Aug 17 - 23, 2009

It is often said that after a lapse of six decades most of the people have lost the spirit of 'Pakistan First'. Now people try to achieve their personal objectives and hardly bother about national objectives. Some of the critics term fragmentation of the society a major threat to the existence of Pakistan.

Hardly any effort is made to remove the main cause of this fragmentation that is an unrealistic and unproductive education system.

Every year thousands of degrees are awarded and percentage of unemployment is on the rise. Most of these youngsters fail getting a decent job and 'empty minds become devil's workshop'. The resulting frustration causes further fragmentation in the name of religion, language, cast, and creed. The young generation has started questioning the very purpose of creation of Pakistan. They also questioned 'two-nation theory' after the 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 widened the gap between rulers and ruled. A separate syllabus is followed to educate children of elites and even an alien medium of instruction is followed to ensure that class distinction is maintained.

Since independence, education has remained lowest on the priority list and the budget allocation has always been less than 3% of the total annual expenditure. The successive governments, irrespective of being headed by dictators or elected representatives, have been spending minuscule amount on education. The result is school buildings are often devoid of teachers and furniture. Similarly, thousands of children are taught at 'open air schools' - no building and no furniture.

It is worth recalling that in 2005 earthquake the largest number of buildings destroyed/damaged were schools and the highest number of casualties was of students who died under rubble. 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 in urban areas, 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. Though the government claims that it is responsible for imparting primary education 'free of cost' the number of existing schools just cannot take in all school going children. The result is proliferation of private schools, most of them are minting money rather than imparting education.

In Karachi, one could identify many school buildings, which have been constructed on amenity plots but these are effectively 'marriage halls' being run under the disguise of schools. The rental income gives tons of money to the owners of these marriage halls but parents and teachers are fleeced. During last couple of years, private schools have increased fees up to 50%. 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 clearance of dues.

To facilitate grooming of two separate classes, government and private schools are allowed to follow different curricula, set of text books 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, and business schools are in English and thus 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 taught Pakistan's 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 syllabi, apparently to patronize them.

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

The basic purpose of education is to enable people do things in a better manner, be it interpersonal relationship or doings sales/accounting job, running a manufacturing unit or delivering financial services. It is the 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 on the basis of region, language, and religion, and the fragmentation are going on. Once people divide themselves into groups their ideals, objectives, missions and behaviors often lead to fatal clashes. In an attempt to gain supremacy on each other, they also resort to torture and brutality. The result is widening of indecency and frustration. Mounting frustration ignites them on the smallest pretext.

It is not a ritual but senior requests that all the stakeholders should join hands before it is 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 national objectives, and 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 pay no fees and teachers get 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. Education enable us to meet benchmark of excellence be it talking to each other on a street or protecting the weaker ones, who cannot fight for their rights.