Revisiting Pakistan’s education policy

budget 4 educationBy S. M. Hali 

Pakistan’s social and economic progress has been stinted. Its critics and well-wishers are united in the thought that to ensure social mobility and economic progress, Pakistan’s education policy needs to be revamped. The core of the problem lies in the fact that successive governments have failed to focus on education. Inconsistent educational policies, reduced budget outlays and lack of understanding of the problem have aggravated the issue. The country is faced with a spate of terrorist assaults but the various dispensations occupying the corridors of power have failed to take cognizance of the direct relationship between ignoring education and the aftermath of violence.  Unable to find access to the private school chains, open only to the opulent, and being deprived of education at the government run institutions, some of whom exist on paper only, the majority of the lower class is constrained to resort to the madrassas, some of which are exploited by extremists to promote negative tendencies and churn out radicals, who become cannon fodder for terror mongers.

It has become imperative to restore the leveling effects of education since our current system of learning is only reaffirming existing class inequalities and is serving to further widen the gap between rich and poor. To aspire for the creation of a healthy society, success in the higher education for students from lower socioeconomic groups must be made an important policy goal. Article 25A of the Constitution, which has been touted by various political parties to garner electoral support, pertains to the right to education, stating that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.

The policy makers must be ashamed!

The policy makers must be ashamed!

In pursuance of this noble goal, a leaf can be taken from the raison d’être of the madrassas, which is to provide free education to millions across the nation. The government can make it mandatory for private educational institutions to reduce imbalance in the society by providing free education to a certain percentage of underprivileged children. Simultaneously, in consonance with the above, a strong policy commitment is needed for social mobility through education. This can be addressed by having a uniform curricula, unified syllabus and compulsory free education for all Pakistani children.

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According to UNDP’s report ‘Worldwide Trends in the Human Development Index 1980-2010’ Pakistan is ranked on 125th position with HDI of 0.490. This is a worrying indicator for national economy.  In parallel, the high pace of technological advancements and exponential rate of information explosion have made the issue of sustainability more competitive and challenging. This alarming situation demands academia, professionals and policy makers to analyze the situation seriously and devise national strategies to meet the unprecedented challenges of 2st century.

It is globally accepted that education plays a vital role in the development of a civilized society, but today’s knowledge revolution has radically changed the concept of education. On the one hand, education empowers its citizens to meet the challenges of society head on and on the other, it lays a sound foundation for the knowledge base of the youth, deflecting the macabre conspiracies of terrorism and extremist ideas through inculcating the principles of the quest for science and technology.

Taking cognizance of the fact that education comprises acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will be part of students’ life, the “Alif Ailaan” campaign is gathering research material and compiling data on education in the country in an effort to improve overall standards. It is endeavouring to empower parents, build political will for reform and help education providers do their jobs more effectively.

It is crucial that more organizations and the state takes up the cudgel on behalf of the people of Pakistan since education also involves caring for the development of students’ intellect, emotional, social and physical growth but knowledge revolution demands the ’re-orientation, re-organization and re-construction of education. Time is already running out for the planners of Pakistan since it is the age of information and technology but our youth is likely to lag far behind its peers in other countries; even India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh unless we revisit the whole concept of education in Pakistan otherwise we will fail to produce knowledge mangers for today’s knowledge economy.

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There is dire need to revisit the educational policy of Pakistan, striking the balance between the qualitative and quantitative aspects in all areas of education. While rethinking the strategy for education, it is vital to appreciate the pivotal position of a teacher, which signifies the crucial role teacher education can play in Pakistan. Unfortunately Teacher Education Programmes in the country have focused on methodology and strategies instead of enabling teachers to re-conceptualise basic educational issues. To revisit education strategies in Pakistan, teaching the teacher is as important as teaching the pupil.