When President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met earlier this year, they agreed to make educational cooperation a priority. Following up on that, U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, and Pakistani Education Minister, Javed Ashraf, met in Washington to discuss ways to improve Pakistan's education system and foster exchanges among Pakistani and American universities and research institutions.
Mr. Ashraf said that Pakistanis have "suffered from poor educational standards and illiteracy." This, he said, must change, "otherwise illiterate masses become ready recruits for all sorts of unhealthy activities. We want to give them meaningful education," said Mr. Ashraf, "so they can contribute to the building of future Pakistan."
Mr. Ashraf said that improvements have already been made in Pakistan's educational system. School enrollment has increased significantly, he said, with more girls being educated and the government offering incentives to families who keep their girls in school. Pakistan's government, he said, is also encouraging religious schools, or madrassas, to broaden their study programs to incorporate mainstream subjects. The goal is to reduce extremism in traditional religious schools. Mr. Ashraf estimated that not more than ten percent of Pakistani madrassas fall into the extremist category.
U.S. Secretary of Education Spellings said that with over two-hundred-million dollars disbursed in U.S. educational assistance since 2002 and an additional one-hundred-million dollars for 2007, the U.S. hopes to help expand educational opportunities for the people of Pakistan. "A civilized, productive, developed society really begins with education," she said.
U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns also stressed the importance of assisting educational reform in Pakistan. "There is no other country in the world more important to the United States when it comes to counterterrorism cooperation, and Pakistan has been a valued ally," he said. The United States, said Mr. Burns, is working hard to "build a multitude of bridges between our two countries, and nowhere is that more important than in education."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.