Towards universal primary education : a case study of US development assistance to education reform in Pakistan
The inclusion of Universal Primary Education in the Millennium Development Goals; to ensure that by 2015, Education for All become a reality speaks volumes about the importance of education to development. Education permeates through a number of human rights, providing a basis for the education of human rights. For this reason, education is cited as a top priority in development policy. Pakistan is amongst a few countries which are struggling to achieve Universal Primary Education, and making Education for All a reality. The official literacy rate is estimated at 54%, however, independent sources place the literacy rate at 26% . Pakistan faces a number of challenges to raise literacy levels; primarily the lack of budgetary allocations. Numerous donor agencies have tried to support Pakistan’s endeavour to raise literacy levels. USAID features quite prominently in the list of donor agencies, which operates large scale education programmes. USAID funded the Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) programme, in collaboration with Pakistan’s Ministry of Education, which was implemented in Sindh and Balochistan. The programme aimed to improve the access and quality of education in Pakistan. However, ESRA was not able to achieve its goal, as it brought no significant improvement to the access or quality of basic education imparted in Pakistan. This study explores factors which contribute to ESRA’s ineffectiveness. Primarily, the study argues for culturally conscious, and contextualised education reform interventions, which are inclusive of religious institutes/madrassas; an influential stakeholder in the Pakistani education system. The absence of madrassas did not only exclude an important stakeholder from the education reform process, but also alienated the populations growing demand for religious education. Taking the theory of cultural relativism into consideration, this study concludes that the inclusion of essential cultural and religious actors can make a consider difference in the outcomes of education reform interventions.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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