Mar 23 - 29, 2009

Fragmentation of society is often discussed and termed a major threat n Pakistan. Some efforts have also been made to find out the reasons for this fragmentation. However, hardly any effort is being made to remove the main cause unrealistic and unproductive education being imparted from primary to highest level. The result is every year thousands of graduates are produced, who only added to the list of unemployed and 'empty minds become devil's workshop'. This leads to further fragmentation in the name of religion, language, regions and even cast and creed. In addition, the result is defeat of the very purpose of creation of Pakistan based on 'two nation doctrine', the worst being loss of one province and creation of Bangladesh.

At the time of independence, Pakistan inherited an education system serving the colonial objectives. Instead of developing an education system capable of inculcating the national spirit, the supporters of colonial era widen the gap between rulers and being ruled. A separate syllabus is being followed to educate children of elites and even an alien medium of instruction is followed to ensure that class distinction is maintained.

To begin with, education has always remained lowest on the priority list and the budget allocation has always been around 2.5% of the total annual expenditure. The successive governments, irrespective of being headed by dictators or elected representatives, have been spending minuscule amount and the results is if there are buildings these are often devoid of teachers and furniture and there are thousands of children being taught at 'open air schools' - no building and no furniture.

It is necessary to point out that in 2005 earthquake the largest number of buildings destroyed/damaged were schools and the highest number of dyeing under debris were the young students. This hints towards the poor quality of construction of school buildings. Forget about pathetic condition of school buildings in remote or rural areas, one could find hundred of building housing schools, which are not fit for occupation and should be demolished immediately because they fall under the category of dangerous buildings.

Pakistan follows three tier system primary, secondary, and higher education. While, the government claims that it is responsible for imparting primary education 'free of cost' the number of existing schools just cannot admit all school-going children. The result is proliferation of private schools, most of them minting money rather than bothering about the quality of education.

In Karachi, one could identify many school buildings, which have been constructed on plots demarked 'amenity plots' but they run 'marriage halls' under the disguise of school. The rental income gives tons to money to the owners of such marriage halls but parents and teachers are being fleeced. During last couple of years, private schools have increased fees up to 50%. On top of this, they demand the parents to pay fees of summer vacation in advance and if not paid in time, result of the student is withheld until clearing of the dues.

To facilitate grooming of two separate classes, government, and private schools are allowed to follow different curriculum, set of textbooks and medium of instruction. In some of the rural areas education is imparted in regional languages, which is often considered good but also results in wide gap when such students enter into secondary and higher education. Most of the books taught at engineer, medical, business schools are in English, and fist the student has to learn and excel in an alien language to understand these books and then write replies to the questions asked in the examination.

While it is encouraging to note that a fourth class student is being taught Pakistan economy and even banking. It is also astonishing that seven class students are taught dramas written by Shakespeare but hardly any thing is taught about contemporary poets i.e. Faiz and Faraz. Poetries of some of the unknown poets have been added in the syllabus, apparently to patronize them.

Lately, there has also been a discussion going on about the curriculum being followed at engineering, medical and business schools. It is regrettable that engineering and medical colleagues have become strongholds of political parties, resulting in interruptions is classes. Although, business schools remain immune to politics, they suffer from their own peculiar problems.

The basis purpose of education is to let the people do things in a better way, be it interpersonal relationship or doings sales/accounting job, running a manufacturing units or delivering financial services. It is responsibility of the educational institutions to produce 'good human beings' rather than class conscious groups.

Whether any one acknowledges it or not, most of Pakistanis somehow want to be identified based on region, language, religion, and the fragmentation are going on. Once people divide themselves into groups their ideals, objectives, missions and behaviors often leads to fatal clashes. In an attempt to gain supremacy on each other, they also resort to use of weapons and torture. The result is widening of breach and frustration. Mounting frustration ignites them on the smallest pretext.

It is not a ritual but a senior request that all the stakeholders should join hands before it becomes too late. The key stakeholders are public representatives, parents, academicians, and business community. For ensuring sustainable democracy in this country, recognizing importance of adult franchise and its respect is necessary. A nation has to be built from these fragmented groups by inculcating coherence in thinking, identifying objectives, formulating policies to achieve these objectives.

Neither democracy nor economic growth can be achieved without the national spirit, which can only be achieved by introducing a productive and meaningful educational system. Declaring education free does not mean students paying no fees and teachers getting no remuneration.

The importance of education can only be emphasized by following merit in every walk of like. Education does not mean communicating in an alien language but observing benchmarks of excellence, be it talking to each other on a street or protecting the weaker ones, who cannot fight for their rights.