school population, Pakistan is second to last, ahead of only Nigeria.

What is of interest to those of us in the field of e-learning, however, is the potential we see in the country. The literacy rate varies from as high as 87% (in the national capital of Islamabad) to less than 20% in rural/tribal areas. However, with an estimated 118 million mobile phone users, Pakistan has the highest rate of mobile phone penetration in South Asia. This fact means Pakistan has high potential and promise when it comes to using technology in the field of education. Mobile-savvy Pakistanis abound, so electronic e-learning channels could potentially be something very easily adopted by the majority of the population.

One might wonder, though, why we have not seen major changes in the way we teach.

Traditional hurdles to education (such as a lack of awareness, facilities, funding, and even interest in the population) are still a rampant problem in Pakistan. It seems the hurdle is too big an obstacle to overcome by using traditional techniques. If we only change our approach, tweak our channels and tailor our content, wonders can be made.

Imagine the increases in efficacy of teachers who give their students vocabulary lists via sms so the students can study or revise on the fly; transporters who are given real-time goods, delivery and traffic info; developers learning a new technology overnight to meet a customer demand. The sky is the limit if we can overcome the hurdles of implementing sound, cost-effective online teaching, training and facilitation techniques. These techniques already exist, mind you, and are just waiting for their time.

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