Every year the government of Pakistan publishes some report or the other about education. If not specifically about education, at least the Economic Survey of Pakistan, carries a chapter on education. These reports confess that the literacy rate is low, the rate of participation in education at all levels is low and the country is spending too little in this area. Then there one brave promises about the future such as the achievement of hundred percent literacy and increasing the spending on education which has been hovering around 2 percent of the GNP since 1995 to at least 4 percent and so on. Not much is done, though increases in the number of schools, universities and religious seminaries (madrassas) is recorded. The private sector mints millions of rupees and thousands of graduates throng the market not getting the jobs they aspired to. The field of education is a graveyard of these aspirations. The following indicators point grimly to where Pakistan stands in South Asia.
THE HISTORICAL LEGACY
South Asia is heir to a very ancient tradition of both formal and informal learning. These traditions varied from region to region and, more importantly, between different socio-economic classes. The very poorest people generally got no education at all while those on the upper echelons of the social hierarchy learned languages, literature, theology and a few other subjects.
According to G.W Leitner, the well known functionary of the British empire who said that the British colonial venture had ruined indigenous education in the Punjab, there were 300,000 pupils in indigenous schools before the conquest of that province in 1849 whereas in 1860-61 these numbers had come down to 60, 168 pupils (however, Leitner also has a higher figure of 120,000 pupils).2 Leitner’s report does not establish the higher figures but it is useful in that it tells us what kind of schools existed and names some of the texts taught in...