The education sector in Pakistan has been going through an unprecedented crisis because of the misplaced priorities and policies of the government. First, there was the issue of the Single National Curriculum. Then emerged the problem of textbook publication in Punjab that the Punjab Textbook Board has been mishandling. Now there are even more issues, which have led to protests by teachers and professors.
The protest of teachers outside the CM House in Lahore as well as a similar protest in Karachi has highlighted the plight of our teachers. They have been demanding regularization of their services, which is their right as a majority of them have been working for many years now without being regularized. Since these teachers have already been working, they don’t think it makes sense at this moment – after many years of service – to ask them to appear for further conditional exams for regularisation.
Then there is the issue of teacher promotions at the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU). According to reports, twenty senior teachers at QAU have expressed their indignation about being ignored in job promotions. They have written a letter to the vice-chancellor protesting about ‘errant promotions’ with which the university has bypassed many senior teachers. The university issued a seniority list last month that these teachers think needs rectification of errors. The teachers are demanding that the VC should present a rectified list in the syndicate meeting, as the existing list failed to include the experience of several teachers for approval by the syndicate.
Lastly, there are students of O/A levels who are worried about their international board exams. The syllabus of a majority of courses has not been completed, and students are also suffering from anxiety and depression because of the pandemic. Last year, O/A Levels students had faced a lot of psychological pressure when the board gave them inappropriate marks with much lower grades than expected. Though the board later altered the results and gave improved marks, the process created undue tension among parents and students.
All this calls for a fundamental rethink on the part of the authorities about the education problems in the country. First, the teachers who have been working for many years now have a right to get letters of regularization, and more than that they have the right to protest without being manhandled by the police. Second, universities should have a better mechanism to determine promotions so that no teacher suffers from any injustices. And, finally, as the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is raging, we should have better methods of assessing students’ performance, and more flexible assignment-based exams will be appropriate and useful.