This week in Pakistan, I joined Ambassador Cameron Munter, Senior Minister Pir Mazhar-Ul-Haq of the Government of Sindh Education and Literacy Department and local leaders in launching a National Reading Program.

The program will help improve reading and math skills for nearly seven million children, mobilize communities to strengthen school management and support the development of three and a half million new readers. That means improving educational assessments so that schools and parents can clearly track student progress.  And it means strengthening teach professional development, so that teachers have the opportunity to grow, share their experiences and learn about new approaches.

This support will help Pakistan accelerate progress towards full primary enrollment, which it would not achieve until 2050 at its current pact. Today, seven million Pakistani children including four million girls are not enrolled.  And in Sindh, only 40 percent of children who have completed primary school can read a simple sentence in their native language.

Administrator Shaw at the launch of the National Reading Program in Karachi, Pakistan with Pakistani students. Photo Credit: USAID/Pakistan

The program would not have been possible without Pakistan’s groundbreaking effort to establish a National Education Policy, which provides a roadmap for ensuring every child receives a quality education. In 2010, Pakistan’s Constitution made education compulsory and required the government to provide education without cost to parents.  The provincial governments have also made fundamental reforms key to this effort, including providing scholarships for girls to attend middle school and sending teachers where they are needed most, even if it isn’t where they’d like to go.

We’ve also made key changes in our approach to education. Instead of measuring success by the number of children we help enroll or the number of teachers we train, we’re going to measure it by the number of children who can read and add by the time they leave school. And instead of measuring success based on anecdotes, we’re going to work with the government to ensure sophisticated monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that hold all of us accountable.

We’ve also launched All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge in Development to generate breakthroughs in childhood literacy, whether they are mobile apps that help measure student progress or affordable e-reads that bring the world’s libraries to mudbrick schools and rural villages. Before long, these cutting-edge proposals will help transform the way children learn from Pakistan to Ghana.

Building on a long-standing history of cooperation between our two peoples, we’re committed to helping the students of Pakistan, and easing their path as they become the world’s next generation of scientists, teachers, engineers and entrepreneurs.