Literacy for a Transforming Pakistan

According to UNESCO, Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, translate, create, interact, and calculate utilising printed and written resources in different contexts. Literacy is a learning continuum that enables individuals to attain their goals, develop their knowledge and potential, and actively engage in their community and society. Literacy generally includes numeracy or the ability to perform simple arithmetic computations. Literacy can be distinguished from quantifiable metrics such as literacy rate and functional literacy. Literacy’s transformative power in shaping societies, nurturing sustainable development, and fostering peace is neglected in Pakistan. As the nation faces multiple transitions in various sectors and strives to build a more prosperous and harmonious society through literacy.

It is crucial to reflect on the nation’s progress, challenges, and the pivotal role literacy plays in its continued growth. Literacy is the bedrock upon which sustainable and peaceful societies are built. Literacy boosts economic productivity while actively contributing to community well-being and social cohesion.

Like many countries, Pakistan is undergoing significant transitions in various domains, including social, economic, environmental, and technological changes. These transitions bring both opportunities and challenges. Promoting literacy is critical to addressing these challenges and ensuring that Pakistan navigates these transitions successfully. While Pakistan has significantly improved literacy rates over the years, challenges persist. The nation faces regional disparities, with varying levels of access to education and literacy between provinces and rural-urban areas, where the quality of education is also substandard. Private institutions have also entrenched and exacerbated already-existing economic and social inequalities. Gender disparity remains a pressing concern as women and girls lag in literacy rates because of oldschool thoughts, poverty, harassment, and early marriages. Furthermore, the cost of education also hinders women’s literacy; even when schools are available, the costs associated with education, including uniforms, books, and transportation, are prohibitive for many families living hand to mouth. This financial burden often falls on parents, making them favor investing in their sons’ education. To achieve the vision of a world in transition, Pakistan must prioritise eliminating regional disparities in literacy, which includes focusing on equitable distribution of educational resources, implementing single and equal syllabi and curricula of all boards of education, building and renovating schools in remote areas, and recruiting and training qualified teachers on merit capable of providing quality education to all. 

A comprehensive and effective STEM education system is needed as the global demand for STEM experts rises. The integration of STEM education has the potential to revolutionise the education system in Pakistan, fostering a generation of individuals equipped with the skills and knowledge to drive technological advancements and scientific discoveries. STEM education opens doors to a multitude of career choices and opportunities for students. Despite the progressive strides in integrating STEM education in Pakistan, several challenges persist, including the lack of resources, infrastructure, and qualified educators. To address these challenges, it is imperative for the government, educational institutions, and industry stakeholders to collaborate and invest in the development of comprehensive STEM education programs, providing students with access to state-of-the-art facilities, advanced technology, and mentorship opportunities. Additionally, the introduction of scholarship programs, research grants, and industry-academic partnerships can further encourage students to pursue STEM education, fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation..Transformation also requires addressing adult literacy, an educational program designed to provide basic academic skills and training in mathematics, writing, reading, and language, and may include English literacy instruction. Adult education programs can empower a massive percentage of the population aged 15 years and over generations must be equipped with essential skills and knowledge needed in the modern digital world, enabling them to participate in societal progress and bridge the digital divide actively which will transform 63 percent of young people into real wealth. As the world embraces digital transformation, Pakistan must harness the potential of technology in promoting literacy. Initiatives like the ‘DigiSkills, Kamiyab Jawan Program’ are equipping individuals with digital literacy, opening doors to online learning and remote work opportunities. Literacy is about reading and writing and fosters critical thinking, tolerance, and empathy. A literate society is more likely to reject extremism and violence, promoting dialogue, understanding, and peace. In this regard, Pakistan’s efforts to incorporate peace education into the curriculum and promote interfaith harmony are noteworthy.

As Pakistan navigates the complexities of a world in transition, literacy emerges as a cornerstone for building sustainable and peaceful societies. By addressing regional disparities, empowering women and girls, promoting adult literacy, embracing technology, and fostering a culture of peace, the nation can pave the way for a brighter and more inclusive future. Pakistan reaffirms its commitment to promoting literacy across all segments of society. By investing in traditional and digital literacy, Pakistan lays the foundation for a brighter, more inclusive, and harmonious future. Through collective efforts, Pakistan can build upon this foundation to ensure that no one is left behind in pursuing sustainable education and a peaceful life, ultimately contributing to a better world. In fostering a culture of lifelong learning, the nation paves the way for a prosperous and peaceful tomorrow, where every citizen can actively contribute to the nation’s progress and well-being.

Umema Imran

The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at umema imran5@

The writer is a student at Bahria University Karachi and can be reached at

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