EDUCATION POLICY 2009
REDUCING PUBLIC-PRIVATE SCHOOLING DISPARITIES?
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nov 09 - 15, 2009
Recently government of Pakistan has announced national education policy 2009 for guiding education development in the country. The policy recommends actions to improve the education sector in the country. It is not the first time weaknesses in the current education system are highlighted and policy actions known as education interventions prescribed. This exercise has been carrying forward since early years of Pakistan but sadly to no avail.
In addition, ministry of education has come up yet another education policy despite having recognised that core of problem lies in the implementation.
Although this government has not stopped application of previous policy actions, it has taken yet another menial exercise to introduce educational interventions, even without outlining the snags in implementation. This may prove really an intervention in the ongoing implementation of reforms.
While the debate is still going on the contents of curricula specifically in primary education-National Consultative Council for Development of Curriculum constituted last year for this purpose is yet to revise curricula-it seems that policy actions may have missed an essential ingredient of quality education.
Education policy-2009 marks the difference vis-‡-vis previous education policies by suggesting ways of making primary and pre-primary learning at par with excellence. The core of policy that is eliminating of educational disparities could be a source of change if actions in this regard are more pronounced and taken without political, religious, social, and economical compromises.
Conceding that very few people from public sector education could move the ladder of socio-economic mobility and warning that further exclusion of masses could lead to social upheaval, the policy encourages parallel systems to dovetail with national education system in terms of curricula, educational standards, costs and conditions, and learning environment.
Common curricula framework will be designed for public and private schools, and madrassahs, according to the document. Nonetheless, given the segregated functions of private sector and Deeni Madrassahs that are normally extremely incongruous to mainstream public sector, this blend may prove futile.
Possible imitation instead of mere appreciation of national education system models of developed countries would be fruitful. The performance of private sector education system in Pakistan is better than that of public sector. However, since public sector accounts for 87 percent of the total enrolments in primary schools this has not resulted in the efficiency of overall national system.
The policy recommends allocation of 3 percent of provincial budget for non-formal and literacy basic education. This system is alternative to secondary and high school education and caters to labour market, besides it makes literate those children who could not prefer study to works.
Given the abysmal secondary to primary ratio of 1:6 or 1:13, the allocation albeit insufficient is good. Transition in population age structure-dependent population below 15 and above 65 is decreasing and working population increasing-requires investments in skill developments of labours. The document cited UN population projection, which projected fall in dependent population to 38.3 percent and rise in working age population to 61.7 percent by 2015.
Similarly, performance enhancement of public education is not possible without increase in gross expenditures on primary education in particular. Presently, expenses of both public and private sectors hover around three to 3.2 percent of GDP-largely by public sector (2.7%).
Allocation for primary education is not a separate subject in the policy, which does not go side by side to achieve education for all goals including early childhood education (ECE) or pre-primary education. Private sector still accounts for 42 percent of enrolment in ECE. That means a large population of children of three to 5 age group remains outside the quality early childhood learning.
Some private sector schools and madrassahs do not meet the basic criteria of education dispensation. Many private schools charge high fees while the curricula in madrassahs are insular. According to the World Bank, each year of schooling adds 0.58 percent to the rate of economic growth. This shows the importance of schooling.
Government is determined to extend outreach of primary education to all children especially marginalized section of the society and it has to meet the goal of universal education for all commitment for which it has started to spell out its inability.
For reducing dropout rate in schools, it needs to increase funds for attracting poverty-hit children. Establishment of one residential school (Apna-Ghar) in each province, recommended by the policy, will be overshadowed by the exigencies of free schooling to abridge rural-urban divide.
Including English as a subject from Class 1 onward would be ineffective as far as the goal of gaining global competitiveness is concerned.
Urdu is predominant medium of instruction in educational institutions. In most of the private schools, English is taught as a subject and too it is a medium of instruction making products of such schools different from those of public schools and their comprehension of English is relatively original. Logically, when a language is treated as a language as it is happened in various non-English speaking countries, the purpose of teaching becomes to make students familiar with a language. In Germany and France, for instance, teaching English is localized so as to make students comfortable with speaking, reading, and writing. Non-native language is better a subject in higher learning.
It is true that cultural values in Pakistan are influenced by tenets of Islam. And, therefore, the policy envisages educational reforms in accordance with the core values of religion and faith. Since education should also be a reflection of economic realities, technological developments, and globalization characterized by pluralism, it would be difficult to strike balance religious and moral values under proposed educational interventions that seek development of children by teaching them Quranic injunctions without their spirits.
With this misdirected overstress, what kind of global competitiveness can be grabbed? The objective of national education policy is also to provide minorities with adequate facilities for their cultural and religious developments. Teaching of Islamiyaat as a compulsory subject from class 1 to XII is one of the policy actions while provision shall be made for teaching ethics/moral education to non-Muslim children. Is it not in contradiction of Article 38 (d) of the Constitution that states clearly that education shall imbibe moral values in students irrespective of cast, creed, gender, or race?
The predicament seems to rule the roost as it is yet to be decided that how and what religious and moral values should be taught. Practically, development of children should be broad-based.
Success of a policy is closely linked to other policies. For example, free early childhood education will not be possible nationwide until all provinces allocate resources out of the social welfare budget to this sub-sector. In Pakistan, where there is a adverse scarcity of coordination among different federal, provincial, and other entities and where scattered division of authority to perform single task exists e.g. in Sindh both local bodies and provincial government manage affairs of primary schools-even the fragmentation is at federal-provincial levels-the cohesion will not be less than an uphill task. The problem does not lie in decentralization but ambiguity in it.
At the time of budgeting jurisdictional conflict arises commonly. In such a situation, what the policy notes, 'same responsibility could fall between the stools of different levels of government'. Apart from this, cohesion is difficult in the wake of growing private participation in educational dispensation, which would somehow maintain its edge over public sector by provision of quality education. To achieve goal of uniformity would require resources investment (infrastructure, teachers, finances, etc.) in public sector-2.7 percent of GDP will not likely to atone with this.
MICROSOFT INKS MOU WITH PUNJAB GOVT. FOR TECH-BASED EDUCATION
The Education Department, Government of Punjab, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft Pakistan under the company's "Partners in Learning" global program. This collaboration aims to provide schools, governments and partners with resources, training, expertise and technology blueprints that will help create institutions to better prepare students for life and work in the 21st century. Both parties will work cooperatively to participate in a four-year program from 2009 till 2013.
The program recognizes the value of providing technology to schools and seeks to jointly provide access to and improve use of information and communication technology (ICT) for the support of teaching and learning.
It was decided under the MoU that Microsoft's and the Education Department's associates will provide a joint report to Government of Punjab and Microsoft every 90 days. The report will provide an assessment of the purpose, progress and impact of 'Partners in learning program' in Punjab, Pakistan.
Addressing the MoU signing ceremony, the Chief Minister said, "This joint alliance between the Punjab Information Technology Board and Microsoft would strengthen the ongoing education sector reforms programme and also create job opportunities for IT experts."
"No nation could progress without enhancing its IT skills and this reform initiative taken by the Punjab Government in collaboration with Microsoft will put the region on the world IT map and make it a hub of education and information technology," he added.
Michael Robinson, GM Public Sector, Microsoft MEA, flew down to Pakistan to personally thank the Chief Minster and Government of Punjab to select Microsoft as their partner in this massive reform program. Michael articulated that, "Microsoft has always believed that investing in education is the best way to help young people achieve their potential. We are hand in hand in this program with the Education Departments Government of Punjab, to ensure that students receive practical education of information technology that can help them get jobs in the market."
According to the MoU, Microsoft will provide four weeks of internship to 4 students suggested by the Government of Punjab every year through Microsoft's certified partners in Pakistan.
Sayed Hashish, Director Public Sector, Microsoft North Africa, East Med and Pakistan, stated that, "Over the past few years, technology has become a need in every field. Microsoft, realizing the challenges that institutions in Pakistan face to implement a quality technology program, came up with a very unique plan. We believe that importance of computer literacy cannot be overstated as technology continues to accelerate globally. Hence, this partnership between the Government of Punjab and Microsoft is a worthwhile approach and will help the education system here in the long run."
Kamal Ahmed, Country General Manager, Microsoft Pakistan, while giving his views regarding the partnership remarked that, "We are thrilled to collaborate with the Punjab Government on the project that will build a knowledge economy for Pakistan. We have always believed that by working with Government to create relevant training opportunities and innovating tools for people can help foster social and economic opportunities that change people's lives and transform communities."
He further added that, "Microsoft aspires to introduce education related solutions which will enable the community of students and educators to realize their potential through the power of technology and to remove the barriers in the effective use of technology".
Through its unlimited potential commitment, Microsoft is working with governments, intergovernmental organizations, non governmental organizations and industry partners in order to meet its first major milestone by 2015, that is, to reach the next 1 billion people who have not yet realized the benefits of technology.
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