Reviewing Policies of Education in Pakistan
by Aanya F Niaz
Policy Review on book: “Education on the Horizon”
As Mr. Khan aptly describes in his book entitled, Basic Education in Rural Pakistan: “Education is one of the key aspects of human development in that it qualitatively improves the nature of choices that humans make over their lifetime.” (Khan)
This article has been written on the foundation of this quote; which speaks directly to identifying increase in education and literacy rates as a most qualitative and effective way of reducing political and social problems, and aiding political and both, social institutions in achieving progress over a period of time. There is no doubt that today; most developing nations in the world are suffering from devastating illiteracy rates and a decrease in student enrollment. After outlining and providing a profound understanding of why the situation is so, explicating the facts of the education systems and departments, this piece concludes by reviewing already existing policies and offering new and improved policies in order to attain development through increased access to education and a rise in literacy rates.
The focus will be on Pakistan, as there is no secret that “Pakistan has the third lowest literacy rate in all of South Asia… The CIA World Factbook states that the literacy rate of the total population of Pakistan is 49.9%, while the Human Development Report 2009 claims that the literacy rate has hesitantly increased to 54.2%” (CIA). Neither is it a secret that these conditions have not improved and the sector of education is barely surviving.
It is important to note the three most dominant types of school systems: Public and Non-Governmental Schools, Private Schools and Religious schools, in order to study their functionalities and issues, which lend to why the education sector has not been able to improve. The major problems include the disparity between each type of school, costs of attendance and distinctly varied academic curriculum, which result in the graduates having access to highly different job opportunities. As Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times journalist has rightly pointed out, “There are first rate schools in English for the elite, second-rate schools for the strivers, and execrable schools for the masses.” (Kristof) Furthermore, over 98% of Pakistan’s population solely has access to public schools due to their affordability in contrast with private schools, therefore, the bulk of the masses are only being able to access the service sector and work in factories or at most, as peons, due to the lack of standards of the education they have received.
Indeed, the policy makers and implementation of policies in regards with education are facing an excruciatingly tough time, as there is great discrepancy in the execution of both. This is due to countless political and social circumstances, including lack of finances for the Government, limited resources, immature budgeting, lack of leadership, over-emphasis on military to warden off neighboring Indian enemies, participation on a military and financial basis in the War Against Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan merely struggling to survive as a nation, economically. This does not make leading the education arena an easy task for anyone in Pakistan. However, there are several ways in which policies can be reviewed, new ones made and implemented in a more cost-effective and productive fashion.
It is important to note that these policy recommendations have been made in specific reference with the culture of education in Pakistan. As Stephen Cohen Correctly points out: “In the case of educational reform, however, a skeptical attitude is warranted because of past performances, the limited technocratic vision of the senior leadership, a disdain for academic freedom and scholars, the absence of strong social pressures for better education from Pakistan’s citizenry, and above all, a still-miniscule state budget for education. Foreign assistance for education makes up 76% of the government’s educational expenditure, and Pakistan still ranks among the fifteen worst countries as far as education is concerned.” (Cohen)
As I explain, in Education on the Horizon, (Niaz) “In light of Pakistan’s problems within the current political context…” it is important to devise strategies, on both the national and local level to advance improvement and bring education reform. I highlight the policies in that “the term ‘national leadership’ refers to the topmost leaders that govern the country; namely, the President, the Prime Minister, the National Assembly, and Party Politicians… Political leaders must recognize that the education increases Pakistan’s potential to progress. These leaders should prioritize international support on their agenda… If international leaders, and importantly, education activists from home and abroad” can regularly hold local education departments accountable, by evaluating their performances, checking up on their execution and employing experts who can ensure that the work the local leadership is carrying out is correct, a huge positive change can be obtained. Another policy that needs to be reviewed is that of using financial funds towards military. Pakistan must seek and use funds towards development; which should majorly include education institutions so as to offer more academic opportunities to the masses. Budgeting to be able to increase the number of schools, teacher training programs, facilities, better locations and hiring professional and academic experts, the educational culture can truly find reform that it is in desperate need of.
On a local level, the internal education departments that are in charge of a certain number of schools in a particular region, along with parents and teachers play the most crucial role in accelerating Pakistan’s path towards education reform. Those who are in charge must channelize the funds they receive from the central government towards hiring academic experts to carry out teacher-training programs, evaluations, teacher-training schools and courses, especially for females during the evening when they are, first, the gender most parents prefer to teach their children and second, when these female teachers are free from domestic and daily work during the day. If the local leadership can involve parents on a more intimate level, survey and research on what encourages them to send their children to schools, that could be most beneficial as parents are the main deciders for whether or not they want their child to attend school. This can really affect enrollment rates. By researching on better and safer locations, the local leadership should provide feedback to the central government after interviewing parents, on what these parents deem safe spaces for their children, especially daughters to attend these schools.
“Carrying out the above-prescribed tasks is a prerequisite to reaching the solution of making education compulsory. Until and unless there are schools that students can attend with good quality teaching and a high standard for the curriculum, the hunger for education in Pakistan will remain unmet and result in further chaos.” (Niaz)
Pakistan is a country in an intensely backward position, which has made clear the vital requirement for education to prevail in order to achieve progress. Therefore, the President, Prime Minister, political party leaders and the citizezns must focus on changing the structure of education by reviewing the already-existing policies and developing new ones in order to eliminate hindrances and increase enrollment and better quality of academics so that over time, the people of Pakistan can formulate a much more progressive nation.