Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal Education is considered a fundamental human right. In addition to the Islamic injunctions, according to which seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim, Pakistan is also mandated under various international conventions to provide equal access to education to all of its citizens without discrimination. Apart from other indirect provisions, it is a signatory to two important documents pertaining to the provision of education to people; the 1990 Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All and the Dakar Framework for Action 2000. The Jomtien Conference reaffirmed the right of every person to receive education, which satisfies his or her basic learning needs. This declaration announced the six goals of Education for All (EFA), which are to be achieved by the year 2015. These EFA goals include expanding early childhood care and education; providing free and compulsory primary education for all; promoting learning and life skills for young people and adults; increasing adult literacy by 50 percent from the level of 1990; achieving gender parity by 2005 and gender equality 2015; and improving the quality of education for all. Ten year later, the Dakar Framework of Action (Senegal, 2000) was adopted in which the international community once again recognised illiteracy as a priority issue; it set a number of goals to be achieved by the year 2015. By signing these two documents, the international community, including Pakistan, affirmed their commitment to eradicate illiteracy within a stipulated period of time. It is believed that illiteracy not only hinders the development of individuals full potential and their participation in a democratic society, but also has repercussions for the rest of their lives. It affects personal and family life of the individuals, deprives them of the benefits of development and hinders the enjoyment of other human rights. The Dakar Framework of Action not only announced eight goals, commonly known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) pertaining to various aspects of human life, but also set measurable targets and indicators to monitor the progress of societies in this direction. Out of these goals, two exclusively relate to education. Goal 2 pertains to achieving universal primary education, and the relevant target reads as ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015. However, the attainment of this target requires an increase in net enrolment ratio at the primary level, improving the completion rate of primary schooling. Goal 3 encourages the international community to promote gender equality and empower women; it reads: eliminates gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and at all levels by 2015. Achievement of this target requires improving the ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Twenty years subsequent to the declaration of education for all, and about four years away from the target year 2015, it is high time to assess Pakistans achievement and progress in this direction. According to MDGs, Pakistan was expected to achieve 100 percent net primary enrolment rate by 2015 and 100 percent completion/survival rate to Grade V by the same year. In terms of literacy, it was expected to achieve overall 88 percent literacy rate for 10+ years aged population. To achieve steady progress in this regard, Pakistan announced two education policies in 1992 and 1998-2010 and a number of development plans, including National Plan of Action 2001-2015 and Education Sector Reforms (ESR). These plans set different dates to achieve the millennium development goals. Its Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) 2005-2010 set the target to achieve 77 percent net primary enrolment ratio, 80 percent completion/survival rate to Grade V and 77 percent overall literacy rate for its 10+ years aged population by 2010. Similarly, in terms of gender equality, Pakistan was expected to achieve full gender equality in primary enrolment ratio as well as youth literacy by the year 2015. The relevant target set under MTDF was to achieve 0.94 Gender Parity Index (GPI) for primary enrolment and 0.85 GPI for youth literacy. The analysis of available data reveals that progress of Pakistan is not only unsatisfactory; rather we are far away from achieving these goals by 2015. Table 1: Literacy and net enrolment rate with GPI (2009-10) Region/ Province Literacy NER Rate Primary (age 5-9) Pakistan Male 69.5 61 Female 45.2 54 Both 57.7 57 GPI 0.65 0.87 Punjab Male 69.1 64 Female 49.8 60 Both 59.6 62 GPI 0.72 0.94 Sindh Male 70.2 57 Female 44.3 49 Both 58.2 54 GPI 0.63 0.8 KPK Male 70.1 58 Female 32.3 45 Both 50.9 52 GPI 0.45 0.64 Balochistan Male 62 51 Female 23 36 Both 45 44 GPI 0.37 0.64 Although the literacy rate in Pakistan has increased over the years but because of high population growth, the absolute number of illiterates has increased. At present, the literacy rate of 10+ age population as well as the net enrolment rate at the primary level is about 57 percent, with higher gender disparity in literacy rate than in primary enrolment rate. The overall literacy rate is higher in Punjab and Sindh, with the lowest (45 percent) in Balochistan. Similarly, the lowest literacy and enrolment rates are observed in the female population of Balochistan. The achievement of MDGs requires an expansion of primary education opportunities for children and reducing the drop-out rate. In post-9/11 era, Pakistan received a lot of aid for various sectors, including education. There was a huge campaign of increasing educational opportunities for different age population. However, the available statistics about primary schools in Pakistan reveals a negative trend. The figures in table 2 reveal that during the Musharraf government, instead of expanding primary education in the public sector, the number of primary schools decreased from 159,330 in 1998-99 to 156,400 in 2009-10. His government implemented a devolution plan and accordingly the primary, middle and secondary education was devolved to the district governments. This was done on the pretext that the decentralisation process would enable the district governments to effectively manage the education system. However, the devolution policy resulted in decreasing the enrolment rate, especially in the public sector schools and closure of about 3,000 schools during the last decade. Primary schools are the basic unit of education and an important instrument for imparting literacy and basic education. These figures also reveal that despite increase in primary age population, primary schools were not increased proportionately. Instead, higher expansion in middle and secondary schools was achieved. Against about 29 percent increase in the primary school population, about 2 percent decrease in the number of primary schools has been observed during the same period. If the same trend is continued, this will be in total defiance of the MDGs and Pakistan will never be able to achieve the targets. The writer is the dean of Faculty of Education, University of the Punjab, Lahore. Email: drhmiqbal@gmail.com