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Education Sector A Reform Is Needed
by M.R.HUSSAIN

AT HOMEThe woes of education and health sectors have never really subsided because of certain reasons we all know. Be it political turmoils, economic problems or any other national issue, when it comes to budget allocations, education and health have always been the scapegoats. It has unfortunately always been a setback for a nation like Pakistan to promote and give education its due importance, especially when compared to neighbouring countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Despite 63 years of independence, Pakistan still lags behind in literacy rate. Statistics show that the aforementioned countries have gone far ahead in this race, but ours is nation blessed with politicians who consider education to be one of the less important factors for national growth and prosperity. In the last few years the tertiary education sector has suffered serious blows at the hands of the government when their budget was cut down. Nevertheless students and teachers still have a common view that higher secondary education in Pakistan is still way better than the primary and secondary education system common in most parts of the country.
The foreign system of education has a stark contrast in curriculum, teaching methodologies and the examination techniques when compared to the local one. And these are the three main factors that have embroiled our primary education system apart from funding. The curriculum taught at the primary level is outdated, the syllabi is the same as it was 20 years ago. Same is the case with course books. Teaching methodologies haven't evolved, and the format of examination promotes rote-learning instead of developing analytical skills. Often the pattern of examination papers force students to cram and memorise the coursework rather than applying the concepts gained in the course of study. Take an exam paper from any provincial board of examination, and you will find numerous questions seeking definitions of what is what; rarely will one find a question that tests the understanding of the concepts. This is the reason why students, when pursuing higher education, lag behind in applying a conceptual and practical approach during studies. All this clearly points towards one thing – quality. It is the quality of primary education that needs attention in order to improve a student's thinking capacity at the grass root level.
Strengthening the quality of education has always been a high priority agenda for all developed and developing countries. Coupled with groundbreaking research, infrastructural development, innovative programs at all educational levels, developing countries are taking leaps in this sector; although Pakistan did see a revival in tertiary education in the last ten years, the primary and secondary system still need a reform.
AT HOMEThe biggest problem our education sector is facing is low public sector funding. According to a report issued by the Academy of Educational Planning and Management, Ministry of Education, public sector funding has progressively declined since the mid 90s. Not just this, the primary education sector also suffers from lack of efficient financial management. More than 90 per cent of the budgetary allocations are spent on overhead expenditures such as salaries of teaching and non teaching staff, leaving insufficient proportion of an already insufficient allocation for developmental programs. Hence infrastructural developments are kept at a bare minimum. It is also evident that there is a lack of inventive approaches for generating additional sources of income especially when the trends of funding are indicative. This leads to another area of concern – the quality of education. The difference in quality between the private and public schools is huge. The public sector suffers predominantly because of scarce financial influx, whereas private schools are exempted from this problem, a better income eventually results in better services. Data shows that the private schools are playing a fundamental role in the growth of primary education in Pakistan, but that too has its setbacks. Most private schools are situated in urban centres, hence inaccessible to the rural population. Besides, the cost of education in private institutions makes it inaccessible for the lower class and this, in light of the current inflation rate, has been one of the main reasons for students dropping out of schools. Experts claim that enrolment rates have been low because of a number of other factors such as differences in enrolments across provinces, genders and locations; additionally tribal, ethnic and social taboos and minorities are hurdles in providing education to the people.
Private institutions with better infrastructure and facilities, updated curriculum and trained teaching staff are able to provide a much better standard of education as compared to the government schools, which don't enjoy the above mentioned facilities. Moreover the fact that private institutions have a completely different administration eases the day to day operations; public schools on the other hand are subjected to a centralised management on the provincial level, eventually resulting in redundant bureaucratic regulations and rules hindering the developmental function in such institutions.
Basic education is not just important for preparing students for the subsequent educational levels but also for equipping them with the basic knowledge and skills. However those in charge of the responsibilities need to realise the gaps in the system and the fill those gaps. For prospering and developing as a nation, it is necessary for the government to realise the importance of education. A reform in the primary and secondary education system is needed to match the international standards and for this the government needs to put in more efforts and funds. NGOs and various other organisations have initiated programs for reaching the masses and are contributing profusely in their own level, but those in charge need to gear up too.
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Your Views

I think the education system needs a revamp, the coursework is outdated and we are far behind in what is being taught internationally. The Ministry of Education must look into this. Sana Panjwani, Karachi

I think the quality of primary and secondary education varies considerably between provinces; students studying under the Federal Board seem to be more competent and knowledgeable as compared to students who have studied under the Sindh Board. Having been a teacher for the last decade, I have noticed this striking difference many times, but despite this, I think we should evolve coursework and focus on a different approach instead of the same old ways. Bakhtiar Ali, Karachi

Primary education system is below par in terms of standard mainly because the lack of trained teaching staff and infrastructure. Students suffer because the teachers are least bothered to do anything about the curriculum despite knowing that it is within their domain to bring some change. Zeeshan Ali, Lahore

The syllabus is outdated, what we study is absolutely outdated. When there are mistakes in course books, what can be expected of the system, let alone teaching and examining methods. Ayesha Fazal, Nawabshah

Whatever the standard of primary and secondary education, I think the more pressing problem is educating the masses. Outreach programs should be initiated by the education ministry so that children have access to basic education in the rural areas. Improving the standard and quality is a secondary matter. Ameen Khan, Peshawar

The quality of primary and secondary education needs to improve because it is clear from the number of students opting for O and A Levels that our local system is outdated and students who have studied in such a system face tough competition at the university level. Daniyal, Islamabad

Primary and secondary education in Pakistan has to improve on many levels because the current system, that has persisted for so many years, has given birth to the rote-learning culture. Students nowadays choose to opt for 'coaching centres', where students are 'coached' on how to gain good marks and answer the examination papers. That is the reason why our education system is suffering. Sameer Lalani, Karachi

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