When we talk of education, we’re not just talking about school and books. We’re talking about our future, our country’s present and future, and in fact, of our entire system. A study conducted by UNESCO suggests that a country’s system is very dependent on its educational planning and management, in that education has a spill-over effect on the system. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals too state the essentiality of education and plan for worldwide availability of primary education. And here we are in Pakistan… mourning about the state of country, yet not making any effort to better the educational system.
For a country to progress, it needs a functioning system of education. That system cannot come from anywhere else other than the country itself, especially if the country is Pakistan and the system is that of Lord Macaulay. Pakistan is still operating on the skeleton it inherited back in 1947; a system meant to weaken rather than strengthen the people of Pakistan.
There are a hundred and ninety-six countries in this world, and Pakistan is the 160th, when it comes to literacy. With a literacy rate of 55%, literacy is still the lesser worry when we look at the state of education of those who do get some education. We see an ascending trend of homeschooling these days. Why? Because schooling a child at home is better than making him/her conform to the mess we call an education system.
The budget allotted to education this past year was 2.1% of the total resources, whereas most developing countries allocate over at least 3% to education; we see India at 3.9%. Countries such as Lesotho, Cuba, and Denmark spend from 8-13% on education. That is how a country which really wants to climb plans its budget. That is how a nation prospers.
“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
― Walter Cronkite
The problem here is not the lack of educationists, nor is it a lack of resources, nor does it lie in shortage of thinkers or planners. No, the problem here is plain old ignorance. A country which has never had sincere governance is not to be blamed for its state. A country which has never known an independent system of anything is not to be blamed for its degeneracy. Pakistan is not a victor as we say in our 14th of August speeches. Pakistan is not a helpless victim either. Pakistan is that man in tattered clothes, with vultures picking at its living body, it eyes red and its tongue parched. It is that man holding a degree with no words printed on it, and eyes that cannot understand what they might try to read. But Pakistan is not helpless. It is only in the illusion of helplessness.
If we were to outline the problems our country faces in the education sector, they would be as follows:
- Decentralized system: We as a nation have forgotten what the purpose of education is. When a nation is in conditions as scarce as Pakistan, it becomes more concerned with personal benefit and making money rather than standards or the greater good, or where the money comes from. Our purpose of education today has become getting good jobs, acquiring a degree to show we’re literate, or satisfying the world’s emphasis on going to school. A majority of us does not think beyond the superficial. What really is the purpose of education? Knowledge and civilization. A nation’s system works around its purposes. If our system is decentralized, how can we ever hope to gain desired results?Solution: What we need now is to rethink our education goals. Rethink the goals and form a system around those.
- No coherent education policies: The last time our country saw an educational policy was 1998. That too was not a major improvement over the rest and still followed the outlines of previous years. And even if we say it was a good policy, was it ever followed? Were the goals ever achieved? No. The same happens to every educational programme of Pakistan. We have no educational policy holding together our national values and goals, no coherent policy guiding our institutions on what to do, no active authority keeping check over those who are supposed to implement the plans, and absolutely no sincere committees to keep the wheel turning.Solution: An intensive educational policy which takes into account this fast-paced world, the demands of our country, it’s ideology, the past policies and their results along with appointed teams to see the implementation of the policy to its end.
- Public VS Private Institutions: In Pakistan, we have a strong private sector but a much larger public sector. We have 29% private schools over 71% public schools. Anyone familiar with the country would know that the public schools are run-down, in extremely dilapidated conditions with barely any sincere and competent teachers, with barely enough chairs or any standard of education. The private schools do have some standard, but even that is now slipping out of our hands since the institutions are becoming more profit-driven than purpose-driven. No country succeeds without a strong public platform of education. Having our education system run in two strikingly different streams is like leaving it to the wolves. This has produced various standards of education, dividing students and finishing off whatever sense of unity we had left. Also, with the rapid rise of private education in the past decade, the government sector has fallen even looser than it was.Solution: It is good to see that we have a private sector upholding some standard of education, but it is unfair to the majority of our students attending public schools. That majority is around 61% of our children. It would be better if the private sector invested instead in bettering the public sector so that everyone could get the same education.
The significance of education cannot be over-emphasized, but it goes in hand that we need not just a higher literacy rate, but a system of literacy which adheres to the meaning of our own country and serves our own self rather than the vultures.
This will be continued in part 2 outlining the rest of our educational problems and their proposed solutions.
Infographic on public vs private edcation:
Infographic on the state of education in Pakistan:
History of educational policy making and planning in Pakistan:
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