Illiteracy continues to be one of the most pressing world-wide problem, It is one of those problems which along with hunger sickness and unemployment has aroused the greatest response in term of international collaboration. This collaboration is manifest both at the level of public opinion and in the form of exchange and assistance.
Worldwide, about one fourth of the population is illiterate. The problems of illiteracy is particularly very grave and severe in Asia and the pacific region where about 64% of the worlds illiterate people reside.
In Pakistan according to 1981 Census there were 42.7 millions illiterates within the age group of 10 years and above. The overall literacy rate was assessed to be 26.6%. The rate of literacy has increased from 21.7% in September, 1972 to 26.2% in March, 81 i.e. at an annual rate of half percent. There are sharp differences in literacy ratio of mate and female population. Similarly, there are sharp difference in rural and urban literacy rates.
The ratio swings from 55.3 percent for urban males to distressingly low 7.3 percent for rural females; There are also differences amongst the provinces. Sind has the highest literacy ratio (31.5 percent) followed by the Punjab (27.4%), the NWFP (16.7%). Islamabad, is the only administrative area where the majority of the population is literate.
Out of 13 million people who have had some level of education, 46 percent had passed primary education, 23 percent middle and 20% Matric. After Matric, the percentage falls to 5.9% for intermediate 3.8% for B.A./B.Sc. and only 1% for M.A./M.Sc. The percentage of engineering and medical graduates was 0.28 and 0.25 respectively and 0.28 per law graduates.
Out of total population who had passed primary, middle and Matric the percentages of female were only 30.7, 24.6 and 23.5 respectively. Out of Medical graduates 22.3 percent were females. Females law graduates were only 3.1%.
Clearly, the country’s rural folks lag for behind the urban population in literacy education.
After independence, the first organized literacy efforts were linked with the programme for rural development. The programme was launched in 1954 under the name of village AID. One of the objectives of this programme was the promotion of literacy. Special staff were recruited and trained for this purpose and ten thousand villages covered under this programme. The programme of literacy included provision of trained teachers, specially prepared teaching material and mobile, libraries of primers for neo-literates.
Another attempt to increase literacy was made during the fourth five year plan (1970-75) for the first time specific financial allocation was made for literacy programme and sum of Rs. 35 million was earmarked for this purpose. Since, then, a number of literacy programmes have been implemented by govern-ment and non-government agencies. However, due to limited and unsystematic efforts, no break-through has been achieved in the field of literacy on national level.
Due to high population growth and the resulting increase in number of school-age children whom the formal education system could not take into its folds there was a great need to launch a national literacy programme to accommodate all the children of school-age group and the drop-outs along with the other illiterates of the country.
After the Education Policy of 1978 and as part of the National Hijra Centenary celebrations, the following three-tier system for promotion of literacy was set up:
a. National Coordination Council for Literacy and Mass Education Commission.
b. Literacy and Mass Education Commission.
c. Provincial literacy and Mass Education Councils (In each Province.)
The Literacy and Mass Education Commission was established in 1981. The Commission has been assigned the following functions:
a. to cause surveys to be carried out to asses the status of literacy in the country.
b. to evolve strategies of formal education for the purpose of eradication of illiteracy and promotion of functional literacy.
c. to develop plans on literacy and non-formal mass education commensurate with the needs of the target population and make recommendations to the Federal Government.
to suggest measures to integrate the component of indigenous skills and vocations and Islamic teachings in literacy programmes.
e. to review the effectiveness of literacy and non-formal mass education programme, recommend improvements and arrange follow-up material for literacy.
The Literacy and Mass Education Councils have come into existence in all provinces including Azad Kashmir, through provincial legislation and Resolutions/Ordinances. These councils will be the main agencies for policy, planning, coordination, securing and disbursement of funds in the respective provinces and will serve as the major arms of the Literacy and Mass Education Commission for implementation of literacy programmes.
Recently, the Prime Minister has announced to start a crash programme for eradication of illiteracy. LAMEC has chalked out two projects i.e. Nai Roshani School and Iqra Pilot Project.
This programme is likely to start in September 1986. 24,400 new teachers and supervisors will be appointed to run evening Nai Roshani Schools in the country. Under this programme 16,50,000 children are expected to achieve primary level education and increase literacy rate - to 35%.
It will provide employment to over 48,000 people during four years. The Iqra Pilot Project is an experimental programme which on its successful completion will be replicated in the entire country. LAMEC is also working on new work oriented literacy programmes to provide literacy as well as skills.
To commemorate the International Literacy Day, Pakistan Post Office is issuing one postage stamp of Re. 1/- value on September 8, 1986.