Education in Pakistan
Analysing the Public-Private Dichotomy
Qurat ul Ain Aman
The education system in Pakistan has been reduced to a shambles because of neglect by the successive government. Running private schools has, nowadays, become a lucrative venture as government’s failures have resulted in commercialization of education. It seems that the goal of educating the masses and aiming for a literate population has been left entirely to the good sense of the private sector. However, the educational standards of these institutions are also not satisfactory. The standard of education in private schools will never improve unless there is competition from the public schools.
Education is the most important weapon that can be used to change the world. It is important not only for political but also for economic and social development of a country, and Pakistan is no exception. A number of policies have been formulated by the successive governments to reform the education system of our country, yet the situation is still far from satisfactory. Despite the fact that Pakistan has made great headways in various sectors, the one of education is still a neglected domain. One of the major reasons behind this bleak situation of education system is the absence of quality education in government schools.
Though the quality of education given in private schools is better than that in the government schools, not everyone can afford to send their children to these private schools. Average cost of educating their kids at a private school is beyond the reach of a middle or lower middle class family. All private schools operate with different facilities, costs and expenses. However, a never-ending increase in the fees of private schools has become the biggest problem for the parents. There is no denying the fact that private institutions do provide quality education to their students; however, they have become only profit-making entities.
From 2004 to 2014 the rate of enrolment in private schools increased from 24 percent to 40 percent. According to a research, out of 2,257,712 schools in Pakistan, 66,089 are in private sector. Moreover, around 69 percent children are enrolled in government schools whereas the remaining 31 percent go to private institutions. The rate of student enrolment in private schools is less than that in government schools due to the high fees private schools charge.
According to a recent survey, the fee of primary grade students in a private school starts from PKR 30,000. In addition, average increase in fee has reached beyond reasonable limits. A clear rise in the fee of private schools can be seen by analyzing their policies. Besides regular fees, students have also to pay extra charges on the pretext of provision of extra facilities. A recent survey suggested that well-reputed private schools charge around PKR 70,000 at the time of admission in nursery class. Moreover, tuition fees hover around PKR 13,000, PKR 15,000 and PKR 20,000 for class 1 to 5, 6 to 8 and O level, respectively. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered private school to reduce their fees over PKR 5000 by 20 percent, but no heed was paid to the order.
On the other hand, fees of government school located in the same area are comparatively extremely low. According to a study, it is possible for a student of a government school to get education till matriculation by paying affordable fee during the programme. But, it also pointed out that teaching methodology adopted in them in not up to mark.
The demand of coaching institutions has increased manifold in our country. The need of the time is to realize that if school management becomes serious about delivering best-quality education, there will be no need of private coaching centres. Moreover, such centres create an extra financial burden on the parents. Both in private and public schools, no efforts are made to inculcate critical and analytical skills in students. Moreover, there are still many flaws in our education system itself. Although literacy rate in our country is around 58 percent, only 2 percent people complete their higher education. There are a number of issues related to infrastructure, human resource and curriculum as well. For instance, around 30 percent people of our country are living below the poverty line because they lack basic knowledge and skills that are essential for a better life.
To tackle this situation and to rein in the private schools, the government should introduce a mechanism to control private schools. Not every private school is providing best facilities to its students. It should also provide requisite facilities to government schools in order to break the monopoly of private schools. The condition of public schools is pathetic – some do not have walls or are without washrooms, in some students do not have access to drinking water and in some cases classes are held while students sit on the ground outside. Libraries and laboratory facilities are seldom available to them and are considered a luxury. Due to the lack of research laboratories and experimental labs, students of many government schools are not learning modern research methods.
It is important to set international level standards to improve our education system. For this purpose, it is essential to promote cultural exchange schemes. Fostering people-to-people contacts at the student level with other countries is essential to learn lessons from the success of their education systems. The share of education in federal budget must also be increased to take our country to the height of glory. All this can be done by creating a strong collaboration among all the provinces as well as the centre. What we need is unity and faith. We need to realize this fact before visualizing a better future. By following these steps, the condition of our education system can be improved within a short span of time.
The writer is a clinical psychologist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning Lessons from Bhutan
Recently, the tiny South Asian country Bhutan announced a policy under which country’s teachers will earn more than civil servants of corresponding grades. This is a novel move. No other country has accorded teachers such pride of place in its government service, both in terms of remuneration and symbolism. The policy’s tonal reference is to be found in Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan (2018-23), published by its Gross National Happiness Commission, the country’s highest policy-making body. The commission’s strategy to achieve desired national outcomes through education opens with the notation, “making teaching a profession of choice”. The decision is evidently at the core of a larger governmental strategy to achieve the country’s human developmental objectives. It also comes in the wake of high levels of teacher attrition, especially the best. Clearly, the government has formulated the policy as a styptic to stop the serious haemorrhage. The incentive of an enviable income for teachers could mitigate many ills that affect our education system.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study that measures and compares student ability in reading, mathematics, science and global competence, with financial literacy an option. Accordingly, it ranks educational systems of countries. The initiative’s latest report, Global Teacher Status Index 2018, based on its own surveys across 35 countries, goes on to make a strong case for high wages to improve teacher status. The report suggests that policies act as levers that governments use to achieve desired results in focus areas.