Illiteracy in Pakistan: Causes and Solutions


"Illiteracy in Pakistan" essay is a critical topic to address as illiteracy rates have become a serious social issue globally. Illiteracy is the inability to read or write also known as lack of knowledge. The literacy of a nation’s population is the scale to measure it’s success status. Over the years illiteracy rates have increased worldwide and have turned in to a serious social issue.

From a historical perspective, literacy levels for the world population have risen drastically in the last couple of centuries. While only 12% of the people in the world could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 17% of the world population remains illiterate. Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years – from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015 according to world bank. The issue of illiteracy needs to be solved as soon as possible the increasing illiteracy rates can of great harm to any nations where they get out of control. For that we need to focus on the causes of illiteracy to come up with a countermeasure for each so that we can impede the effects of illiteracy on a for nation’s status. The main causes of illiteracy are little or no schooling from parents, lack of availability of resources, poverty, illiteracy given in heritance and learning disabilities.

Illiteracy in Pakistan

The literacy rate in Pakistan is about 59. 9% which basically means that almost 40. 1% of Pakistani population is illiterate. The main cause for this high percentage of illiteracy proves to be the poverty. Even after a number of measures taken by government the government has failed to decrease the illiteracy percentage over the years.

In rural areas people stay illiterate as they are engrossed by their everyday activities and earning money for their livelihood and they don’t care about getting education at all. For example the landlords are used to seeing their fathers take care of the lands they own since their childhood and they have a typical mindset of inheriting lands of their fathers and forefathers so the significance of education in their concept is next to none. And in the same scene we can see the children of farmers who are well invested in working on lands with their fathers to grow crops and feed their family the money they earn is barely ever enough to afford anything other than food for the family hence they are unable to attain education which does not spark their interest naturally due to lack of education of their parents and ancestors. In some places including some rural areas of Pakistan it is a taboo for girls to get education due to the stereotypical concept of girls being born to serve men only and letting them acquire education would make them vulgar and rebellious and more frivolous.

Another main reason for the rise of illiteracy in Pakistan is the non-serious attitude of the government towards this issue due to which there are little or no schools in villages and under-developed areas ant the schools that ARE existing in those places are not in a condition to be used for any purpose or else it could lead to a bigger tragedy.


Illiteracy leads to many social and economical problems. It affects our social behavior, social values and norms. Criminal activities and extremism are also interred connected with illiteracy. Illiteracy also leads towards unemployment and poor economic growth. The countries with low illiteracy rate have stable and high economic growth and GDP. There are many reasons of illiteracy in Pakistan. Some of which are; Poverty, family background, low per capita income, poor educational system, different standards of education, lack of experienced teachers etc. In Pakistan, unfortunately we believe in doing what our family background is from. For example, if someone is born in an underprivileged family where parents with little formal schooling, the likelihood of being illiterate or experiencing serious learning difficulties will be higher. This is known as intergenerational transmission of illiteracy. The following are some of the causes of illiteracy:

  • Parents with little schooling;
  • Lack of books, stationary and other staff
  • Lack importance of reading and writing
  • Showing bad performance in studies and then dropping out of school — many have not completed high school;
  • Difficult living conditions
  • Poverty
  • Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dysorthographia, etc.

Adults aged 45 and over with low literacy skills have the distinction of belonging to generations for whom there were attractive job opportunities despite a lower level of schooling. A very large number of people pursue same work in which they see their elders doing it. This does not bother them to go to school and acquire education. Due to the closure of many companies over the past few years, particularly in the manufacturing and primary sectors, these people have lost their jobs and are often unable to find a new job, because they lack reading and writing skills. Also, they lack the necessary skills to meet current market requirements or to register in training that would allow them to requalify.

Government tries to take steps to resolve the issue of illiteracy and prioritize education but due to certain reasons they always fail in doing so. Government as well as private sector should invest in education as it will never go wasted; it pays back in many ways. Efforts should be made to provide good and free education to one and all. Awareness campaigns should be launched to tell people the importance and need of education.

Apart from the Government, I request to every educated person to please make it obligatory upon himself to teach a child. By doing so, illiteracy rate would be decrease. It is not a difficult task; it just requires our true commitment towards it.

Problems caused by illiteracy

Illiteracy is a major obstacle in social growth and should be dealt with, seriously. No nation should take it lightly as it seriously hinders a nation’s growth. The consequences of illiteracy grow past from an individual level and affects society as a whole. Illiterate people do not know how to behave and so they often misbehave with people around them hence giving a rise to undignified social behavior. Illiteracy also gives rise to crime rate as due to illiteracy they are not able to get jobs with sufficient pay to feed their families. High illiteracy rates also lead to slow growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Not only this but illiterate people are in high disadvantage as they cannot read books or newspaper and hence they do not know what is going around in the world. They have no information of warnings for future given in newspapers and so much more. Illiterate people are unaware of their rights and what they deserve for example many servants or slaves do not know anything about their rights. According to the Literacy Foundation, the consequences of illiteracy go beyond the individual and affect society at almost every level. Many jobs requiring high-level skills remain vacant for lack of personnel adequately trained to hold them. The gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate is slowed by the higher the proportion of adults with low literacy skills. Societal and political discourse is cramped when not all can participate. Community and civic involvement is limited when there are those who cannot understand societal issues.

Illiteracy can also cause health problems since as discussed before they cannot read hence they are not able to read the medicine prescriptions or the medicine brochures and hence end up eating anything they are given by doctors and pharmacists both of which could be inexperienced and can cause damage to their health.

Illiteracy rates

The global literacy rate for all males is 90. 0% and the rate for all females is 82. 7%. The rate varies throughout the world with developed nations having a rate of 99. 2% (2013); Oceania having 71. 3%; South and West Asia having 70. 2% (2015) and sub-Saharan Africa at 64. 0% (2015). Over 75% of the world's 781 million illiterate adults are found in South Asia, West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and women represent almost two-thirds of all illiterate adults globally.

The overall literacy rate in Pakistan stands at 57%, with females lagging far behind males with a mere 45% literacy rate, along with a severe urban-rural disparity. While bridging the poor literacy rate remains a major challenge for policymakers, what lies behind this so-called literate population paints even a grimmer picture. The social media is over loaded with viral video clips, depicting a telltale of public education system. On the one hand, government mathematics teachers are themselves very weak in knowing the basic fundamental arithmetic concepts and on the other hand English teachers are unable to even speak a single complete sentence without mistakes. Dozens of degree holders are knocking on the doors of employers everyday, who when interviewed are found to not even know a piece of what their shining degrees promise. It is very shameful to tell that thousands of such students with inconceivably deficient skills are able to complete ten, twelve, fourteen or even sixteen years of education within the present educational system.

There are many reasons for poor quality of education such as; ranging from inadequate resource provision to inefficient utilization and from outdated teaching methodologies to absence of a teacher accreditation system, the deficiency of an objective and efficient examination system provides the most critical bottleneck, due to which students without informative knowledge are able to move up the ladder, ending up contributing to unemployment or under-employment.

The present examination system is based on memorization without any regard to students’ comprehension, independent thinking, or creative skills. Besides some of these conceptual weaknesses, the whole system is black spot on the name of education with major operational challenges, such as badly designed question irrelevant to curriculum, poor choice of examiners, non-transparent invigilation processes and an archaic marking system, undermining the whole foundation of prevailing student evaluation processes. The system incentivizes teachers to teach to the test, rather than focusing on improving students’ learning, resulting in a wide gap between students’ performance in exams and their actual skills. Fortunately, these problems have now been caught by policymakers’ radars. We should credit Punjab; it has been the first one in taking the initial steps towards addressing these challenges. The examination reforms, made by Punjab Examination Commission (PEC) and supported through the UK government funded ‘Second Punjab Education Sector Project’, are focusing on students skills based on learning outcomes. These reforms are done to promote quality of learning and teaching along with improving performance, transparency and accountability of the elementary school examination system. Presently, PEC, an autonomous government organization, conducts annual examination of more than two million students of grades five and eight. These tests show a remarkable improvement from traditional examination papers, making use of a wider set of questions to effectively test students for their understanding and application of knowledge of the whole curriculum. PEC is also endeavoring to address the operational weaknesses through use of psychometric analysis, computerized student registration and multiple versions of each exam to prevent cheating, etc.

But in Sindh, no such steps are taken to strengthen our educational institutions, because of which we are far behind even from Punjab in all the sectors including education. It is however a start towards improvement in our education system. Rest of the provinces should also follow similar footsteps and embrace a system for objective students’ assessments. Even in Punjab, there is a need to further more enhance the system within the overall educational governance framework. For instance, in order to fully benefit from this massive pool of insightful information collected on student learning, the findings must be channeled back to improve curriculum and teaching methodology. The learning should also inform the training programmes for teachers in different areas. Moreover, these research must also cover private schools and ideally be made mandatory for entry into secondary school exams. And in the last, any changes in examination system must be supported by meaningful reforms in other complementary areas such as enhanced budgets for quality-related interventions, curriculum improvement and gradually moving towards a teacher accreditation system.


In our society illiterate people are considered to be a stigma and the ones because of whom our country is lagging behind in almost everything. People at first need to change this mind set and consider everyone the same and support them because the only difference so far between literate and illiterate people is written vs oral. No one is born literate but still from a very early age understands things such as voice, pictures and videos, and even now also when one can’t understand some instructions he goes for watching “how to” tutorials because that’s easy to comprehend and this is what our brain was specified for. You don’t need to be well-educated in order to survive because the basics needs are just clothes, food and shelter, but the easy access to these things is undoubtedly ‘literacy’ because in today’s world this is what leads you to your desired lifestyle and luxuries that more than half of the world cannot meet the expense of. This age is an age of competition – the survival of the fittest- and the idea that if you don’t claim your right someone else will seize it. There’re two probable things: either to watch people competing or to be a competitor yourself and fight for your right. The only way to get into this competition is by making yourself eligible for it i. e. making yourself ‘literate’.

Literacy most often proves to be a piece of cake for middle and upper class children but when it comes to the abandoned class i. e. lower class, there’s no one to get them out of their bad situations not even they themselves or the government, if they don’t edify themselves. In Pakistan, there’s this usual manifestation – due to modern age monopoly- that the man who’s born poor will die poor heedless of how profoundly he strives for success, except for some 0. 1 percent people who get themselves out of their fell situation either by hook or crook. Likewise there’s this thing here that the ruling elite will keep exploiting the abandoned class because of their lack of knowledge and financial support. The only way that half of the Pakistan can get out of the poverty is ‘literacy’. There are many ways possibly not to get rid but to lower the literacy rate that are continuously being overlooked in our country. Due to some pseudo philanthropists, there has already been much waste of the country’s treasure because rather than eliminating illiteracy they are busy filling up their bank accounts and I wonder if it is survival of the fittest or survival of the shrewdest.

One of the many ways to overcome illiteracy is to provide these people with adequate periodic allowance so that they don’t have to make their children work the hell out of themselves in return of just a few of pennies, and to make as many schools as possible with qualified and cooperative teachers and all other facilities that are being provided to children in private schools. This is probably conventional but the most efficient way though with a country can abolish illiteracy and make the most for its people. Government should initiate campaigns that promote education within this class’s people and making them aware of the circumstances that they along with their indigent family have to face if they don’t go for education which is their only mean of survival in today’s world. Government should start some projects that benefit poor and also make them overcome the lack of self-confidence that they ordinarily have due to their living style.

Pakistanis should also immensely will to help the ones below them, to aid them whenever possible and to provide them with basic necessities of life so that they can think of going towards something other than their deprivations. Although literacy cannot solve all our problems but it can make us get our way out of it. As mentioned in the famous article by Marvin Dhookaran, “For people who think that literacy solves many problems look at countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. They have among the highest literacy rates in the entire world (more than 99. 7%) but still higher murder rates, violence, and crime than many other countries with lower literacy rates. In my opinion ending violence and crime worldwide is a more important goal than increasing literacy worldwide. ”Many people worldwide have shared their views on grappling with low literacy rates but no one has ever been able to answer one of the most asked question relating illiteracy that what can eliminate the illiteracy wholly without harming the personal interests over the society’s interest.

One of the most admired answers is by the patron of Global Partnership for Education that spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, Helen Abadzi. She has compared illiteracy with AIDS that gradually sets its roots and kills a man because of it’s incubate effects. She further says, “To use the money wisely and teach nearly all students, the AIDS campaigns have several lessons to offer. Governments and donor agencies should insist on simple and effective literacy instruction in consistently-spelled languages. And millions of supplementary books should be made available to ensure automaticity and comprehension. This way, the beneficiaries will be able to get the needed information from print and make decisions to benefit their families. They could even be saved from AIDS like deadly diseases itself. ”

Further recommendations are often being made in order to fight illiteracy off like supplying beginners’ easy-to-understand books for poor children. Some say that the books should have simple, elaborative and elucidative pictures while some people point out the hard words that are often there in books without any other descriptions that lead to distraction. Keeping all this aside I personally would share my opinion that along with taking measures to prevent and eliminate illiteracy, there should be a focus on other issues too, like poor health facilities and malnutrition etc. because literacy is not the only thing our country is failing in but there are many other problems outside that have to be solved in order to make people think about the next big thing – Illiteracy.


Pakistan is facing many problems when it comes to the subject “illiteracy”. According to the recent economic survey there’re about 58% of the illiterate people in Pakistan. Although the rate has been declined from the last year’s 60% but even now it’s quite a big number to be neglected and it means that more than half of the Pakistan is uneducated. There are many explanations why the country today is in this ailment. The most significant of all the reasons is the government’s lack of educational funds. There’re not enough facilities for the people of Pakistan due to which they are living in ignorance.

As per the prominent Pakistani article writer M. Zain Mehmood, while writing about Pakistan’s illiteracy issue, “Illiteracy is a key issue in Pakistan with the main causes having already been discussed. It has become a major hurdle in the progress of the country since the illiterate population struggles withbasic instructions regarding machinery and therefore can’t progress technologically which hampers economic development of a country. Women illiteracy is also a subsequent problem which has led to increased problems regarding malnutrition, child mortality and an increase in the population at alarming rates which puts a heavy strain on resources. While the root cause stems from poverty, the cultural and religious mindset of the residents of rural areas also play a role, acting as hurdles in the illiteracy problem. Pakistan is lagging behind other developing countries like Bangladesh and India who have been relatively successful at increasing the literacy rate and educational opportunities. ”

As it already has been analyzed that there are about 57% of the females that are deprived of even the basic education while the number of males here is around 45%. It insinuates our cultural discrimination i. e. preferring males over females which can easily be seen by the difference in the country’s overall percentage of illiteracy. Pakistan from its inception, has cheered its women to take part in all the political affairs but due to some ignorant and deceptive people the general norm of patronizing women had set its roots in our culture but now it is being demolishing at a fast rate. This means that women are now being encouraged to study regardless of the consequences that were first highlighted by some misleading sexist people. Now the women are all being ready and motivated to represent Pakistan side by side with men.

All the problems that our country is stuck in are someway related to illiteracy that’s proving to be a root cause of most of the issues. People in Pakistan don’t have faith in its educational system and that is why those who can afford are leaving the country, those who can’t are frustrated and the lower class is in the condition it always has been in- ignorance. Our government has to rejuvenate the lost trust and reliance in order to lower the illiteracy rate in the country and make progress eventually. To conclude we may say that we must fortify our educational system in order to make progress. We have to pay attention to the things to which government doesn’t. Such as there has to be introduced uniform educational policy, every job should be merit based, there should be sufficient educational facilities, and no fake schools as there are a total of 23000 schools in our country, just educational system and proper teachers’ training. All of us have to develop an outlook that Pakistanis themselves have to help other Pakistanis out and this is the only thing through which we can progress and conquer the world.

15 July 2020
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