Oct 31 - Nov 6, 20

Education for all programme of Unesco envisaging achievement of the education for all goal by 2015 is centred around the basic education that includes both formal and non-formal education.

According to the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization (Unesco), non-formal education means: "non-formal education may take place both within and outside educational institutions and cater to persons of all ages. Depending on country contexts, it may cover educational programmes to impart adult literacy, basic education for out-of-school children, life-skills, work-skills, and general culture. Non-formal education programmes do not necessarily follow the ladder system and may have differing durations, and may or may not confer certification of learning achieved."

The education for all (EFA) movement is aimed at to ensure access to quality education of all segments of the society. The organization is striving to realize the dream of education for all in the participating countries including Pakistan.

As the deadline is approaching fast, it has speeded up its capacity building activities in its member countries.

In view of the present circumstances and figures presented by the organization in its latest report, achieving quality primary education for all seems a remote reality for Pakistan. The report counted Pakistan among countries that needed substantial numbers of teachers to achieve the quality education for all by 2015. The country needs 592,000 teachers highest than that required in Congo (560,000), Bangladesh (453,000), Egypt (424,000), etc. It has expressed its concern about the 'disparate literacy efforts' in Pakistan. For example, while the central government has set a target to achieve not 100 but 85 per cent literacy rate by the deadline, Punjab's 10-year strategic plan for literacy envisages 100 per cent literacy rate by 2019, says the report titled capacity development for education for all (CapEFA).

Unfortunately, this disparity is not limited to the literacy objective only. The lack of harmonization and uniformity at national level is seen evidently in entire education sector.

"Most of the public sector literacy organizations and NGOs use traditional approaches to teach adult illiterates and do not follow a national curriculum. This inhibits harmonization and standardization," CapEFA notes.

The report emphasizes on the importance of non-formal basic education to improve literacy rate especially in areas where formal school system cannot cater to large population.

Private schools are playing very important role in delivering quality primary and secondary education in the society. However, due to their high fee structure only a privileged or financially well-off class is able to take benefits of this well-heeled education system.

In terms of faculty, infrastructure, and other facilities, private schooling or schooling designated for a particular group of the society is far better than the public sector schools. Private schools cater to approximately 35 per cent of the children and rest of them are enrolled in public sector schools. Their high fees are attributed to the knowledge and learning experiences they imbibe in the children in early age.

Apart from class-based teaching, these institutes also encourage their students to participate in extra curricular activities including mind-games to develop their analytical skills.

Punjab government has appreciably stridden towards practically upgrading literacy rate in the province. Especially, its Danish schools merit commendation. The project provides opportunities of quality education to the marginalized section of the society. The provincial government is also encouraging private sector education and promoting institutes operating on non-commercial and non-profit basis under public-private partnership initiative.

For this purpose, an autonomous body with the name of Punjab education foundation has also been established. The body is a platform to make coordination between the efforts of the government and education welfare organizations and individuals to include poor and unprivileged children in the learning environment.

Generally, public schools cannot afford to provide the students facilities and excellent learning experiences. Fund scarcity is a big issue. However, reflection of lacklustre governance system and prevalent administration pattern can be seen in all government affairs far and wide. If there is corruption, education sector cannot be safe from it effects. Political interference especially in hiring of teaching staff result in unmeritorious inductions. Ghost teachers issue is also the corollary of the rotten system. Legislation related to education sector is also influenced by set agenda to breed for instance particular mindsets.

It is worthwhile to mention that there is no cohesion in curricula nationwide. Absence of national curriculum is because of the multiple education systems. While foreign affiliated basic education system has completely westernized their teachings, medarsahs (seminaries) are oblivious to the modern studies and concentrate only on the historical contents in line with their particular ideology.

The government seems indifferent to the division caused and enraged mindsets cultivated by the seminaries in the name of religion. Students of convent fly up too high in the sky that they condescend their fellow beings on ground and feel unconcerned about the national issues. Such students are basically the products made for foreign countries.

Diverse education systems are obviously antithesis to the nation building and different directions are set at the very stage of growing age.

Undeniably, basic education plays an important role in social mobilization and empowering people. Therefore, education organizations both local and international raise the awareness about its importance in under-developed and developing societies.

There is an international consensus on promoting basic education both formal and informal in the developing countries for this is considered as the driver of prosperity and change in socioeconomic conditions. Basic education is the right of every human being. No matter which income group he/she belongs to, he/she should be provided with the equal opportunity of learning.