Oct 31 - Nov 6, 20

A closer look at the basic education being imparted in Pakistan since independence clearly proves one point 'it is still carrying the legacy of colonial era and often despite being too expensive yields little results'. Though efforts have been made to bring a change in the system, yet those believing in maintaining status quo have prevailed over the system.

Consequently, there are different systems of education for different classes. The elites send their children to school charging colossal fees, using the latter-day foreign books and imparting education in an alien language.

Government schools suffer from all sorts of problems from fragile infrastructure to ghost teachers and from poor salaries of teachers to massive misappropriation of funds.

The schools imparting basic education can be divided into three categories namely: 1) Peela (government) schools, 2) private schools and madershas.

These institutions cater to the needs of various groups having different mindsets and capacity to bear the cost. Government schools are commonly known as Peela (yellow) schools because of the color of the exterior. The other characteristics include shabby class-rooms with the poor quality of furniture often devoid of basic amenities like electricity, potable water and even good quality teachers. These schools also have the largest number of ghost teachers. The condition in rural areas is the worst.

The largest population of the country lives in rural areas where tribal and or cast system still dominates. Ironically, the elected representatives as well as the political leaders consider themselves the master and masses as their docile servants.

Their utmost effort is to resist opening up of schools in their constituencies, as they fear that after going to schools people start demanding their rights and gender discrimination is resisted.

The concerned officers are given money just to ensure that schools are not opened in their constituencies but in the areas where their political opponents enjoy majority.

Since the basic objective of seeking education is getting a good job, parents prefer to send their children to those institutions, which use English as medium of instruction. Most of such schools operate in the private sector. Some of these institutions have earned reputation for imparting quality education but the fees charged are 'too high' which are unaffordable for the masses. However, parent still prefer their children to go these institutions hoping that once their children complete education they could get jobs offering higher remuneration.

However, profit motive often dominate quality education as the sponsors acquire plots on discounted price or these institutions virtually become 'marriage halls/gardens' in the evenings. If one takes a trip across Karachi, hundreds of such outlets can be found. There may not be any objective on making these institutions marriage halls/gardens if part of the earning is utilized for the promotion of education and/or distributing scholarships among the needy.

Parents are even willing to pay the high cost but a problem arises that education imparted by these schools does not help in meeting the national objectives. Parents send their children with one objective 'securing a good job once education is completed'. They also look forward if the child could get admission in a foreign university, which could help in getting a job abroad and ultimately seeking dual nationality. Every year hundred of students go abroad to never return to Pakistan.

Madersahs were initially established to impart religious education. However, after USSR attack on Afghanistan, these have become nurseries for the Jihadis. Hundreds and thousands of such madershas have residential facilities which free the parents from payment of fees, three times meals, and also getting the child basic education to make him/her a pious religious adherent. However, the students sooner or later develop a mindset which develops militancy. Today's Taliban are the planned products of these madarshas. However, the sponsors of these institutions forget that Jihad is not confined to killing people. The best type of Jihad is creation of mindsets thereby a person spends his/her life according to Shariah and also teaches others the same.

Teaching in an alien language often causes serious problem for those seeking education, the worst being that most of their time is spent on learning a language and students often find themselves incompetent to express their point of view. In many countries i.e. India, Japan, and China education is imparted in their national languages. The largest software developing company has developed operating programs in 18 regional languages of India. This became possible only because programmers knew the regional languages and have also realized the importance of language in making people technology savvy.

Textbooks used in primary and secondary schools are often awful because content is poor and quality of printing is poor. A common complaint is that many of the books are full of mistakes. It seems contracts for preparing the textbooks and printing are awarded on favoritism. Some of the foreign books used have no relevance with the ground realities.

One of the serious problems is hiring good teachers. In Punjab, one could often hear a sentence, 'have you got a job or are still teaching children'. This highlights a point that many people start teaching because they could not get job anywhere else. In the government schools, issue of 'ghost teachers' is most contentious. Fictitious appointments are made and the salaried are pocketed by the administration. It is also on record that people pay huge bribes for seeking employment in government schools.

It is also found that no formal training is imparted about contemporary methods of teaching. Children have to 'learn by heart' the replies of hundreds of questions dictated by the teachers. Though, Indian film 'Three Idiots' may be an over exaggeration of the prevailing state of affairs, yet it is also a fact that those students get the highest marks who are good at memorizing.

The bottom line is every year hundreds and thousands of students get bachelor and master degrees, yet they are considered 'not suitable' for the jobs. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve curriculum and quality of teaching staff. One could still recall that in the past many of the advertisements for jobs had a line 'graduates from certain universities need not to apply'.