The global community has failed dismally in meeting the challenge of providing all children with a quality education. This failure is tragically apparent in Pakistan, world’s sixth most populous country. With one of the lowest education budgets in the world, development of education sector in Pakistan faces serious impediments. Pakistan needs to break out of it’s complacency with poor education and move toward a system of principled equity and quality matched by regular assessments.
In Pakistan, more than five million children are not in school and literacy levels are the third worst in the world. The schools that do exist, vary greatly in quality, with over 7,000 ghost schools where teachers who’ve left have not been replaced. Regarding out-of-school children, a report entitled “25 Million Broken Promises,” prepared by Alif Ailaan, says:
“Our analysis reveals that 25.02 million Pakistani children between the ages of 5 and 16 are deprived of their right to an education. Among children of primary-school-going age, almost one in every five is not in school and this proportion increases at higher levels of education. By region, the province of Balochistan is home to the highest proportion of out-of-school children (OOSC), followed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In terms of overall distribution, meanwhile, more than half of the total number of OOSC are in Punjab.”
With the Peshawar school attack still fresh in memory, safety in schools is at the forefront of many Pakistani parents’ minds, but discussions also need to be had about teacher recruitment, improving sanitation facilities and the type of curriculum to offer. Solutions to correcting the gender imbalance in classrooms must also be found when currently three million girls make up two-thirds of the country’s out-of-school children.
Current development targets are focused on access, rather than quality.
But how can we improve quality, while still ensuring wider access? What are the obstacles to education in rural and urban areas? And when Pakistan’s education budget is one of the lowest in the world, what’s the greatest need — skills training or academia? Where resources should be channelled? Here are the answers:
1. Identify Economic Reasons
The biggest factor is economic constraints, and the fact that kids often need to choose between work and school. In an ideal world, we would be able to demonstrate the link between schools and future earnings. We need to get better at promoting the value of education to parents and children.
2. Set Standards
What makes a primary or a secondary school? Currently, you see a school under a tree with two teachers in one place but a primary school with a huge building and many teachers in another place — the same is the case for curriculum, teachers’ qualifications and examinations. Government, community and private schools should have to adhere to the same basic principles.
3. Provide Transport
Lack of safe transportation is a major factor in teacher absenteeism and fatigue. It also affects children’s attendance. School van transport is a valuable perk for teachers.
4. Mobilise Parents
In Pakistan, parents are the biggest impediment to the education of girls. More than half of girls who are out of school lack either parental consent or ability to pay school fees. There is a need to advocate more for parents to get involved with community schools — whether they are on the management committee, or helping with the building, financing or security at their children’s school.
5. Hold Politicians to Account
Central and provincial governments have good intentions but none’s political stakes are invested in delivering that “better” set of outcomes, so they leave it to donors and NGOs. Until we can get Pakistani leaders to view a dysfunctional education regime as a political liability, we will keep grasping at non-solutions.
6. Private Sector Scholarships
The government could provide private schools with attractive packages such as cheaper utility bills in return for them making at least 10% of their places available for free to the poor students. This could be especially effective in areas government schools have failed to reach.
7. Scrap Teaching in English
We focus on English too much which is why we have ended up with so much rote learning. Many teachers are trying to teach in a language they are not even fully competent in. Meanwhile, children who are confident in their own language are condemned as dumb if they can’t pick up English.
8. Listen to Teachers
What do they need to be more effective? What needs to change for them to increase motivation and spend more time in the classroom? This feedback is not adequately collected or used at the moment.
9. Offer Stipends to Girls
It’s a slightly controversial method but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, providing stipends to girls at risk increased girls’ attendance. Of course setting the amount for a stipend is very tricky to make sure it is not too expensive to do at scale.
10. Make Provisions for Special Children
Special Education is a field of studies specially designed to meet the educational requirements of the disabled children especially, hearing impaired, visually impaired, mentally retarded and physically disabled. But, we always neglect these children and their education in our society. This mindset should change. The government’s failure to cater to children with special needs is a demonstration of the inadequacy of both the hardware of Pakistan’s education system.
11. Collect Wider Data
Most government data are focused on school building contracts and teachers’ salaries, rather than on what the children are learning. It is better to run community focus groups routinely and to have more nimble programmes that allow for mid-course correction?
12. Incentivise Teachers
Teachers should be encouraged with salary incentives to take higher qualifications and to get a master’s degree. Additionally, annual professional development workshops and in-service training should also be provided. Higher competency should be rewarded.
13. Take Sanitation Seriously
Cleaning staff, who maintain toilets during school hours, help with hygiene of young kids before they go to class as many children are from homes that do not have running water. Toilets, sanitation and privacy are not a trivial requirement.
14. Adopt New Techniques
Where schools are frequently closed due to violence, one possibility is home schooling.
Courtesy: The Guardian