ISSUES IN PRIMARY EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN
A practical and methodical education policy should be designed by keeping those on front who have long been ignored in Pakistan: the country's rural and its poor.
Sep 10 - 16, 2007
Primary education means the first five years or grades of education, where the age of the child is between 5 to 9 years. Access to primary education is a fundamental right of every citizen. All citizens need to be literate to function productively and to make their full contribution to the society.
Almost all countries hold the welfare of their citizens as the prime objective for their existence. Given that, education becomes a pre-requisite for developing the full potential of a citizen and it becomes a prime concern for the state. It should be clear that the argument for basic rights does not depend on the question of the ability of the citizen or even of the state to pay for this education. It depends solely on the perception of the welfare of citizens and what is considered to be necessary to ensure this welfare.
Furthermore, at a current institutional level the Constitution of Pakistan places the responsibility for basic education unambiguously on the State. This is reflected in the principles of policy in Article 37, which states:
"The State shall:
1) Promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of backward classes or areas.
2) Remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period."
The second principle makes it clear that the Constitution places responsibility for the provision of free and compulsory primary and secondary education on the government. It should also be noted that the provision holds for all citizens of Pakistan, irrespective of race, colour, ethnicity, religion and gender. Furthermore, the first point emphasizes the increased responsibility of the state in offering education to backward classes or areas of Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the definition of literate is structured at the time of Population Census. In the 1998 Population Census, a literate person has been defined as "One who can read newspaper and write a simple letter in any language." As per PSLM Survey 2004-05, the literacy rate of population 10 years and above was 53% showing an annual growth ratio of 1.5% since 1998 Census. As such the estimated Literacy Rate comes to 56% in 2007.
Developing country like Pakistan is forced to spend a large share of its budget to defense due to hostile neighbors. This results in putting health, education and social development projects on least priority and slashing a just percentage from annual budget. Ministry of Education's total budget for the year 2005-06 and budget allocation for the current financial year 2006-07 are as under:
The total public sector spending on education (by federal, provincial and district government) comes to 12% of federal budget 2005-06 whereas the total public spending on education (by federal, provincial and district government) comes to 2.21% of GDP during the year 2005-06. As per information gathered under National education Census 2005, out of total 76,047 private institutions, 73,018 institutions reported their expenditure for the year 2004-05, which comes to Rs. 35,914 million.
In the early 1970s, all of Pakistan's educational institutions were nationalized under the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was committed to the idea of Islamic Socialism.
In 1979 a government commission reviewed the consequences of nationalization and concluded that in view of the poor participation rates at all levels of education, the public sector could no longer be the country's sole provider of education. By the mid-1980s, private educational institutions were allowed to operate on the condition that they comply with government-recognized standards.
There are many systems working here, resulting in not synergy but social division and conflict. For example we have English medium schools, Urdu medium schools, and religious Madrassas. Students coming out of English medium schools, especially good private sector schools, have little or no awareness of their religion and culture whereas those passing out from Urdu medium schools are usually destined to work in clerical and lower level positions. Religious Madrassas churn out yet another class that are usually unaware of the world outside their own and, with their little or no training in modern disciplines, are usually ill-equipped to interact meaningfully with the larger society. Due to Global "War on Terror", the attention of the world's media has been focused on these Madarassas operating in Pakistan which are mainly attended by children living in rural areas. But it is believed that enrollment in these Madarassas is relatively low, with less than 1 percent of all students enrolled in a school attending madrassas. These Madarassas are accused to spread and promote fundamentalism but in actual these are a effective source of basic education for the poor and lower income class of our society. This is not surprising, considering that in many, many disadvantaged areas of Pakistan, particularly the rural parts, these Madarassas are not an alternative, but rather the only option children have to gain basic education and literacy skills.
The quality of education in public schools, for reasons stated above, is quite poor. Even government conducted surveys7 show that the quality of education imparted in public schools is poorer in comparison to NGO run schools and private schools. The quality is also poorer in rural areas compared to urban areas. Public sector students perform poorly in standardized tests; they perform poorly even in state conducted examinations, and they do very poorly in mathematics and English language. The elite private schools in urban areas set the standards in this regard, but even the non-elite private schools are, on the average, better than public schools.
A review of the physical conditions of public schools shows that 16 percent of them are without a building, 55 percent without a boundary wall, 79 percent without electricity, 44 percent without water and 60 percent without a latrine.
Source: School Education Statistics (1992-93 to 2000-01), Academy of Educational Planning and Management
A review of the physical conditions of public schools shows that 16 percent of them are without a building, 55 percent without a boundary wall, 79 percent without electricity, 44 percent without water and 60 percent without a latrine. Contrary to this there is also the phenomenon of ghost schools in Pakistan. These are schools that exist only on paper. Money may have been released for their construction and some teachers may be drawing salaries against notified posts, but the school may actually not exist on the ground. Officials may have pocketed the money released for construction, and individuals may be getting a regular payment as salaries of staff.
In short the whole education system is surrounded in issues these issues are more than discussed above. Authorities should declare a national educational emergency and involve the whole nation, in waging a war against illiteracy. A sincere and methodical policy is needed to tackle the issues regarding primary education. Difference in quality of education should be removed and a standard should be designed based on other countries successful experiences. But a careful analysis is required in designing such standards and curriculums that they do not clash with our religious, ethical and cultural values.
Females are the half of our population so a strong emphasis should be on females education and development. Education is one of the most powerful tools for poverty alleviation. It provides citizens with the ability to enter the productive sectors of society. Quality of teachers is known to everyone which is due to lack of teachers training opportunities and teacher education standards. In Pakistan, where the primary education system ranks among the world's least effective, improving teachers education should be on top priority. Standardisation of curricula and licensing and certification of teachers to improve standards should be introduced, as is done in the USA.
In rural areas, Feudals are the major hurdle between the common man and education. Therefore, it must be ensured that people face no resistance from the feudals in educating their children.
In last but not the least, I would reiterate that sincere thought is mandatory before designing any educational policy and it must lead to modernization not westernization. We have very strong religious and cultural values so we should be proud of them and take them as a strong tool to head toward Modernization.
Gulzar H. Shah, Faisal Bari and Nadia Ejaz, 2005, "The Role of NGOs in Basic and Primary Education in Pakistan ,Lahore (Pakistan): Lahore University of Management Sciences Asif Iftikhar, "Recommendations for improving education in Pakistan"
Tariq Durrani is a marketer by profession and the consultant on marketing and branding in Chevrolet-Nexus Automotive.