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Reforming Our Education System

A new reform drive in the educational sector of Pakistan has been embarked on recently. Media reports suggest that international donors have pledged one billion dollars for development in the educational sector of our country. But there is a serious problem. The problem is not that there was no need for reforms, but these donor countries who are showing concerns and are extending financial loans to NGOs are themselves in serious trouble.

Recently an English language daily published a story that Cambridge International Exam Chief Executive Michael O’Sullivan expressed his concern on Pakistani students achieving higher grades in O & A level exams. He lamented that Pakistani students and their parents are obsessed for higher grades and their teachers also focus on higher grades. They compel the students to spend more time in classroom, which is not an ideal learning experience for students keeping in view their physical and health requirements.

In all fields of education, from primary to higher level, reforms are direly and urgently needed. But the need is probably greatest in primary and secondary education. One problem is that in Pakistan feudal lords have grabbed power in politics and their first aim is to keep the poor on their lands uneducated. If the poor children would get education they would demand better lives and the power of the landlords would evaporate in the thin air. This attitude evinced when former Education Minister of Punjab, Abdul Hameed Dasti, told the cabinet that the government cannot afford the luxury of educating people. This mindset present in the corridors of power.

Colossal amounts of money were misappropriated in the name of ‘Adult Education Program’ in the sixties, and even today, every seventh school in Sindh, reportedly, is a ‘ghost school’. The situation seems to be especially bad in Sindh where Nai Roshni Schools experience failed during Junejo rule, and now not only the number of ghost schools is the highest but the teaching performance in the operating schools is also very disturbing: about 60% of children in class of five cannot even read fluently a story in Urdu or Sindhi.

The situation in Punjab schools is also not encouraging. In the early years of Pakistan, a network of corporation schools existed in every locality catering for classes 1 to 5 against a nominal fee of half a rupee per month. Besides, there were middle and high schools under city district administration where education quality was good. We also had missionary schools for affluent society and a few private schools. Till then, the education was neither commercial nor an industry, which today is, and that is the dilemma of our society and the country. Danish schools, a cherished project of Khadim-e-Aala Punjab, are also infested with separate standards for the rich and the poor. There is an acute dearth of schools and teachers in rural areas. What is holding the present rulers back from pursuing ‘Education for All’ without any duplicity in curricula or different standards? KP government has tried to enforce discipline but private schools have not only opposed this move, they have also taken the matter to court.

Pouring money into the educational sector without analyzing the problems wouldn’t serve the purpose.

For instance, during Musharraf regime, huge money was invested in education sector but little improvement was seen. One major reason for this debacle was that the provincial and federal education departments’ inefficiency and ineptness which is as clear as day in form of open cheating in examination centres and leakage of papers before exam. This is not, at all, possible without the collusion of invigilators with the students. Funds are misappropriated and no heed is paid to monitor the working of schools and that of teachers.

Another problem is the non-availability of teachers committed to their noble profession. Besides reforming teachers’ education, the employment of teachers with a teaching certificate must also be ensured. The recruitment process should also be transparent and meritocracy should rule.

First of all, we need workable professional structures manned by honest and competent people, who devote their lives for imparting education to the students. The Pakistani students who had developed their educational base in their motherland have shown remarkable achievements in every walk of life in West, that is why World Bank & IMF are worried about reconstruction of their education by learning from East.

Pakistan needs to revamp its multi-tier educational system and revert back to its old government-funded school system where children of the rich and the poor may study together to take the future responsibility as leaders of our nation and not look forward to go abroad to work for other nations and countries.

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