11 April 2007

Literacy in Pakistan

From the current issue of the Economist:

Officially, 53% of Pakistanis are literate. Others say the figure is nearer 30%. Literacy, often defined as no more than the ability to write one's name, is as low as 3% among women in some rural areas.
The byline to the article sums it up: ‘Pakistan's madrassas may be less of a problem than its mainstream schools’. With its population of 160 million, Pakistan’s disastrous educational system is both distressing in itself, and a likely source of further misery. It’s a problem that doesn’t seem amenable to the current policy mix. Some years ago I proposed that private organisations and individuals take the lead and issue their own Female Literacy Bonds, based on the Social Policy Bond principle. My handbook (pdf) for such entrepreneurs or philanthropists, explains how the bonds could be of interest to all:

If you are cash-rich but time-poor and know what you want, then you could get together with some cronies and do as suggested: set up an escrow account and issue your own bonds. If you are less wealthy you could swell the redemption funds by depositing your spare cash into escrow account set up by others.

If you have more energy than money you could buy some Female Literacy Bonds, and then work to raise female literacy in Pakistan. Your bonds would appreciate in value if literacy levels rose quickly. You could even borrow on the strength of the expected increase in capital value of your bonds, in order to finance literacy-raising projects. You could co-operate with other bondholders and finance those activities that you think will be most efficient in raising literacy.

If you are already involved in trying to raise literacy in Pakistan you could contact holders of Female Literacy Bonds and if they believe your activities are efficient in reducing conflict they will find it worthwhile to help finance your existing projects.

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