Illiteracy: A Major Issue

Illiteracy: A Major Issue

What is illiteracy?

Literacy is the ability to read and write, while illiteracy is the inability to read and write.

Why is literacy important?

Historically, reading and writing can be seen as one of the earliest cultural activities of mankind. Civilization has evolved around the idea of accumulating and sharing knowledge between people. Writing and reading has allowed mankind to prosper. Literacy is promoted in all spheres of life, whether through political means or religious. Muslims know that the first command revealed by Allah to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was to ‘READ’. Hence, literacy plays a pivotal role in religion as well. Education is a fundamental right today. Being literate determines your socio-economic conditions and so literacy is very important. Illiteracy acts as a break in the development of a person, their life and standard of living. This often means that illiteracy is accompanied by poverty, underdevelopment, discrimination and other such issues.

Illiteracy in Pakistan

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) director said:

“The proportion of population in Pakistan lacking basic reading and writing is too high. This is a serious obstacle for individual fulfillment, to the development of societies and to mutual understanding between peoples.”

With a population of around 170 million, Pakistan is part of the illiterate countries in Asia. About half of the male population is illiterate and two-thirds of the female population cannot even write their names. Illiteracy varies from province to province, Balochistan being the most illiterate of the provinces.

Reasons behind the illiteracy

Literacy problems are generally a result of broad policy hurdles and some on-ground factors. The causes behind illiteracy are lack of management, planning of continuing education, low budget, weak community participation, lack of resources, lack of training institutes, private sector problems, low level of qualification of officers, rote-learning, overcrowded classrooms, lack of language training in remote areas, high dropout rate, corruption, lack of technology, proper science labs, electricity, water, security, lack of teachers in government institutions, high fees, etc.

Effects of illiteracy:

Illiteracy affects the nation in a broad manner.  Effects of illiteracy include: employment issues, overpopulation due to lack of education on family planning, increased numbers of unskilled labor, heavy international debt, child labor, poor international image, low per acre agriculture yield etc.

Effects explained:

Unemployment is a central issue as foreign graduates are preferred over national graduates. This preference is based on the fact that the national curriculum/education system does not meet the requirements of many jobs. This problem largely affects the private sector and so less people within the local system are getting employment and hence unemployment rates have gone up.

Overpopulation is a major issue in Pakistan and is a direct result of illiteracy. People are illiterate and do not plan their family. The masses are not aware of family planning and our education system also completely ignores this area.

Unskilled labor is another problem that is similar to that of unemployment. The local graduate lacks the necessary skills and so many people fall into unskilled labor. This may be the biggest flaw in our education system as the students are not equipped with latest techniques/technology and are confined to the books and giving the exams for a degree.

Child labor is internationally condemned. Children often lack access to educational facilities or the facilities are too costly and so a large chunk of the population is illiterate. This means they end up being hauled into child labor.

Literacy is a prerequisite to democracy. An illiterate person does not know the value of his or her vote – how can democracy survive if the citizen is unaware of the value of the vote. This can lead to selling votes for a nominal price and thus going against the very core of a democratic governments.

Agriculture contributes toward the economy of the country but we have only few agricultural institutes in our country. The laborers usually lack basic knowledge about the seeds, water, use of the agricultural tools and machinery.

The existing curriculum needs to be changed and revised after regular intervals in order to ensure quality education.

Laws and regulation to enhance the education standard:

Under the Constitution of Pakistan Article 25A, every citizen has the right to education; moreover the state shall provide free and compulsory education to the citizens under age of five to sixteen. If the state is to provide free education then why is child labor prevalent in Pakistan? Why should children work in such conditions if they are meant to get education as a right?

Reasons for the issues above are that government schools lack quality infrastructure; there is no furniture, no boards, no well established classrooms, etc. Other facilities are also lacking; some schools do not have a proper boundary which makes them vulnerable to the nearby cattle or harmful animals, etc.

  • As observed in the petition regarding miserable condition of schools, 2014 SCMR 396, the following allegations were made:
    – violation of Article 25 of Constitution
    – teachers were not recruited on merit
    – regular leaves for no reason
    – absence of teachers
    – political and social influence
    – lack of proper facilities, management.
  • The Supreme Court ruled and advised the district and session judges of relevant districts to conduct proper inquiry in order to enhance education as per the Constitution.
  • Plus there should be no gender gap according to the Article 25 of the Constitution, both boys and girls should undertake free and compulsory education -as observed in Syed Nazeer Agha vs. Govt. of Baluchistan, PLD 2014 Baluchistan 86.
  • “Education plays an important role in making a successful life – education is considered to be the foundation of society which brings economic wealth, social prosperity, political stability, and maintains a healthy population” – this text was obtained from Fiqat Hussain vs. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 2012 Supreme Court 224.
  • Teachers also face problems in relation to nonpayment of salaries – this was observed in Ghulam Mustafa and 189 other vs. Province of Sindh, 2010 CLC 1383. The teachers and peons were not being paid their salaries and after inquiry the court ruled that within 30 days their salaries were to be paid in order to ensure that they were working and imparting education to students.
  • Suggestions:
    • A uniform education policy
    • Ability and merit must be declared as corner stones
    • Adequate educational facilities
    • Removal of fake schools (23,000 present in the whole country)
    • Fair examination system
    • Updated curriculum
    • High standard of academic research
    • Removal of corruption
    • Training of teachers
    • Removal of rote learning.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.

Talha Rehman

Author: Talha Rehman

The writer is an LL.B (Hons) (London) graduate and is an Associate at Tareen Chambers.

1 comment

Comments are closed.