THE EDUCATION DIVIDE | PAKISTAN TODAY

Education is an organized learning process that instills knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs in individuals. It is a lifelong journey that begins at an early age, usually in formal settings such as schools, and progresses through various levels of further education, professional training, and personal development. Education is vital to personal development and societal advancement because it equips people with the tools they need to think critically, solve problems, and positively contribute to their community.

Education in Pakistan’s cities is generally more advanced and accessible than in the countryside. Cities like Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad have a higher concentration of educational institutions, like as public and private schools, colleges, and universities. These metropolitan schools typically have stronger infrastructure, including well-maintained buildings, libraries, laboratories, and access to cutting-edge technology. Private schools in cities are frequently associated with higher educational standards, including a competitive curriculum and a greater selection of extracurricular activities. Teachers in urban regions are often more skilled and experienced, with access to superior training programmes and professional development opportunities.
The availability of resources and assistance from both the public and commercial sectors improves the quality of education in cities.   Urban schools are more likely to use technology in their teaching techniques, leveraging computers, internet connectivity, and digital learning tools to improve the learning experience. Furthermore, urban students have better access to extracurricular activities like athletics, arts, and clubs, which are critical for overall growth. Parental involvement is another important consideration in urban schooling. Parents in cities are more conscious of the value of education and actively involved in their children’s academic lives. Improved contact between schools and parents, typically via digital channels, helps to encourage this participation. Community support for education is particularly stronger in cities, where there is a greater emphasis on the importance of education for social and economic growth.
In stark contrast, rural education in Pakistan has various problems that impede the provision of quality education. Rural communities frequently face a shortage of educational infrastructure, with many schools functioning in decrepit buildings or temporary structures. Schools are scarce, so children must travel vast distances to attend classes, which can be a substantial barrier to regular attendance. Many rural schools lack essential facilities like libraries, laboratories, and safe drinking water, making it difficult to establish a positive learning environment.
Teachers in rural areas are usually underqualified and overloaded, with a single teacher handling many grades and courses. This shortage of skilled educators is aggravated by the difficulties of attracting and retaining teachers in remote areas due to lower pay, harsh living circumstances, and restricted professional development opportunities.
As a result, the overall quality of education in rural schools is poorer than in urban schools. Rural schools frequently have a limited curriculum that emphasizes rote learning over critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Extracurricular activities are uncommon due to a lack of resources and money. Technology integration is limited, with many rural schools lacking computers and internet connection, exacerbating the digital divide between urban and rural children.

It is a sad reality that the discrepancy between Pakistan’s urban and rural education systems has also far-reaching consequences for young people, influencing their personal development, economic possibilities, and general quality of life. This divide reinforces cycles of inequality and diminishes the potential of rural youth in comparison to their urban counterparts. By addressing these discrepancies, Pakistan may work toward providing equitable education to all of its young, ensuring that every child, regardless of geographical location, has the opportunity to attain their full potential and contribute to the country’s success.

Parental involvement in rural education is often lower due to a lack of understanding about the value of education and the economic necessity of children contributing to household income. Many rural households rely on their children to do agricultural work or other types of labour, which can take precedence over education. Rural communities may place less focus on the long-term benefits of education.
According to a Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training estimate, Pakistan has around 26 million out-of-school children, with a large number of them living in rural regions. According to a UNICEF assessment, many rural schools lack essential utilities including clean drinking water, sanitation, and electricity. Only 64 percent of primary schools have access to safe drinking water, while 68 percent have acceptable sanitary facilities. The Pakistan Education Statistics 2020-21 study shows a considerable difference in the student-teacher ratio between urban and rural areas, with rural areas having a greater ratio due to a lack of trained teachers. Only 35 percent of rural instructors have formal training, compared to 70 percent in urban regions. Many rural schools lack access to basic learning materials, with an estimated 40 percent of rural schools lacking suitable textbooks. According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey, only 17 percent of rural schools have access to computers and the internet versus 78 percent in urban schools. Pakistan now spends approximately 1.7 percent of its GDP on education, which is below UNESCO’s suggested 4-6 percent figure.
No doubt, the government can play an important role in closing the educational gap between urban and rural areas in Pakistan by implementing comprehensive measures to improve access and quality of education for all children. To address the significant number of out-of-school children, particularly in rural regions, new schools must be built and old schools renovated to provide secure and conducive learning environments. It is critical to provide basic facilities such as safe drinking water, sanitation, and electricity.
The government should also prioritize recruiting and maintaining talented teachers in rural areas, offering incentives like better pay and housing allowances, as well as providing frequent training programmes to improve their teaching skills. With many rural schools missing basic learning materials and technical resources, textbook distribution and investment in digital infrastructure, such as computers and internet connection, are critical. Promoting e-learning programs that are available via mobile devices can help to close the gap. Furthermore, the government should initiate awareness campaigns to educate parents about the value of education and rally community support for the establishment of local schools.
It is a sad reality that the discrepancy between Pakistan’s urban and rural education systems has also far-reaching consequences for young people, influencing their personal development, economic possibilities, and general quality of life. This divide reinforces cycles of inequality and diminishes the potential of rural youth in comparison to their urban counterparts. By addressing these discrepancies, Pakistan may work toward providing equitable education to all of its young, ensuring that every child, regardless of geographical location, has the opportunity to attain their full potential and contribute to the country’s success.

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