UPLIFTING PRIMARY EDUCATION SECTOR

AYESHA ALI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr
19 - 25, 2010

The significance of education and schools in the present times cannot be underestimated. The impact of this is evident in the development of personality, and one's social and national life.

In fact, keeping in consideration the socioeconomic conditions of the country the concept of education takes a supreme position if progress is to be achieved.

According to the National Education Census, which was carried out with a sum of Rs185 million as an aid from the United Nations Development Program, there are 247,000 schools in the country. And it is estimated that as many as 70,000 schools in the country are without the basic facilities of proper classrooms, water, electricity, lavatories, audio-visual aids, laboratories, libraries, and boundary walls.

There are innumerable schools in the country which are non-functional due to multi-faceted reasons. The major causes are the non-availability of the teachers, students, or the school building. But there are several other problems as well which include the lack of financial and administrative resources and the shortage of lavatories, audio-visual aids, and the libraries etc. Punjab education foundation intends to initiate the plan to take over the non-functional schools of the provincial government. According to the estimate there are 64000 schools in Punjab out of which 1006 are non-functional. The reason of their non-functionality could be the lack of teachers, students or the building. Almost 685 schools out of 1006 have buildings but still are not working.

An interesting fact is that whereas there are 192 boys' schools, there are 493 girls' schools which are non-functional. Punjab education foundation has recently been actively involved to share the burden of the provincial government to explore the possibilities for public private partnership in order to achieve the target.

This step is going to be the life line for the schools in Mandi Bahauddin, Layyah, Lodhran, DGK, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Mianwali, Multan, Nankana Sahib, Narowal, Okara, Pakpattan, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Toba Tek Singh, and Vehari And the main purpose of the project is to uplift the standard of infrastructure, development, repair and maintenance, teaching and non teaching staff's recruitment, salaries and training, students enrolment, presence and retention, school management committees' constitution and their activation, monitoring and evaluation mechanism and the roles and the responsibilities of PEF and NGOs may be defined accordingly. The attempt has so far good intentions in its root provided the Public Private Partnership for providing quality education at affordable price is implemented strictly and honestly. Without which any such project only becomes the means of self aggrandizement, politics, corruption and inefficiency.

The whole project becomes very significant when the question of legality of the schools' adoption arises whether the schools under consideration will be the property of the government of the Punjab or will be owned by the PEF. This is a very crucial factor. Could the government property be easily overtaken by any autonomous body or any such NGOs following their own agendas, be it local or foreign? The question of the needed funds, their accumulation and proper use, and its regulation is a significant aspect. Besides, it has to be kept in mind that all these finances must be closely monitored to avoid any malpractices. The teaching and non-teaching staff recruitment and salary will also be redefined. The concerns of the government teachers must be taken into consideration, their job tenure and the salary are well secured in government structure. The job threat on one hand may inculcate efficiency but on the other may become a source of exploitation at the hand of the new masters who may bring their favorites. Similarly, the government scales may not be implemented and like other middle or lower class private schools they may have to put in much effort for much lesser gain.

Now the NGOs are required to come up with suitable models which are practical, can be implemented successfully and must have relevance to their native district. Nonetheless, the system to evaluate such models should consist of those who are expert in school establishment or management, and the respective districts' socio-economic environment. The Budget of selected schools would be transferred to PEF in order to make schools functional and a framework will be developed to utilize the budget for achieving the target leading to the regularization of the school system on sound basis. This will help solving the problems of financial or administrative nature lingering on for the last so many years. The technical and administrative issues could be far better dealt with by a foundation already working in this field for a long time.

Another important feature is that this exercise must provide vocational development of teachers and leave a relevant and formative impact of teachers' professional skills, knowledge and abilities on the students' development as well as on the realization of teachers' potentials in their professional engagement. Teaching profession must be reorganized to deliver specific educational services. Considering these characteristics, the teachers' vocational/professional development is the sequence of carefully chosen activities leading to the increase of the teacher's professionalism in educational/ teaching interaction.

According to the conventional approach, it is important and sufficient, that the teacher knows the contents and the structure of the scientific achievements from which the subject contents are derived in order to be qualified to work in a school and to educate the learners/ students. This project carries a chance to modify the teacher training according to the confirmed empirical results and the theories of professional development. The social-interaction characteristics of the instructional process determine the teachers' professional competences. The aim of the Punjab Education Foundation's latest program must be the teacher's professional improvement meaning thereby, the development of three fundamental professional competencies: (1) educational competencies, (2) program (content) competencies and (3) communication competencies.

Punjab Education Foundation has to realize that teachers' professional action is the component of the socio-interactive procedures of the educational procedure. The foundation should work for making the educational system an interactive category. The conditions of effective social interaction and effective learning by the students are at the same time the conditions of the effective teaching process. The foundation and the NGOs together have to focus on the communication principles, effective teaching and learning techniques, provision of computer labs, self-esteem, team work, continual learning, field study, development of creative thinking, analytical skills and innovative approach.

NGOs suggested that instead of primary, schools' level should be elementary, as there is more dropout after primary level. NGOs and PEF should first acquaint themselves of the needs and demands of the particular area and make a research of the causes of the high dropout rate. Schools when identified in each of the vicinity on this pattern would help to deliver results as per needs of that vicinity. To make schools functional and to attain quality can only be ascertained when the student enrollment rate is aggressively enhanced. It also takes into view the removal of the social, financial, and personal obstacles so that the children participate in educational field to the fullest. The decision, that a draft framework regarding the intervention would be circulated to all the concerned parties in order to get their feedback on the proposed framework suggests the transparency of the process.

Punjab Education Foundation is taking over 1006 Non-Functional schools of the government of Punjab out of which 107 schools would be taken initially for phase one of the project which is an encouraging step and would give time to analyze the consequences and the strengths and weaknesses of the project. The NGOs/ entrepreneurs are invited to join the partnership in order to materialize the challenging task. Though, it is needed to entertain only sincere and public spirited NGOs.

The participators in the meeting were Adult Basic Education Society, Idara-Taleem-o-Aagahi, Care Foundation, Development in Literacy, Kashmir Education Foundation, Rural Education and Development Foundation and Children's Global Network, Pakistan. This places a high responsibility on the shoulders of agencies working for the downtrodden.

Under this program, free of cost text books would also be provided and the needy students who have to leave in the middle of the educational career due to financial worries would at least have the tension of arranging the books released. Under the program, Raja Anwar guaranteed Rs350 per student for elementary classes and Rs400 per student for secondary classes. The children would not be deprived of the basic right to education as the government is ensuring that every child receives quality education without discrimination. The government is striving hard to promote education at every cost as it is the fundamental right of every child.

It is hoped that the electricity, drinking water, toilets, library, playground, computer lab, first aid kit, transport facility for teachers, transport facility for students, furniture for students, furniture for teachers, furniture for staff and the proper staffrooms would be provided to these deprived schools and the children in the real sense. The schools would not remain open air and obtain boundary walls, proper buildings, new classrooms, and teaching aids and materials. The student enrollment and retention should be made a reality. The teaching staff should be trained and recruited on the merit basis. The step is constructive and fruitful but the fact remains that the measures regarding the program must be taken seriously if the desired results are to be attained.