Ilamabad - International Literacy Day (ILD) is being celebrated across the world today and this year’s theme is ‘Literacy and Sustainable Societies.’

A simple definition of literacy is the ability to read and write with understanding in any language. However, 52 percent of class five students in Pakistan cannot read a story in Urdu, Sindhi or Pashto; 56 percent of students cannot read a sentence fluently in English; and 58 percent of students cannot perform simple two-digit division, according to the Annual Status of Education Survey Report (ASER) 2014.

There is an urgent need to analyse the output of our education system, throughout the country, to come to grips with the crisis of quality in our education system.

Different event and activities will be held to observe the day. Alif Ailaan Education Activists are also marking World Literacy Day across the country by conducting seminars with newly-elected district nazims in Mardan, Kohistan, Haripur and Kohat, working with them to underscore the urgency of the crisis of quality education.

The aim of these congratulatory seminars is to engage local governments (LGs) in a dialogue to prioritise education on their agenda. Alif Ailaan publications and data on specific needs of the communities in these districts will be shared with district nazims so that education become a priority in their agenda and LGs can play their role in the resolution of the education challenges in their districts.

Pakistan’s literacy rate – 58% (2013-14) is not just one of the lowest in the world but also in South Asia. While enrolment, gender parity and retention all represent important issues within the education debate, low quality teaching and learning represent existential long-term threats to the nation’s future.

Meanwhile, the federal capital’s private educational institutions have demanded the assigning of all matters of local education sector to one ministry for better management. Currently, the city’s educations affairs are overseen by the capital administration and development division, the ministry of federal education and professional training, and the ministry of inter-provincial coordination simultaneously causing confusion and complications for stakeholders, including educational institutions.

The Private Schools Network (PSN) has also demanded appointment of a permanent chairman of Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) to conduct its audit from 2006-2013.

The regulatory authority mandated to control, register and promote private educational institutions in capital has been unable to fulfil its responsibilities without a permanent chairman since 2013, remarked President PSN Dr Afzal Babar.

He said the capital has an authority, Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), to look after 422 educational institutions with around 200,000 students; however there is no functional authority to control and register 2000 private schools with 300,000 students. The private school education, which can play an important role in enhancing the literacy rate, has been neglected in Islamabad by the CADD, he added.