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Education and social gap widens

Education from a moral obligation gradually metamorphosed to commercial venture in Pakistan. Today education is considered a highly profitable business attracting high profile business tycoons for investment in this sector. Education, particularly the professional education, has become a commodity on sale, to say the least. These commercialized trends have perished the social values and educational ethics in Pakistan. It promoted class-consciousness setting a rational paradigm for the private investors in education sector making education a profitable business for them. The product came out from these educational cum commercial institution was the rational, materialist class lacking moral attributes. Naturally, they will sell what they bought – education. This state of education is widening the social gap and enhancing the class consciousness in the country.

A common man cannot afford to pay even the fee for a semester being charged by the quality institutions offering professional degrees. In fact, getting a professional degree is becoming not only difficult but impossible for the middle class. It is beyond the reach of the lower middle class and the poor cannot even think of getting a professional degree in the given circumstances.

Friendly and peaceful environment, standard educational facilities, high-tech computing services, institutional infrastructure and the necessary paraphernalia are considered the requisites for establishing a quality professional education institution today. These requisites can be met at high costs in terms of investment capital. These are the tangible elements for a quality educational institution. But there are number of intangible factors, which are even more important for achieving the desiderata vis-à-vis quality education. The intangible factors include discipline, communication skills, professionalism, educational ethics, standard teaching methodology and meritocracy. It is a hard fact that if tangible criteria for the quality education are met only, ignoring the intangible factors, the education becomes a ‘commodity’ on sale. This leads to commercialization of education – greater the investment, higher the price for ‘commodity’.

A cursory look at the campus building complex of a high-profile institution of professional education in private sector reveals a heavy investment in the project. But is the heavy investment can ensure the standard of quality education? Can the facilities and high tech computing services meet the real parameters of quality education? Do the heavy investment capital, liberal environment, standard educational facilities and westernized paradigm of imparting education provide for the yardsticks to judge the standards of education?

Not all, but most of the private educational institutes traumatized the moral sanctity of educational phenomenon commercializing the education for all. Educational standards were raised by charging high fees making the education an expensive commodity. These private institutions fixed the yardstick of high charges as the set parameters of quality education. They developed a symbol of status through offering costly educational packages to aristocratic and rich classes of the society. This promoted class conciseness and deepened sense of deprivation and frustration among the poor and lower sections of society.

Education got commercialized by the passage of time. The businessmen took interest and invested heavily in education sector turning education into a commodity on sale in lieu of high charges in terms of fee. Private schools, colleges and institutions witnessed a mushroom growth all over the country as the major business groups and tycoons made substantial investment in education sector.

On the other hand, the government schools, colleges and universities remained stuck to their obsolete syllabi, old teaching methodology and worn out system of examination to judge the knowledge and ability of the students. Universities in public sectors have so far produced an army of jobless graduates and post graduates, most of them are incapable to compete in practical fields. They have only one distinction of having a bachelor or master degrees in various disciplines to accomplish the formality of required job. Truly speaking, their degrees are worthless in practical scheme of the things.

Education is the main tool to develop human capital. The analysis of investments in health and education is unified in human capital approach, which focuses on the indirect ability of education and health to increase utility by increasing incomes. Investment in human capital formation means investment in education and health sectors. Human development provides a wide range of choices and opportunities to the people for employment, nutrition, education and health care. Sustainable growth and poverty reduction objectives are concomitantly linked to significant investment in human capital.

Pakistan is yet to make significant attainments in the human development index (HDI), which focuses on measurable dimensions of human development such as living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Thus, HDI combines measures of life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy, and income. In the country’s rural areas, the health status is relatively poor. Lack or absence of female health staff including female doctors in rural areas worsen the situation. The government should work out a roadmap for development of human resources in the country.

Technical education and vocational training (TEVT) system in the country suffers from many structural and operational problems, leading to poor education quality, unequal access, limited resources, low efficiency, and weak linkage with the labor market. High dropout rates and a low passing rate for examinations attest to the inefficiency of polytechnic programs. Finding work for graduates also takes a long time, partly because the skills needed for the jobs available are mismatched with the technical education given. Access to quality TEVT programs also remains limited, especially for the rural populations. Rural populations are still deprived of the opportunities and facilities, which are necessary to make development in any field of science and technology. Computer literacy is the high demand of present digital age. The government should take steps to strengthen IT industry in the country.

Performance improvement in the educational arena can yield great potential returns in terms of development in the country. Overall education levels cannot be improved without making a significant advance in the education of girls in the country. The social divide in enrollment along gender lines should be eliminated in the country. The government should create conditions leading to the economic empowerment of women in Pakistan. They should be provided opportunities to play their role at all levels and in all types of development activities. They must have the opportunity and be provided with an environment to develop their talents. The women should get the possibility to enter all types and all levels of education and training.

The government should encourage private sector but put checks on commoditization of education.

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