Cheng Xizhong, a special commentator of China Economic Net, a visiting professor of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, a senior fellow with the Chahar Institute, a former Defense Attache in South Asian Countries, a former UN Senior Military Observer
Recently, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has dedicated his official residence, the Prime Minister House, and converted it into the Islamabad National University, thus firmly demonstrating his determination to rejuvenate the country through education.
At the opening ceremony of the Islamabad National University held on December 21 last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the transformation of the Prime Minister House into the Islamabad National University was aimed at optimizing the use of resources to serve the people. Education would be an important driving force for human progress and national development. His Government was committed to develop education as a priority.
It is reported that illiteracy rate in Pakistan is over 30% for the male, and about 52% for the female. According to a recent report by UNESCO, the country now has about 50 million school-age children, 37% of whom are unable to receive education for various reasons.
The problem of illiteracy in Pakistan is indeed very serious, and the illiteracy rate is too high. But this is not a problem that has arisen just now. This is a problem that has accumulated over many years. The main reasons for the high illiteracy rate are, firstly, the long-time social underdevelopment, secondly, the outdated ideas of the people in some areas, especially in the vast rural areas, and thirdly, the large number of children and the inability of parents to support their children for education. Speaking of cultural ideas, a Pakistani friend once warned me not to praise their daughters in front of some Pakistanis for their education and ability to sing and dance. They would be unhappy because some Pakistanis still believe that "females without talent are virtuous". Therefore, the problem of high illiteracy rate can only be solved through long-term efforts of the whole society.
Since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to office, he has put special emphasis on the development of education and made the fight against illiteracy as one of the four major tasks in 2019. This shows that the Pakistani government has realized the importance of education for the improvement of national quality, socio-economic development and progress in science and technology.
China now implements nine-year compulsory education. In some big cities, 12-year compulsory education has been introduced. This does not include three years of pre-school education before the age of six. In my opinion, according to the current situation, Pakistan should implement at least nine-year compulsory education. With the development of the CPEC, many Chinese companies now employ local Pakistanis and short-term technical training is arranged before they take up their jobs. However, a big problem is that some Pakistanis can`t read and write. They have not received the basic education and how could the technical training be carried out?
People’s qualities are closely related with how much basic education they have received. Only with universal basic education for all, could the quality of the whole nation be improved. Only when a country has a large contingent of talents who have received higher education can it merge with modern high and new technologies. Although Pakistan is still underdeveloped, it will eventually enter the era of science and technology, industrialization and modernization. Prime Minister Imran Khan may have foreseen the coming of this era, so he puts special emphasis on education priority and intensifies knowledge preparation to embraceit.
As a UN peacekeeper, I had chances to exchange ideas with officers from various countries. Some countries train military officers with 1 + 1, some with 2 + 1, some with 3 + 1, some with 4 + 1, and China with 4 + 1, that is, four years of academic education for undergraduates in universities and one year of military training before they are assigned specific jobs. The length of time spent in university directly relates the quality of the whole career of officers. The difference between 1 + 1 and 4 + 1 is obvious.
While working in Nepal, I met a 60-year-old couple who lived in a poor village in Mustang withnine children. They were not well off, but the couple saved money on food and expenses for education of their children. With their careful cultivation, all the nine children have now become professors and engineers with master's and doctoral degrees. I was awestruck when listening to the story that they had devoted their whole life to the education of their children.