Jan 16 - 22, 20

There cannot be two opinions regarding improving quality of education in Pakistan. To break the status quo, it is necessary to look at the prevailing system and come up with suggestions to make the overall education system more relevant to the emerging local as well as global realities. In this endeavor, the government will have to play the most important role but ultimate objectives cannot be realized without involving the private sector.

It is imperative that Pakistan must get rid of diversified systems being followed and start following one language as medium of instruction. While it is the harshest reality that English remains the working language, imparting basic education in national language is a must.

As such, a child learns to communicate in his/her mother tongue with the passage of time and Urdu remains the common communication language throughout Pakistan.

The real problem is the difference in the curriculum being followed by the government and private schools and Cambridge system gaining popularity lately. Diversity of books followed by the textbook boards of different provinces is also a problem.

The most pinching aspect is the rising cost of education. It may be true that profit making remains the top objective of private schools, colleges, and universities but lately public sector universities have also started charging exorbitant fees in the name of offering improved facilities and paying corresponding remuneration to the faculty. However, a question remains unanswered, where is the grant going? While private sector educational institutions do not get any grant from the government, public sector institutions are given billion of rupees every year.

According to an education sector's expert, the main reason for inefficient use of grant is the mindset prevailing in the public sector institutions. Faculty and administrative staff believe that their working hours are confined from 8.00am to 2.00 pm and they need summer and winter vacations. That is the reason these institutions give 'haunted house' look during most of the daytime and summer and winter vacations.

Since the infrastructure is present, classes should go on from 8.00am to 8.00pm and no classroom should remain unused during this time. The main offices should also remain open during this time with skeleton staff. The advantage is people will be able to study as well as work and pick up classes according to their own convenience. This will also create new job opportunities for the faculty as well as administrative staff.

It is often felt that the syllabus in the educational institutions is not updated regularly. One of the possible reasons is that if syllabus is changed with regular intervals, many of the books would become redundant and so is the faculty. It is true that some of the books teaching the basics need not be upgraded every year but many of the books need to be upgraded regularly.

Pakistan Studies is a compulsory subject but most of the books followed have data, which are up to 10 years old. Therefore, students are often not fully updated about the prevailing situation.

Quality of textbooks is also a serious issue. Not only quality of paper used and printing is hopeless, these books are full of factual mistakes. It seems favorites are given the job to write/compile the book without any guideline. Most astonishing is the quality of Islamiat books often full of mistakes, giving inaccurate dates and above all a feeling that the writer/editor could not distinguish between history of Islam and history of Muslims.

Availability of high faculty was and remains a key issue. It may not be wrong to say that faculty also suffers from the same contentious problems faced by the society at large. Corruption has also infiltrated into education. In government schools, appointments are not made without bribe and issue of ghost teachers is most common. But, more acute problems are that teachers pay less attention on teaching and spend more time taking private classes. All sorts of irregularities are committed during examinations. The result is that students do pass out and get certificates/degrees but of no utility for the employers. Jobs, particularly in government offices are given on recommendations rather than on merit.

Physical infrastructure plays a vital role in delivering quality education. Quality infrastructure does not mean classrooms having air-conditioning facilities and audio-visual systems but also library where textbooks, reference books, and newspapers/periodicals are available.

Most of the business schools use foreign textbooks and the result is little knowledge about Pakistan. In business administration, case studies play a vital role in improving the decision-making ability of future managers. However, very few local case studies are available. This is because faculty hardly makes any effort to understand the problems being faced by the local enterprises but more importantly, these entities are not ready to share the information believing that it could be used against them.

Improving quality of educational institutions, particularly those working in the public sector is not possible without following good governance. In this regard, the top item on the agenda should be preparation of annual budget and review of annual accounts to find out the reasons for deviations. At the higher education level, universities should be required to follow accreditation policy. This should be an annual feature where institutions should be rated on the basis of 1) curriculum 2) faculty, 3) infrastructure and linkages with the local trade and industry.

It must be kept in mind that even an uneducated person can do many things but education widens his vision, helps him doing things efficiently, and adopts policies to suit the changing environment. Therefore, improving quality of life of Pakistanis is not possible without improving the quality of education.