Human Resources, Poverty, and Regional Development (The Sultan S. Hashmi Memorial Lecture)

Publication Year : 2000

Human development has moved to centre stage in development theory. Education makes an important contribution to economic growth, but achievement of mass education is important for a number of other reasons as well. Inequality of access to education is a serious issue everywhere, and serves to reinforce the inequality of income. Inequality is evident from the viewpoint of socio-economic background, of gender, and of regional disparities. In a poverty alleviation programme, tackling regional inequalities in education may be crucial, yet it raises many issues. Will expanding educational opportunities only result in frustration if appropriate jobs are not available? Is the key role of education in poor regions to enable educated young people to migrate elsewhere to find better jobs? In international comparisons, Pakistan appears well behind comparable countries in educational development. “Path dependency” means that the legacy of past deficiencies in expanding education will adversely affect Pakistan’s development for decades to come, and what is done now in education will affect development for half a century. A simple projection shows that even with the highly optimistic assumption that by 2030, Pakistan will reach the enrolment rates currently achieved in the United States, the proportion of the working-age population in that year with no education or only primary school education would still be as high as 35 percent. This underlines the need for a strong drive to expand educational opportunity.