Dec 20 - 26, 20

According to a report, in Pakistan 63 per cent of children complete primary school education. Furthermore, 68 per cent of boys and 72 per cent of girls reach grade five.

Education system is mainly inspired from the British system. At middle school, single-sex education is usually preferred by the community, but co-education is also common in urban cities. The curriculum is usually subject to the institution. The eight commonly taught disciplines are Urdu, English, mathematics, arts, science, social studies, and Islamiyat with latest addition being computer studies, which is subject to availability of a computer laboratory. Education is imparted in two languages, Urdu and English. The medium of instruction depends on the nature of institution itself, whether it is an English-medium school or an Urdu-medium school.

Urdu has been declared the national language and made compulsory subject, but regional languages remain every day conversational languages. Education is also imparted in regional languages but due to paucity of textbooks in regional languages Urdu and English play rather dominant role. Education in Pakistan has been severely affected due to non availability of books in the regional language and some groups consider forced imposition of Urdu on non-Urdu speakers in Pakistani schools and universities which are partly responsible for a rise in reactionary rebellions like Sindhi nationalism and Baloch insurgency contributing to discontent and political instability in the country.

Many of the experts are of the view that partly the blame goes to the experts of regional languages who have failed in translating books of modern disciplines into the regional languages. They cite Indian example where Microsoft programs have been translated into nearly two dozen regional languages. They had translated hundred and thousands of books decades ago.

Those responsible for preparing the curriculum and getting the textbooks prepared at education ministries at federal and provincial levels have failed miserably. To hide their inefficiencies they put the blame that Urdu and English are imposed on them.

According to Mehboob Alam Khalil, education is the systematic process of instruction for the development of character or mental powers. The primary stage of education is of prime importance for the edifice of career. Soundness and tidiness of this stage enable a child to raise a standard of his personality. Unfortunately, the importance of this stage is ignored to a large extent in our country. The drawbacks are multifarious in nature and require considerations on the part of the responsible. They have just followed the same principle of making policies in closed rooms and draft curriculum, which was followed in the colonial era.

Then another drawback of the primary education system is that of different school system being followed to cater the needs of different classes of the society. This is nothing but continuation of the agenda of the colonial rulers, empowering certain segments of the society, typically known as the feudal lords and civil and military bureaucracy to run the affairs of the state. These groups are easily affected by jargons like moderates and enlightened moderation etc.

According to a report prepared by federal ministry of education in collaboration with Unesco Office, Islamabad in May 2003 on quality of primary education in Pakistan, strengthening the quality of education has become a global agenda at all educational levels and more so at the primary level. The quality of basic education is important not only for preparing individuals for the subsequent educational levels but to equip them with the requisite basic life skills. Quality education also ensures increased access and equality and it is mainly due to these reasons that various international forums and declarations have pledged improvements in quality of education. National commitment towards quality education has become significantly visible since the late eighties.

However, the ground realities are very different from those presented in many research papers. In a country with per capital income of less than US$1,200 and high birth rate, providing education to all has remained a far cry, simply because parents can't afford to pay school fees and cost of uniform and books. On top of this, parents prefer to involve the children at very young age in income generating activities, though the remuneration paid to these children are disappointingly low. This trend is most common in rural areas as well as low income groups residing in urban areas.

It may not be wrong to say that worst corruption prevails in primary education, particularly in rural areas. School building are often used for keeping the livestock of the influential people of the area, ghost teachers are most common and least attention is paid to the education of children of the poor. The point of fear for the feudal lords is, when the children of poor get education they move to urban areas, which reduces their vote bank.

It is also on record that books to be distributed free of cost among the children never reach them. Even if some books are delivered the quality of content is miserable. Though complaints of ghost teachers are most common, since elites of the areas are the direct beneficiaries, no action is taken against those found guilty.

The point often overlooked by policy planners is, 'the quality of second and higher education can't be improved without focusing primary education'. There is dire need to redefine curriculum, improve the quality of textbooks, train the teachers, and brighten the point that a person is useless without basic education. (SHK)