Does Mass Education Steer A Country’s Development?

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This article was originally submitted by Nusrat Ali

Often in Pakistan, the argument is with mass education comes the development. If you want development in the country; seek education.

The nexus that our countrymen often make between education and development is often misleading and flawed. Education is important but for other vital reasons and not specifically for development.

Even the chapters of history tell us that development produced the need for mass education we see today. Today’s developed nations never waited for their populace to become fully educated just so that they could initiate development. Rather they underwent mass development first which then spearheaded the need for mass education.

For example, despite being on the top charts for universal education, Britain is not a major player in world politics today. But Britain of yesterday was one major actor calling global shots with limited education. Strange and obvious!


Even Pakistan is facing the same dilemma where education has become synonymous with increasing development. Does education cause development? If education is the criteria for development why it is that Pakistan is underdeveloped despite having such a huge force of young people?

Consider the following rationale:

Tilted position

Education is important for human life provided it is an education in a real and complete sense. Apparently, it has two functions to offer which are:

First, education provides humans with means by which they can unleash their potential fully. Reasoning, argument, doubt, probing, thinking, logic and others are all necessary intellectual tools, which education bestows on humans to help them realize their real capabilities. Not knowing why, but this function has become underrated in Pakistan.

Second and more relatable to us is that we have regarded education as a tool of acquiring proficiency in a particular set of skills – for instance, MBBS, Engineering, CA and others. This function of education is more highlighted and preferred by all irrespective of the fact that it is the reason for our current conundrums. Ever wondered why more and more of our educated and skilled lot have zero intellect?


What we need is a balanced approach between the two functions of education.

Educated people are the real obstruct

As far as one can understand, all the decisions of great importance are done by educated people sitting at the helm of affairs; not by some uneducated lot. Why then curse illiteracy and illiterates for the country’s under-development?

Surely, powerful people behind the steering wheels and their policies make much more difference – better or worse – than just mass education. To illustrate the point, consider what good universal education is of the United States if President Trump continues to belittle climate change on every forum that is present.

Simply a flawed argument!

Mass education is going to bring development is just a hollow assertion considering the dismal picture of today’s education.

According to UNESCO, Pakistan had a literacy rate of about 14 % in 1950, whereas, the figure rose to 62.3 % in the year 2018 as per the statistics of the Labour Force Survey of Pakistan. Undoubtedly, literacy has gone up. We have a population that is much more educated than its predecessors in 1947 and onwards.

Thus, by all accounts, the rate at which education has increased over time is notable but sadly the same cannot be said about development.


For example, Pakistan is producing over five hundred thousand graduates annually as per Higher Education Commission (HEC). This means a lot of skill is entering the job market; which means that massive development is resulting. Right! More education means more development. Sadly, this is not the case. Everything besides the development part is real and factual.

Now there are many reasons for this awful picture.

One is already presented and argued that development is entirely related to education is a defected argument.

Second, even if one agrees that education does play a role in the development process, how can development take place when there is a big mismatch in the required and produced skills? This mismatch leads to unemployment and poverty rather than development. Further, if an economy is in a sorry state it will not produce job opportunities and development.

Since development is absent, our skilled youth is continually leaving the country, leading towards brain drain. The development will only come with fine state policies and measures; education can be one of them and not the only one.

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