Ailing education in Pakistan
Pakistan devotes less than two per cent of its annual GDP to education
To a great extent this is true of
Pakistan but low allocation is certainly not the sole cause of the deplorable
state of education. Based on my experience as a teacher and head of an NGO
working for education, I can say that it is not the paucity of funds but their
misuse, coupled with mismanagement, which is the main culprit.
Feb: There is a general perception that the main cause of the pitiable state of
education in Pakistan is the inadequate allocation of funds. The
persistent refrain has been that Pakistan devotes less than two per cent of its
annual GDP to education while most other countries, even in South Asia, allocate
at least three to seven per cent.|
the quality of education at government schools can be improved without
additional monetary support provided proper use is made of allocated funds. The
following measures are urgent: 1) revamping the practically non-existent system
of monitoring; 2) improving the teaching capability of teachers through a
rigorous training programme; 3) appointing an experienced administrator from the
private sector in all government schools.
These are indispensable steps
if reforms are to be initiated and can be implemented without additional funds.
Also, there are plenty of retired, senior private-sector executives who will be
happy to volunteer their services if the government promises not to interfere.
But before taking these measures, the government must appoint a panel of honest
experts from different fields and provinces to formulate a policy on the
above-mentioned points and present their recommendations to
It is unlikely, though, that the government would accept
these recommendations as they may get in the way of too many vested interests.
The root cause of the problem lies in the fact that the process of democracy has
been repeatedly interrupted by military regimes.
The government of the
last dictator, famous for his 'enlightened moderation', decided to raise the
monthly salary of teachers significantly. The income of teachers of non-formal
home-based schools rose from Rs1,000 to Rs4,000 for matriculates, Rs1,000 to
Rs4,500 for intermediates and Rs1,000 to Rs5,000 for graduates. Similar
increases were given to teachers of formal government schools but nothing was
done to improve teachers' training programmes or the monitoring system with the
result that while the GDP and the teachers' salaries went up, the quality of
education did not improve.
In fact, something worse began to happen.
Teachers who were matriculates and intermediates began to buy fake degrees in
order to claim a salary of Rs5,000 and officials who could facilitate this scam
became their partners. As for teachers of government schools, they continued to
come late, leave early, teach indifferently, do other jobs as well as take cuts
from snack vendors' daily sales in return for granting the vendors space within
the school premises. Anyone who believes that a mere increase in salaries brings
with it efficiency, higher productivity, greater motivation and improvement in
teaching quality need only visit some of these schools.
The Ministry of
Education is primarily concerned with the total number of students in government
schools; whether or not they are learning is of no interest to them. Hence,
principals, headmistresses and the teaching staff are made to orient themselves
towards increasing enrolment figures. They are apathetic to students being late
or playing truant and could not care less if the students extend their summer
and winter vacations by weeks or if they actually return on the first day of
school. This situation also suits teachers as it gives them the liberty to come
late and leave early, and to give or not to give homework in order to avoid
correcting and checking it. Therefore, despite the hefty increase in teachers'
salaries, public-sector education continues to produce illiterates.
astonishing example is that of a student who was meant to take his Matric
examinations in less than seven weeks and did not know the meaning of the first
word 'shiver' of the first exercise in the first chapter of the English
textbook. I witnessed this when I went to teach English as part of an effort to
start free tuition classes in English, Maths, physics and chemistry so that
children would be able to obtain better marks in their board
In the end, the quality of education will remain poor in
Pakistan until education becomes a top priority and is de-politicised. At
present, it is a source of jobs for cronies and voters. The standard is so
dismal that even the poor do not like to send their kids to government schools.
Unless concrete action is taken to remedy this state of affairs, the gap between
the haves and the have-nots will continue to widen. -By Mansoor Alam (Dawn)
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