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The mushrooming business of education

Aug 27: Driving down the many roads in Karachi - some broken, some yet to be broken - it is easy to spot the countless schools that have opened up in small, boxy houses. The giant boards that flank the front wall of these 'academic' institutions profess that the schools are English medium, registered and recognised by the government, and offer both the matriculation and 'O' Level systems of education, the latter becoming more popular by the year.

They claim to have the best teachers in town, state-of-the-art computer labs and syllabuses that will shape any student into tomorrow's intellectual. In short, they profess to be the best seat of learning a parent can imagine for his/her child.

The story-line is similar for all schools; only the script differs. And given the huge number of schools popping up right, left and centre, one cannot be blamed for assuming that the literacy level in Karachi must be quite high.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Illiteracy is still very much rampant in

the city, and according to the website of the Sindh education department, the illiteracy rate is hovering around 37 and 35 per cent in kids who are 15 years and above and 10 years and above respectively. Of course, there is always the likelihood that the figures could be much higher since the given source is a government department.

Even if we thank God for small blessings one being that Karachi can still boast of a better literacy rate than many other cities the glass still looks half empty. For instance, look at the performance of most private schools. That the academic institutions have become commercialised has become a known, and even an accepted fact. But what's more deplorable is the fact that the more this "business" becomes commercialised, the further the standard of education drops.

Sub-standard teaching, along with an ill-planned syllabus, has given rise to tuition centres around the city. It is, of course, a different debate that the people who run these tuition centres are the same people who teach in schools. And not surprisingly, the quality of teaching is 100 per cent better in the tuition centres. Elite private schools aside where parents are at least satisfied with the quality of education despite the burning holes in their pockets most parents who enrol their kids in private schools are left wondering about their kids' future.

I remember one of my teachers used to say that it's easy to get a degree; it is far more difficult to get a quality education. With a little variation, this certainly seems to hold true for kids in primary schools as well. -Sa'adia Reza (Dawn)
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Updated: 14 Oct, 2014
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