PLIGHT OF EDUCATION SECTOR

NUSRAT KHURSHEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Mar 26 - Apr 1, 20
12

While celebrating Pakistan Resolution, one can ask whether we have achieved our objectives of being an independent state since last 65 years or are we still far behind to our national goals. As we know that whenever we give the justification behind the creation of Pakistan, we can't negate the fact that education was also one of the major factors which creates a gulf between Hindus and Muslims.

As education plays a vital role in human capital formation, it raises the productivity and efficiency of individuals and thus produces skilled manpower that is capable of leading the economy towards the path of sustainable economic development. Before independence in his letter to the Afghan King, Shah Waliullah wrote:

In short, the Muslims community was in a pitiable condition. All control of the machinery of government is in the hands of Hindus, because they are the only people who are capable and industrious. Wealth and prosperity are concentrated in their hands, while the share of Muslims is nothing but poverty and misery....

Even Maulana Muhammad Ali, speaking on the resolution that reforms should be introduced in the North West Frontier Province of India in the annual session of the All-India Muslim league held in Bombay in December 1924 said;

If a line be drawn from Constantinople to Delhi on the map of the world it would be found that at least right up to Saharanpur there was a corridor of purely Muslim people or Muslims were in clear majority. This gave them the clue for understanding the backward condition in which the Frontier and the Punjab were purposely kept by those in power.

It is all because of education, Hindus had advanced in the educational field because they quickly and readily took the education. The Muslim did not receive modern education, which heavily affected their economic condition.

Today after 65 years of independence, still the situation of the education sector in Pakistan is not very encouraging. The low enrolment rates at the primary level, wide disparities between regions and gender, lack of trained teachers, deficiency of proper teaching materials and poor physical infrastructure of schools indicate the poor performance of this sector.

The extremely low level of public investment is the major cause of the poor performance of education sector. Public expenditure on education remained less than two percent of GNP before 1994-55. In recent years, it has increased to 2.2 percent. In addition, the allocation of government funds is skewed towards higher education so that the benefits of public subsidy on education are largely reaped by the upper income class. Many of the highly educated go abroad either for higher education or in search of better job opportunities. Most of them do not return and cause a large public loss.

In Pakistan, the quality of primary and secondary education has a declining trend. It is realized that science education in particular is reaching lowest ebb and needs to be improved urgently. At the time of independence and thereafter there remained acute shortage of teachers. Laboratories were poor and ill equipped and curricula had little relevance to present day needs.

The education sector suffers from insufficient financial input, low levels of efficiency for implementation of programs and poor quality of management, monitoring, supervision and teaching.

As a result, Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of literacy in the world and the lowest among countries of comparative resources and social/ economic situations. With a per capita income of over $450, the country has an adult literacy rate of 49 per cent while both Vietnam and India with less per capita income have literacy rates of 94 and 52 per cent respectively. Literacy is higher in urban areas and in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, among the higher income group and in males.

Even knowing the fact that education provides the bedrock for reducing poverty and enhancing social development, the government is doing nothing to improve declining quality including defective curricula, dual medium of instruction at secondary level, poor quality of teachers, cheating in the examinations and overcrowded classrooms.

Efforts have been made to mould the curriculum in accordance with our ideological, moral and cultural values as well as our national requirements in the fields of science, technology, medicine, engineering and agriculture, etc. The rise in supply of educational infrastructure or removal of the supply side constraints can play an important role in raising literacy and education of the population.

Development budget allocation for the social sector has been very low throughout and is evident from the budgetary allocation for education. It is realized the science education in particular is reaching lowest ebb and needs to be improved urgently.

Teachers are perhaps the most critical component of any system of education. How well they teach depends on motivation, qualification, experience, training, aptitude and a host of other factors, not the least of these being the environment and management structures within which they perform their role.

However, the quality of teachers, which is a key factor in any education system, is poor. The main reason is the low level of educational qualifications required to become a primary school teachers: ten years of schooling and an eleven-month certificate program. The second factor relates to the quality of teacher certification programs, which suffer from the lack of adequately trained master trainers, little emphasis on teaching practice and non-existence of a proper support/monitoring system for teachers. In the absence of any accredited body to certify teachers, the mere acquisition of the certificate/diploma is considered sufficient to apply for a teaching position.

Under Pakistan's Social Action Program, billions of rupees were allocated to the four social sectors with education as a priority area. Yet, there was an actual decline in the gross enrolment rate for primary education.

There is a great difference in the rates of enrolment of boys, as compared to girls in Pakistan. According to Unesco figures, primary school enrolment for girl's stands at 60 per cent as compared to 84 per cent for boys. The secondary school enrolment ratio is even more discouraging, 32 per cent for females and 46 per cent males. Regular school attendance for female students is estimated at 41 per cent while that for male students is 50 per cent.

Education is important especially for women because it provides important means for their empowerment. Apart from the acquisition of knowledge and values conducive to social evolution, education provides many other benefits. The development of the mind, training in logical and analytical thinking, organizational, administrative and management skills accrue through education. Enhanced self-esteem and improved financial and social status within the community is a direct outcome of education. Education, therefore, should be made available to all. For better parenting and healthier living also, education is an important factor. It is beyond doubt that educating girls can yield a higher rate of return than any other investment. Due to so called war against terrorism, girls schools are badly affected, but the government has failed to give due importance to it on priority basis.

Government has failed to realize that the quality of human resource plays a critical role in the rise and fall of nations, and human resource can be channelled and developed in the right direction with the help of proper education. A nation's overall position and its standing in the comity of nations are, to a large extent, determined by the standards of its educational system.