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The Cost Barrier to Education in Pakistan

Most people recognize food, water, and shelter as basic human needs. These are some essentials that cannot be alienated even in drastic times, such as wars. However, apart from these three needs, there is another equally, if not more important need: Education. The United Nations recognizes education as another basic inviolable right. However, it is relatively easier to neglect in comparison to other basic human rights. Even during times of peace, it seems that either the quality or education overall is overshadowed by other things, but why is that?

There can be several reasons as to why education suffers despite everything, however each reason caters to a different situation. In Pakistan, for example, a few of the reasons are either the war-torn areas such as SWAT being unable to provide education, or it can be that people in rural areas do not send their children to school in order to help with family income. Interestingly, one thing that links both examples is common: the cost to education.

What do developed countries such as the United States of America and the U.K have in common? Up to a certain schooling age and level, education is public and free. These countries not only believe but also implement the fact that education should be for all. It is arguable that private institutions exist here as well and charge lavishly, however they do not provide anything apart from exclusivity; the standard of education is relatively the same. As a result, not only is the literacy rate there higher in comparison to Pakistan's, but is also burden free for parents. So if these countries can afford it why not Pakistan?

It can be argued that Pakistan is on the lower ends of the GDP per capita scale historically. Combined with inflation and political unrest, the people are most likely struggling to make ends meet. Similarly, where everything is expensive, education, particularly quality education, is costly.

Private educational institutions give parents the hope of a secure future through their curriculums, offering them state-of-the-art studies competing in quality internationally, with a designer price-tag. The irony of the situation is that these schools know that education is essential, and yet do everything to make it a privilege. Nevertheless, people who can afford to somehow pay for it, manage to do so. But does it have to be this way?

Here is a personal take on why education suffers here: it is not accessible despite everything, in other words, it is not public. The public schools in Pakistan suffer from a lack of funds, and therefore cannot afford such luxuries, per se. While agreeable that in majority of KPK, education is free up to age 16, however it is from an unrevised national curriculum. If you ask someone who was in school two decades prior and then a student currently studying in the 10th standard the difference in curriculum, surprisingly, you may not find a difference. But that does more harm than good. In other countries, a continuous update of syllabus occurs every few years.

So what can Pakistan do? one of the solutions that I think may help is keeping a check and balance on the cost of education

. By implementing a price-ceiling for education, private institutions can be prevented from taking mortgage fees on teaching services. However, this is difficult because private institutions do not necessarily operate under the decree of the government; it is why they are private after all. However, that also does not mean they can charge whatever they please.

Another, perhaps equally troublesome solution is to update public educational institutions teaching syllabus, or to change it completely. Here is the dilemma: private schools offer quality for price, whereas public schools offer low cost for little to no standards being maintained. However, if the government is able to bring world class studies accessible to every child, perhaps literacy will increase.

While these proposed solutions may seem idealistic, if somehow these are implemented, not only would education be cheaper it would also become accessible, even to the kids in far remote locations, where a better future through education awaits them.

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