SIGNIFICANCE OF BASIC EDUCATION

FOZIA AROOJ (fozia.arooj@hotmail.com)
July 27 - Aug 02, 2009

Education is the first step for any nation towards success. The access to basic education is important at all levels and for all segments of a society. Education is fundamental for development and countries around the world need to embrace this in order to develop. However, the state of education in Pakistan is in shambles. Pakistan has been the second country in the world with the highest number of children who do not go to school as was revealed in UNESCO's education for all global monitoring report 2007.

A report released recently by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) has also highlighted the abysmal condition of education in Pakistan. According to that report about 40% of the country's children of school-going age cannot access education, and the World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness Report ranks Pakistan 117 out of 134 countries in terms of quality primary education, says the Sparc report. It adds that 20% of the country lacks basic educational facilities, and that the Rs6.5bn Public Sector Development Program 2007-08 failed to address this issue.

Education is an extremely important area for a developing country like Pakistan where major challenges include basic literacy as well as production of adequately educated, politically conscious and technically skilled human resource that could contribute to social and economic development of the country. Pakistan is always rated very low in terms of commitment to basic education. The institutions here lack trained teachers and are exorbitantly overworked. In all aspects, there is clearly little quality and state action and commitment in the public education. Among the country wise statistics of out-of school children, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and Nigeria have the largest numbers in the world. Pakistan has the highest share in South Asia where more than eight million of 20 million school-age children (almost 40%) are out of school.

ISSUES

The core issues that are being faced and tackled by the periphery of basic education are given as follows:

1-Educational provision has always been a low priority on any government agenda with a 2.7% of allocation budget in the past which has whittled down to 1.25% of GDP in 2008-09. Unfortunately, this amount cannot provide a state funded education for its ever-growing population of 170 million to date. The absence of political will is reflected in the limited resources allocated to this sector, the inadequacy of facilities

2-A vital dimension of education that characterizes education in Pakistan today is inequality and that has emerged as a tool of oppression. Our education system is blatantly a two-tier one. On one side is the state-of-the-art education for children of the privileged elite. On the other is the decaying system that provides no education at all. It promotes the class divide and perpetuates economic disparity in society.

3- The condition of government schools all over the country and the quality of education being imparted there are going from bad to worse. Thousands of government schools exist as "ghost schools". Private schools always bear the brunt of blames that they are charging sky rocketing fees but the deplorable plight of public sector institutions is actually compelling students as well as parents to send their children to those schools.

4-The funds allocated for the education sector are generally released quite late, which explains their misuse and under-utilization. There should be absolute transparency in the use of funds provided by foreign donors to the government for education sector reforms. Moreover, education funds are more focused on higher education rather than primary and secondary education.

5- Government has a policy of overlooking the need of developing social sciences and humanities at primary level, which are essential to promote human values, critical thinking, peace, and tolerance in the society.

6-No long-term basic education policy is envisaged that can see results 20 years from now -- usually the next government comes up with a "new" policy and discards the old. Constant change of governments has also affected proper implementation of policies resulting in dismal condition of primary education.

7-Our curricula, textbooks, exams and pedagogy are so tailored that a student from a public-sector school can never hope to benefit. Students of the 'five-star' educational institutions get the best books and the best teachers while their examinations are conducted from London/Cambridge.

REMEDIAL MEASURES

In order to improve the plight of primary education certain changes are to be implemented in the system, which are given as follows:

1- There is a dire need to ensure transparency and accountability in the allocation and utilization of funds; as well as with regard to appointments, transfers, and promotions of teachers.

2- Some students cannot afford the school fees for uniforms, books, supplies, and other indirect costs that are hindrances to attending school. This is true for both rural and urban areas. Governments should waive these fees so more people can afford to go to school.

3- Schools must receive an equal distribution of funding regardless of geographic or socioeconomic locations. Poorer people and places should not be treated differently.

4-Teachers across the board must be of a standard that applies to every school in the country. All teachers must be tested for their worthiness to become teachers and then acquire a certification as teachers before they enter the profession.

5- A "nation building" exercise can only be done through an effective and qualitative public school system as is visible in all countries of the world.

6- Building schools is the first step to develop a sound system. Issues such as corporal punishment in schools and the dearth of committed and trained teaching staff must also be addressed.

7- The curricula must be improved to meet internationally competitive standards of education. The texts must be revised and updated, and the focus shifted from rote learning to understanding and analysis.

CONCLUSION

The most backward, underprivileged and impoverished people who are denied their basic rights also happen to be illiterate and uneducated. In fact, education is the only factor that helps a country in raising its standard of human resources, which could lead a country towards a path of success in the future ahead. Therefore, fostering development and reform of the public education system is the only method to pave the way for prosperity, social uplift, stability, and dignity for Pakistan.