By Siraj Shawa
The state of education in Pakistan, by all accounts, is abysmally an awful one. It is ranked among the most illiterate countries in the world. While more than 40% of our population is still uneducated, many countries around the globe have achieved almost 100% literacy rates. About 24 million children of school going age are not in schools. Our recurrent commitments to improve education system can be gauged by the fact that “ghost school” is still an established fact.
Moreover, there are different education systems in practice for different social classes. Those who are the most destitute prefer to put their kids into work to make both ends meet. Some choose Madressah education either for religious reasons or because they don’t afford mainstream schooling. In the mainstream education again there exists a chasm between various economic classes. Government schools are mostly joined by kids who belong to lower class families, middle class children opt for private schools, and the most privileged choose the elite schools.
Comparatively the conditions of schools run by the government are disgracefully bad. Last year a survey conducted by a private TV channel in Sindh province revealed that many among the government schools’ teachers don’t even know the nitty-gritty of the subjects they teach themselves. Science teachers couldn’t tell the formula for water while others were completely strange to Pakistan’s national anthem. This speaks for the kind of recruitment procedures adopted by the provincial governments while hiring teachers.
Mismanagement and maladministration have ruined our schooling system. Mostly schools and colleges are administered by headmasters and principals like a country is run by a monarch. Students are kept under intense psychological pressure. They tend to engage in rote learning owing to regressive practices imbibed by their tutors. Creativity is fouled up and students are pressurized to reproduce exactly what they are being taught. Although legally banned, corporal punishment prevails in most of the educational institutions.
Education sector has emerged as a profitable industry. People are being fleeced by private institutions for nominal degrees. The sole objective of such institutions is generally issuing certificates rather than imparting real education. Adding insult to injury, the federal government recently imposed more taxes on attaining education at higher level, thus deterring more students from advanced studies.
The National Education Policy 2009 envisioned free and universal primary education by 2015 and up to matriculation by 2025. It also envisaged allocation of 7% GDP for education by 2015. According to the policy literacy rate was to be increased up to 86% in six years and Deeni Madaris were to be streamlined by introducing contemporary studies alongside their own curricula. Setting too ambitious goals and doing nothing to bring these into fruition has become a norm in our national politics. Had practical steps been taken millions of children wouldn’t have been out of school today.
Little focus on education is both creating new problems and enhancing the pre-existing ones. Terrorism, extremism, and violence in other forms are its most horrendous fruits. As people have little knowledge about their rights and obligations when they are uneducated, therefore, corruption, feudalism and Khanism flourish among the other social evils. Though KP government has been successful to some extent in bringing prolific reforms to education sector yet that are less than enough.
Article 25A of the constitution which guarantees free education for all till the age of 16 asks for its immediate implementation. In this regard there is a need of vigorous child enrollment campaigns throughout the country. Incentives should be provided to school going kids in order to increase the retention and enrollment rates. Free availability of textbooks and uniforms, and development of students’ friendly environment at schools would help in this regard.
Number of schools available must to be brought in conformity with the number of students seeking education. On emergency basis second shift classes for out of school children can be arranged in schools of densely populated areas. It should be ensured that all children, both male and female, have equal access to quality education sans any discrimination on any basis.
Teachers ought to be trained well so that they not only deliver knowledge efficiently but also deal students in an appropriate manner. Activity based learning should be promoted. Syllabi of different classes must be revised on regular basis to improve the quality of contents of different subjects. Such reforms should be brought that focus on durable learning, and are student-centered.
All schools should be properly evaluated. The low performing ones may be supervised by reputable educationists and given extra attention by the authorities. An efficient monitoring system should be introduced for keeping a check on all schools both of government and private sectors.
Education is a panacea for most of our problems. Political, economic, and social development of a society depends on education of its populace. Therefore, rather than making roads and metros the first priority, education should be prioritize and for this purpose a substantial part of budget should be earmarked each year.