By Siraj Shawa
“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a life time, educate people.” Chinese proverb
China Pakistan economic corridor will likely bring about the blooming, unheard of, to our region. Most expectedly, Pakistan will become an appealing place for foreign direct investment. We will soon be blessed with a gigantic network of motorways and superhighways. Lahore and Pindi-Islamabad possess their own metro services while another orange line train in Lahore and a mass transit service in Karachi are in the wind. Our economy is invigorating and we have one of the most powerful militaries in the world.
But there’s the darker part of the story. As per the Chinese proverb, we are either planning for a year or a decade but most certainly not for a life time. The standard of our education is abysmally low and the number of out-of-school children has reached almost 25 million. The expenditure of Pakistan on education is the lowest in South Asia according to a report published by a leading English Daily. It can’t be worse.
What are these 25 million children going to turn into, when they reach the age of twenty and above? Most probably, pretty much of them would fall into the wrong hands and will rather prove a liability. Same goes for those children who are poorly educated by the under-qualified, untrained, and undisciplined teachers. Despite the miserable quality of education they provide, several schools in urban areas and in densely populated rural areas deny admissions to many of the children because of overcrowding at classrooms. Thanks to private schools otherwise the situation would have been far dismal.
For teachers it is a matter of utmost importance to have knowledge and fully understanding of current affairs. To my surprise, while interacting with one of a KPK school teacher I came to know that it was strictly verboten in their school for teaching staff to read newspaper even if they had nothing to do. He also recounted that they had rejected tens of students’ applications for admission because their classes had no more space. If this is the situation of a province where education emergency has been implemented what would be going on elsewhere.
There are thousands of children who would have been admitted into schools if there were any nearby their homes. Most of them don’t afford the transport charges, therefore, they themselves or their parents deem it better not to read and write at all. Isn’t it a mockery of article 25A (The right to education) of our constitution, which guarantees free education for all till the age of 16?
There is a grave need of more primary and high schools for both boys and girls so that all the children are accommodated. In order to bring propitious and full of promise reforms in education sector, each provincial government and where necessary the federal government should hire educationists of high caliber to delineate syllabi of different grades that must not be rote oriented. The syllabi of all the schools, both in public and private sector, ought to be constituted of same lessons so that the children whether rich or poor have equal opportunities for developing their approaches. Resultantly, private education industries will have fewer incentives to offer that’ll, perhaps, help in decreasing of their fees.
The government should arrange trainings and periodic conferences for teachers so that they comprehend the new syllabi readily and learn updated techniques of pedagogy. Check is also necessary. Whether teachers are attending their schools and whether their teaching style is in conformity with the established modern rules and procedures or vice versa. Well-trained, organized, and determined team of inspectors will be needed to monitor the education sector in this regard.
A centralized exam for every class will help in evaluating every school and every teacher vis-à-vis subjects they teach. The ranking of schools and teachers will create a competitive environment that’ll ultimately raise the standard of our education. The exam must be transparent, with papers checked by the computerized system. Last year KP government arranged centralized exam for fifth grade students; but it was less of an exam and more of a practical joke. The exam was arranged by National Testing Service and the papers were checked by government schools’ teachers manually. It was a “tit for tat” situation, give marks to my students generously and I’ll be kind enough to shower marks on those of yours.
As most of the people have understanding of and access to internet, online complaint system is absolutely necessary to be established via which parents and teachers could register their complaints to higher authorities which must be subject to prompt action.
Improving our education system and bringing it on par with the leading nations of the world is not an easy task but if political will and commitment is shown it wouldn’t prove a distant dream.
The writer can be reached at SirajShawa@gmail.com