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Celebrating and Supporting Literacy

Administrator Shah at the launch of the National Reading Program in Karachi, Pakistan with Pakistani students.
Administrator Shah at the launch of the National Reading Program in Karachi, Pakistan with Pakistani students.

In Pakistan where so many struggle with literacy, International Literacy Day (September 8) has special meaning – a cause to celebrate progress but also a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

Today, 7 million Pakistani children including 4 million girls are not enrolled in primary school.  In Sindh, only 40 percent of children who have completed primary school can read a simple sentence in their native language.

USAID Pakistan stands ready to help.

In April 2012, we launched our National Reading Program supporting the development of 3.2 million new readers over the next five years - including 700,000 children in Sindh.

The program would not have been possible without Pakistan’s groundbreaking effort to establish a National Education Policy, which provides a roadmap for ensuring every child receives a quality education.

In 2010, Pakistan’s Constitution made education compulsory and required the government to provide education without cost to parents.  The provincial governments have also made fundamental reforms key to this effort, including providing scholarships for girls to attend middle school and sending teachers where they are needed most, even if it isn’t where they’d like to go.

USAID welcomes these steps and we have also made key changes in our own approach to education. Instead of measuring success by the number of children we helped enroll or the number of teachers trained, we will measure success by the number of children who can read by the time they leave school. Instead of measuring success based on anecdotes, we will work with the government to ensure sophisticated monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that hold all of us accountable.

We have also launched “All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge in Development” to generate breakthroughs in childhood literacy, whether they are mobile apps that help measure student progress or affordable e-readers that bring the world’s libraries to mudbrick schools and rural villages. Before long, these cutting-edge proposals will help transform the way children learn from Pakistan to Ghana.

USAID already has an excellent track record in promoting higher education in Pakistan going as far back as the 1950’s when we helped establish Pakistan’s first business school, the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. More recently, since 2009 we have awarded nearly 10,000 merit and need-based scholarships to university bound students. Equally important, we have also focused on improving the quality of education in Pakistan’s schools by providing training to 10,000 teachers and school administrators.

Building on this long-standing history, we are committed to continuing to help the students of Pakistan, and easing their path as they become the world’s next generation of scientists, teachers, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Last updated: February 13, 2017

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