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As many as 24,000 non-formal schools will be opened in all parts of the country

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Aug 07 - 13, 2000

The Federal Ministry of Education has revised its 3-year action plan to reform and improve the country's education system, to encourage but regularise the education institutions in the private sector and raise the literacy rate from present 47 to 60 per cent at a cost of Rs.18 billion. The revised draft will soon be presented to the federal cabinet for approval.

It may be mentioned here that on July 10, the Ministry had given a detailed briefing to Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf on restructuring of the education system and he had asked for revising the same. The Chief Executive has directed for an 'implementable strategy' to raise the standard of literacy in line with the modern day requirements.

The Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf outlined four parametres to improve the country's educational system viz, qualitative education, raise in literacy ratio, bringing religious nurseries into the mainstream and stress on vocational education and trainings. Inaugurating a two-day seminar on 'Education, Dream and Reality' in Islamabad organised jointly by the Ministry of Education and Army Education Directorate, he emphasized that we have to craft our strategy in accordance with the dictates of the environments in Pakistan. Our culture, religion, history have to be crafted within these parameters to build a system projecting Pakistan as a dynamic, progressive and forward looking Islamic State. He stressed that structural changes in the field of education are imperative and called upon the educational experts to formulate policy to harmonise the urban, rural and religious education.

The action plan revised as per guidelines of the Chief Executive aim at human resource development, reforms in the education system, elevation of high schools to intermediate level with the status of secondary institution, the converted schools to be provided with laboratories and libraries and other required equipments, thereby eliminating the intermediate level.

As many as 24,000 non-formal schools will also be opened in all parts of the country. Apart from widening the sphere and scope of education this will create a lot of many job opportunities. The new non-formal institutions, according to the desire of Chief Executive, will be job and area-oriented.

In order to ensure smooth execution of the action plan, the ministry had formed four committees namely on literacy and basic education, technical education, higher education and teachers education. The plan lays special emphasis on need to offer incentives to the private sector to come forward and play its due role in promotion of formal and informal education in every nook and corner of Pakistan, an official of the Ministry of Education observed.

Participating in T.V. programme of educational reforms undertaken by the present government the Federal Minister for Education Mrs Zubaida Jalal took pains to clarify that the present government action plan to improve the quality of education should not be interpreted as a new education policy. It is a crash programme under the same policy with the same basic objectives with slight modifications here and there.

The Minister said that the first inter ministerial meeting was held in December last and an Advisory Board comprising experts from public and private sector was constituted in February this year. After going through a comprehensive process this Board suggested a three years plan of action to achieve certain objective by the year 2003. The plan is at the stages of final approval now, she added.

She said some areas of priority identified in this plan include improving basic education and literacy, ensuring females access to education, improving standard of education, imparting vocational and technical training, redefinition of the role of ministry itself vis-a-vis devolution of powers to grass root level and maintaining good governance. She said the vocational and technical training will be introduced as third stream after science and arts from class 8th onwards. The students acquiring such education will not only have job opportunities after having two or four years training but also have the option to further improve their learning.

Zubaida said, the plan also tends to introduce audio and video libraries to supplement the teachers particularly in science subjects. Along with formal education prospects of non-formal education from class one to five have also been touched upon in this plan, keeping in view the particular local environment in various parts of the country.

Like other sectors, education is also in utter quandary due to the successive governments' failure to attune the education system to the nation's socio-economic targets, Not only has the existing education system divided the society into two distinct segments of 'English medium and urdu medium, but has also failed to equip the younger generations with requisite knowledge and skill to help the nations overcome its multifarious problems. It has in fact, contributed towards consolidation of the class system. Despite tall claims by both the political and military dispensations over the past half a century the country is still haunted by the colonial strategy of education.

Immediate attention should be paid to the mushroom growth of schools, colleges and even universities all over the country. It may not be wrong to assume that education in Pakistan has become a flourishing industry. Besides ghost institutions there are mock school and colleges functioning in small houses then there is a large number of private coaching and tuition centres which are minting money, while the academic and instructional programme in most of the government-run institutions has almost collapsed. Quite a good number of teachers who are on roll of government and semi-government educational institutions are reported to have joined private institutions on part-time or full-time basis at the cost of their duty hours in their parent institutions. The tuition fee and other charges of these colleges and universities of some standard functioning in the private sector are so high that those who have to live in their honest income cannot afford. The monthly charges, on an average, of these colleges and universities coaching in BBA, MBA, MSc computer science, IT or medical faculties are above Rs. 10,000 per month. The situation is that the son or daughter of every rich man though he or she may be just average in studies has opportunities to become a doctor, an engineer, an MBA or BBA or a specialist in computer science etc. A host of far more intelligent students, unfortunately, not belonging to prosperous families have now been thrown into an abyss of frustration, dismay and disappointment. Some of them show their anger and reaction by growing violent. Terrorism, serious problem of today is closely related to the frustration of the youth.