EDUCATIONAL LOSING LUSTER
AROOJ ASGHAR (email@example.com)
July 07 - 13, 2008
Distinguished educationists and independent analysts have been identifying poor quality of Pakistan's education system since long. For various reasons, education sector is still getting least importance when it comes to the allocation of development expenditures from both the Government of Pakistan (GOP) and its Provincial governments. Situation further aggravate when allocated resources are distributed to districts which in turns cause variations in the literacy levels among various districts countrywide. It is prudently said that there should be a reasonable correlation between economic growth and the development budget of education sector.
CAUSES OF DOWNFALL
Undoubtedly standard of education in Pakistan has been dropped over the period of time despite emergence of a few private institutions. There are various reasons for this deterioration out of which few are as follows, (not in order of importance);
* Since independence, politics and legislation have been dominated by the feudal lords, especially in early years, which inherited colonial thinking of restricting people from getting education. By virtue of their status they were in a policy making position thus in order to further strengthen their authority they deliberately neglected education sector. With the continuous negligence, substantial gap emerged in public and private education thus made Pakistan's education sector miserable.
* Rapid growth in poverty is another reason of illiteracy in Pakistan. Instead of getting education, kids of poor families start supporting their families. The continuous increase in food inflation is further worsening the situation. Despite the fact that today Pakistan's economy is considered the best of all times and has foreign currency reserves of over US$16 billions but how can one forget to mention at the same time that food inflation has also crossed double digit which directly affects whole nation.
* It is a dilemma of our educational system that irrelevant people have been inducted in the education system that either hardly knows anything about system or have no interest at all and are posted to accommodate them or are on deputation. There is no transparent and accountable way of recruiting vice-chancellors and senior administrators of universities. Presently patronage system is in place where unqualified and unsuitable bureaucrats or retired generals are appointed as vice-chancellors.
* The curriculum and related teaching methodology is inappropriate or at least inadequate for the goals set by many disciplines. Most of the teachers in public and private (specifically catering lower middle and poor class) sector institutions don't have trained staff even they hire non-qualified teachers in order to increase either profitability or have lack of funds to survive.
* There are multiple systems working presently in Pakistan, resulting in no synergy but social division and conflicts. For example there are English medium schools, Urdu medium schools, and religious schools. 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 intended to work in clerical and lower level positions. Religious schools bring yet another class that are usually unaware of the world outside their own and, their limited knowledge is creating significant conflicts among various circles these days while they sometimes interpret Islam as per their ideology which is dangerous.
* It is rightly believed that compensation of public sector teachers is significantly less then the teachers of same qualification and experience but working in private sector. Lack of interest in teaching and motivation due to less monetary incentives is one of the underlying causes of poor condition of education system of Pakistan.
* Lack of libraries and lack of interest in research is another reason for poor condition of education sector. There are only a few large libraries but those are full of out dated or worldwide discarded books. In the absence of libraries and research material it is difficult for students and professionals to groom themselves. It wouldn't be wrong to say that more than 95% of teacher especially from public sector never dare to write any book or research paper for any newspaper or magazine. It is interesting to note that in US and European countries, a teacher doesn't get promotion or recognition if he doesn't write any book or research paper.
* Low investment in girls' education also imposes a high cost on society. There are few areas in Pakistan where girls have been prohibited from getting education in the name of Islam without realizing that educated women can participate in the labor force but their children will be better nourished and educated.
Education is the essence of development of any society, without literacy even democracy can't work. Therefore, in order to survive in the competitive world, it is required that highest priority should be given to education by the government. There are various corrective measures that can be taken to improve the quality of education out of which few are as follows, (not in order of importance);
* It is important that identical syllabus should be implemented country wide. Educational reforms can be started from changing the structure and contents of the syllabus, without indulging in any controversies. It's nothing but sheer misfortune that Pakistan got independence in the name of religion and down the road due to self created circumstance; people and government are now been forced to call themselves a moderate (secular) country. It is indeed required that religious topics which are even not fully understood by so called religious scholars themselves should be eliminated like concept of Jihad , treatment with Non-Muslims and few others from the syllabus.
* A uniform system of education should be introduced gradually to eradicate the problems which multiple systems are creating. Important thing which the government should attempt in this regard is to introduce one medium of instruction. While living in the competitive environment, English has got unprecedented importance. There is no harm in putting English as compulsory language for education while keeping Urdu as national language. It is imperative to come out of this debate and stop giving examples of Japan, Germany, France and China. These countries have different means of resources, history and economic environment. It even gets more significance when numerous students want to get higher education abroad and fail only because of lack of competency of English language, this is also true for skilled and semi skilled labor where they don't get jobs worldwide while unsuccessful in communicating their expertise to their job hunters and clients.
* NGO plays an important role in society building and providing quality services to the needy. On one hand these organizations should be involved more aggressively in the process while on the other hand it should be made mandatory for every student of higher class to spend certain period of his/her time in any village or rural areas for spreading awareness about literacy. Though considerable progress has been observed during the past decade in the participation of NGO and private sectors in the field of education, especially primary and university education, but more involvement of NGOs and private organizations would benefit the delivery of educational services.
* In order to improve the quality of education and final products, it should be made mandatory requirement for various master programs that the candidates, after taking their exams, shall spend a specified period of time (certain number of hours) in teaching in assigned institutions. By doing this, they will research and a thinking process will emerge which will ultimately end up in refinement of society and will also positively impact economy.
* There are thousands of madrassas around the country where they are not only giving millions of poor girls and boys' religious education but also providing shelter and food to them. Keeping in view the work they are doing and due to Islamic society, people, in general, donate a lot to these religious institutions. As a matter of fact people trust these institutions blindly and in response to this these institutions must spend hard earned money of people of Pakistan on productive activities instead of using that for the procurement of arms and ammunition. There are a few religious institutions which are involved in spreading militancy but unfortunately those institutions are creating wrong perception about other institutions. Brining such institutions in main steam is indeed one of the biggest challenges Pakistan is facing these days. The sooner it is done the better it is.
* Educational institutions are usually called non-profitable organizations but these days it has become biggest earners with minimum pay back period and maximum IRR. Such attitude of private school owners should be discouraged. A lot many government school buildings can be converted into commercial schools of good level. The government should offer those schools to private sector with the condition that they will not make them profit making organization rather they will operate them on breakeven basis with quality education.
* As it is required under various laws and regulations that any textile or sugar mill has to deposit certain amount in government treasury usually called cess. Likewise it should be made mandatory for each industrial unit of an area above a specified limit to provide area and certain resources for a school within its premises/area. Alternatively, the owner can also be asked to share costs with the government for setting up such school.
* Low public sector investment is another major issue. Although education enjoys highest priority on the social sector agenda, yet funds allocations are relatively modest due to various reasons. In the federal and provincial budgets, public sector allocations to education have been swinging up and down; percentage of GDP was 2.7% in 1995-97, 1.8% in 2001-02, stuck up at around 2% from 2002-2006 and now for the first time its 4%. It is, therefore, recommended that all efforts should be made to enhance the budgetary allocation. In addition, innovative approaches should be designed to generate additional resources for increased funds for the education sector, especially to primary education, adult literacy and early childhood education. Demonstrate a commitment to improving the public school system by raising public expenditure on education with particular emphasis on upgrading public school infrastructure, including water, electricity and other facilities, buildings and boundary walls.
* Efficiency in financial management and revision of outdated procedures should be made. Similar to other social services in the public sector, education, too, suffers from inefficient financial management and outdated procedures which have adversely affected the implementation of education programs and projects. The development projects are prepared by the Ministry / Departments of Education which are approved by the Planning and Development Division / Department but funds are allocated by the Finance Division. It is not unusual to observe that funds particularly for higher cost projects are seldom allocated according to the approved phasing due to thin funding. This is mainly due to low budgetary allocation to education, which entails repeated revision of projects based on escalated costs, hampering their implementation. Such obstacles in management and procedural systems hindering the efficient utilization of allocated resources should be removed through an overhaul of the financial procedures governing release of funds.
Summing up, Pakistan's education system ranks among the world's least effective systems. Pakistan has to realize the importance of literacy and should aggressively spend considerable amount of money on the improvement of this sector so as to meet the EFA goals. Civil society should also play in spreading literacy and realizing people the benefits of education which ranges from development of political culture to personal growth and from improvement in economic conditions to changes in social behaviors. Time has come to take decision whether Pakistan's policy makers are serious about education being something more than merely giving out certificates. It is equally important that new institutions of world class and education city should be established for creating knowledge and helping students to be informed, critical, active citizens.
PAKISTAN'S LIQUID FOREIGN RESERVES POSITION
The total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at $11,284.5 million on 28th June, 2008. The break-up of the foreign reserves position is as under: -
i) Foreign reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan:
ii) Net foreign reserves held by banks (other than SBP):
iii) Total liquid foreign reserves: