Implementing the new Education Policy 2009
June 2009: Pakistan is about to be given yet another Education Policy to be implemented
from 2010. The draft of this forthcoming education policy (2009) has been
available on the Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan's website since
the past two years. The draft policy evolved this time with the inclusion of
civil society who was asked to prepare a White Paper for policy recommendations.
This process continued post General Musharraf's Government when
elections installed a democratic government at the Centre and in the provinces.
The Pakistan Coalition for Education convened a series of meetings in all the
four provinces to provide advocacy to the latest education policy. A lot of
effort by concerned citizens has gone into making the right policy decisions and
outcomes so that the education sector can be "fixed" once and for all. At
present this Education Policy is being reviewed by the Federal cabinet for final
approval. For a policy to start off in the right direction and base its
recommendation on, it must state the "vision" for the coming generation's
education or what outcome it hopes to achieve from its educational provision.
This particular policy's vision formulated by the Ministry of Education is:
"Education is a categorical imperative for individual, social and
national development that should enable all individuals to reach their maximum
human potential. The system should produce responsible, enlightened citizens to
integrate Pakistan in the global framework of human-centred economic
No doubt the above vision leaves no stone unturned to
provide the kind of educated individual who will be a model for fellow
Pakistanis as well as one for all countries of the world. The 21st Century
skills and fast-paced knowledge revolution demands such a vision through a
national education system. However, to accomplish the policy's aims, the present
Pakistani system requires a high percentage of enrollment, minimum drop out
rate, equity, access and a "qualitative" approach to learning in the classroom.
So far, in the 60 years of its existence, the earlier policy makers have failed
miserably in achieving even a modicum of the requirements stated above.
What makes Education Policy 2009 different in its approach for a
workable solution to achieving the impossible? For one, Chapter Three (3)
Understanding System Deficiencies, of the policy document exhaustively defines
and analyses the deficiencies that have plagued the education sector in the
past. It identifies two major reasons and I quote:
"There are two
fundamental causes for the weak performance of the education sector:
a lack of commitment to education - a commitment gap - and
implementation gap that has thwarted the application of policies".
The Planning Commission's Vision 2030 document
says that "We cannot spend only 2.7 per cent of GDP on education and expect to
become a vibrant knowledge economy." The commitment to educating the whole
country for a viable economic base is reflected totally in the kind of budgetary
allocation the education sector has received over the last three decades. The
result has been a low literacy rate and a poorly educated service and tertiary
sector that have made Pakistan lag behind India in its bid for markets abroad
and at home. The elitist education managed to produce top doctors, engineers,
pilots, Chartered Accountants, initial bureaucrats and military personnel but
failed to provide an exemplary secondary support group of nurses, technicians,
cabin staff, district officers who were mostly educated in the public schools.
The public sector schools were of a good standard up to '70s but then the
neglect started to eat away at a valuable resource of the country. Lack of
commitment to education may also be attributed to two other reasons. Pakistan's
colonial past played a major role in the way education was managed in the
initial years of independence. Although a break with the colonial past was tried
but as the policy comments: "The tradition of British education, which Pakistan
inherited, emphasised academic skills (to serve the colonial administration)
rather than skills and competencies for use in the production sector."
Furthermore, Pakistan's economy was mostly agrarian and the skill based
needs of the economy did not influence the structure of educational provision.
The change to an industrial base in the '60s did not bring the expected change
to a more relevant educational structure. The nationalisation policy of the '70s
caused further fall in standards in colleges and schools across the country. For
the present, the Economist Intelligence Unit in its latest review of Pakistani
"Pakistan's Education System is among the most deficient
and backward in Asia, reflecting the traditional determination of the feudal
ruling elite to preserve its hegemony."
Thus, the commitment gap is all
too visible in the successive governments' neglect of the public sector schools
which serviced the middle and lower income groups. These groups were eventually
denied the justice to acquire a meaningful education for social and economic
mobility up the ladder of success. In today's Pakistan, the divide between the
rich and the poor is so great that it negates the concept of the welfare state
that the founding fathers had envisioned. Implementation gap
policy document looks at a number of reasons that impact on the way previous
policies have failed to deliver. Some of these include:
aspects of governance in the education sector.
allocation and use of resources leading to
amounts of allocated
development funds remaining unutilised.
Lack of planning (other
countries plan years in advance of a reform intervention).
building ahead of introduction of reforms.
Lack of accountability.
Constant monitoring of reform efforts.
The Policy 2009 has a
short chapter on "Implementation Framework" on what has to be done but nothing
concrete in terms of by "whom", "how" and "when" it is to be carried out. The
plans will, presumably, come later rather than earlier which mistake previous
policies have made already.
Corruption a root cause: is implementation
of policy possible?
However, the crux of the matter in proper
implementation of policies is clearly enunciated as point 3.1.5 of Clause 92 -
it is endemic corruption at all levels of the education sector. It is said in
the document that:
"Political influence and favoritism are believed to
interfere in the allocation of resources to the districts and schools in
recruitment, training and posting of teachers and school administrators that are
not based on merit, in awarding of textbook contracts, and in the conduct of
examinations and assessments."
With such rampant corruption in a
department where selfless and noble service is required for the future security
and wellbeing of the country, failure should definitely be laid at the non
performance of the kind of character building done through religious teaching in
It has no doubt been a waste of time and effort to "rote
learn" Islamiyat for examination purposes without application of those pristine
moral principles to every day life. The assessment system should have tapped
critical thinking skills to put value on these moral principles so that it made
a meaningful impact on the learner. In the case of Pakistan Studies, too,
students do not find any meaningful satisfaction in learning about their country
as syllabi are rote learned. No effort has been made to access actual "sources"
of history to be critically analysed at various stages of education to leave a
lasting impression on the learner.
Consequently, how learning is
effectively done is a missing element in the policy document as no innovative
approach to the education of teachers is recommended. The teachers will continue
to acquire a B.Ed or an M.Ed degree as a training certification. These two
degrees are still based on the syllabus which the colonial masters instituted
pre-Partition. Since the standard of education is below par, the policy
recommends that teachers now must be an MA for secondary school teaching and a
BA for primary school teaching.
Promises of professional development and
rewards abound but the bottom line has not changed. What is needed is a fresh or
novel approach to the way efficient teachers can be educated for the kind of
pedagogical needs of the 21st Century. What is essential is a pre-service
certification course with the modern approach to teaching which all teachers in
the country must acquire. This will inculcate a professional outlook to becoming
a teacher negating the attitude that anyone can take up teaching.
The great divide: Pakistan's education system
The national education system
set up after Partition in 1947 only lacked uniformity in the media of
instruction. The post-Partition public schools had Urdu as the medium of
instruction and the colonial British government and missionary schools had
English as the medium of instruction. However, according to the recent report by
the Planning Commission "Vision 2030" the divide is visible in all areas of the
"There is a divide between the prevalent school
structure and differences in levels of infrastructure and facilities, media of
instruction, emolument of teachers, and even examination systems between public
and private schools. The rich send their children to privately-run English
medium schools which offer foreign curricula and examination systems; the public
schools enroll those who are too poor to do so."
Despite the pluralistic
nature of society, there has been a constant refrain for uniformity in
educational provision within Pakistan. The new state's promise of equal
opportunity through education has been denied to the disadvantaged in society.
There is no level playing field in the domain of education. Consequently, the
poor have become poorer and the rich, richer. The preamble to the policy paper
admits this gap and its long term consequences when it says in Clause 86:
There are close links between equity in educational opportunities and
equitable income distribution and income growth. If the education system is
constructed on a divisive basis, the divisions it creates can endanger in the
long run economic growth. An unjust society creates an unstable society and an
unstable society cannot sustain stable long term growth."
vision for a cohesive Pakistan had made him declare Urdu as the national
language. Urdu without any doubt became the lingua franca of the country with
Baluchis, Sindhis, Punjabis and Pakhtoons communicating with each other through
this common language. This nation building exercise has been eroded by
thoughtless interventions in the education sector.
As English medium
schools managed to sustain a level of quality in their teaching and learning
with a transparent foreign examination system, it was felt that only "English
medium" meant a qualitative or better education. It is conveniently forgotten
that almost all who went through the public sector Urdu medium schooling also
shone and were successful in all the careers. Privatisation of education
encouraged the new schools to just opt for an English-medium education which was
out of the reach of the less privileged classes who now demand this as a right
to a successful future.
However, in the last 10 years, a solid base in
language acquisition is lacking. The constant matrix of Urdu and English spoken
today on media channels and by the younger generation is a product of the
confusion in the education provision. No policy has taken a firm decision of
equalising the opportunities for everyone to acquire proficiency in both Urdu
The fault lies with the medium of instruction - for English
medium, English has to be learnt first and then the acquisition of knowledge
takes place. With Urdu, this is not the case - a lot of time is not wasted when
knowledge is acquired through this language which also lays the base for
Pakistan's religious, social and cultural identity. This identity is lost when
education is in a foreign language and a foreign curriculum meant for the needs
of countries whose society, culture and religion is different to Pakistan. The
consequences of such a policy are explained by the linguist expert Dr Tariq
Rehman in "Standard Education System in Pakistan" a Pakistan Coalition for
Education Position Paper Series.
Dr Rehman says that the purpose of
education is to impart knowledge and information that encourages critical
thinking and empowers people. However, he continues: "As regards the medium of
instruction, which is the focus of this paper, it would be fair and justthat
most services of the State and the private sector should operate in the local
language and Urdu. It is quite unjust that, in the centuries-old colonial
tradition, our people face an alien State that does not serve them in their
languages. This must change so that as far as possible, the people are able to
speak to State officials in their own languages and be responded to in the same.
This will also ensure that in this age of globalisation people will remain in
touch with their identities."
For the new commercial schools which offer
the British system with O/A levels, Dr Rehman analyses their output as:
"Typically, students of these schools show aversion to Urdu and pride themselves
on not knowing it, indicating the degree of alienation from their own culture.
While it would not be wrong to call them 'brown sahibs' or what is now more
appropriate 'native Yankees', they generally hold more tolerant and peaceful
views as compared to their counterparts in Urdu medium schools and madressahs.
Thus, this educational apartheid, unjust though it is, is not the end of the
story. It corresponds to an acute polarisation of views, attitudes and thinking
in these different kinds of educational institutions." Concluding
The time is now. A new education policy is in the offing as
the review of the 1998- 2010 policy claims that the policy has failed to deliver
once again on its implementation of a uniform curricula for all private and
public schools. Where language is concerned, UNESCO studies on education
research recommend that the initial schooling or early childhood learning should
be in the mother tongue. So, let all provinces take that on board with the
decision to do just that.
Dr Tariq Rehman recommends that learning from
Class-III onwards should be in Urdu with English being taught as a subject from
Class-I which is already being done in Urdu medium schools. Learning a language
well depends on the quality of the classroom teaching and, not on whether it is
an English medium or Urdu medium school.
Efforts to make learners
acquire proficiency in English which is Pakistan's second language and language
of instruction at the university level is solely dependent on the "quality of
learning experiences". Pakistan will not suddenly become backward if this (doing
away with English as the only medium of instruction for quality education) is
followed - the backwardness of the nation stems from the inequality in and low
quality of educational provision.Education Policy 2009 recommends excellent
policy actions on all aspects of the education service. The question to ask then
is when and how will the policy be implemented.
Since the government has
failed at running the public schools which are a valuable asset of this country,
a council of dedicated educationists from the public sector should take on the
task to revive and pull up their standard. New textbooks and curricula are
already at hand the task is to educate teachers who are capable of taking on
the job of teaching in the new pedagogical requirements. This new, committed
force of teachers should then be inducted into the public schools. An
independent monitoring department selected from the public must be set up to
overlook and review the implementation of Policy 2009. When ownership of reforms
by the people and for the people happens, then only can results be expected.
The citizens of Pakistan must now take part in the commitment to rectify
education in the country. Change comes from the people themselves who have to
let go of their malaise and slumber and put the country's interest first before
their personal gain. Implementation of policies has been blocked by vested
interests and through corruption and inefficiency in the education sector, time
This time around, Pakistan will not be given another chance.
The forces of extremism, terrorism and backwardness that now prevail will make
the country extinct. As one American president told his people at his
inauguration ceremony, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you
can do for your country." For Pakistanis there is precious little choice
By Ismat Riaz, email@example.com - The writer is an educational consultant based in Lahore (Dawn)
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