1.i The scenario of education in Pakistan
1 .ii Comparison with other countries
- Factors behind decline in education
2.i. Administrative factors
a) Poor examination system
b) Booty mafia
2.ii. Social and lingual factors
a) Disparity between Urdu and English mediums
b) The lingual imperialism of English
c) Privatization a social conflict
2.iii. Economic crisis of the country-cause of decline in education
- Measures to be taken for elevation of the education sector
3.i. Increasing the expenditure
3.ii. Private-public partnership
3.iii. Support of the international organizations (World Bank/ UNO)
3.iv. Focus on technical and vocational education
3.v. Focus on higher education
3.vi. Implementation of New Education Policy 2009
3.vii. Highly skilled work force a step forward
3.viii. Exchange of ideas with neigbouring countries
Pakistan’s educational sector has remained at the lowest level both in standard and allocation in budget by the govt. presently the literacy rate in Pakistan is 57% with (2%) of the GDP (Gross Domestic Production) spent on this sector. Though India has world’s largest illiterate population of any nation on the earth but its education sector cannot be said to be in decline with 74% literacy rate in 2011 from 12% at the end of the British rule in 1947 (source: Wikipedia). China’s situation in education is also greatly better than that of Pakistan. The Unicef Report of 2004-08 tells that China’s youth (15-24 years) have 99% of the literacy rate, while the ‘CIA World fact book’ reports that 1.9% of GDP is spent on the education sector in China. A small percentage of GDP can have 99% of the literacy rate in China then why Pakistan is standing far behind. Even Iran has the literacy rate of 80% (in 2007). This sharp contrast with the neighbouring countries in literacy rates has risen various questions as to how and why our education sector still resting somewhere in decline even after 64 years. Various questions need to be answered as far as the decline in education is concerned. The administrative infrastructure in the education sector in Pakistan has remained inefficient and weak enough to fulfill the requirements of the globalized world. The traditional definition of the literacy is described as) “the ability to read and write correctly and think critically about some printed material. In the 21st century globalized world asks for a changed and advance dimension to the culture of information and knowledge. But the quality of education in Pakistan cannot cope with the increasing challenges of today’s world. Basic reason is considered as weak physical infrastructure of the educational institutions especially of the public) sector. The quality of existing learning environment is evident from be facts that a large number of schools are missing basic infrastructure facilities i.e. 32.7% schools up to elementary level, 32% are without boundary walls, 33.6% without drinking water facility, 35.4% without latrines and around 60% schools are without electricity (source Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11). With this kind of weakness in; infrastructure the education sector discourages the learners to get educated in a conductive environment, thus declining the standards of education at all levels. Another factor behind decline in education is the below average examination system and assessment process for the students.
The examination system in Pakistan both at school and higher education levels is impractical and lacks the ability to evaluate the true level of learning of the students. Major issues in the examination system include leakage of the question papers, external assistance and smuggling of unauthorized material, ghost centers and irregulation of supervision staff along with illegal ways of getting higher marks or getting better merit numbers. With these kinds of menaces the absolute evaluation of the students becomes doubtful which gives way to frustration and sense of deprivation among the unprivileged class. People in power do discriminate. Nepotism is worshipped. Example of which is the case of a Chief Justice of Pakistan (in recent past years) who got her daughter extra marks. According to an estimate, this action deprived 100,000 females’ students of their right. Not only are these kinds of inappropriate actions equal to playing with education. Decline in education is inevitable with this kind of attitudes. Although as Muslims acquiring education is considered as a religious obligation for every man and woman yet the administrative weaknesses in our country have served the corrupt powerful class to manipulate the system to suit their purposes.
In a hadith it is clearly mentioned;
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim”.
Decline in education is also the fall out of the “booty mafia” in the examination system. This mafia is a nuisance and causes sense of deprivation among less privileged section of society. The word “mafia’ has its roots as shadowy as its present day operations. It may also be called as “The Mob”, the syndicate or the “National Network of Organized Crime’. The Booty Mafia’ is one of the common practices in our examination system as most of the superintendents serving in the examination centres are afraid of the police that’s why they don’t register the FIR against UMC (Unfair Means Cases). The posting of corrupt officers against the posts of chairman, controller of exams and secretaries in exam boards through nepotism and political maneuvering and merit of powerful are the reasons of ‘Booti mafia” fake degrees are another humor of our educational system. In the recent past the MNA’s (Member of the National Assembly) of Pakistan holding fake degrees got public on the private electronic media especially.
What remains the purpose of qualifying exams if the degrees can be bought or obtained by other means and if the people’s representatives are holding fake degrees what level of trust a common will have on the education system.
Various social and ideological factors have significantly contributed in the decline of the educational sector of Pakistan. Our society predominantly consists of conservative social class which has their own mores and norms. At times out of these social aspects and customs the families do not tend to send their females to the educational institutions especially in the rural and remote areas. Getting their females admitted in co-educational institution is another issue. Even some families do not let their females study for middle classes though they may be dwelling in urban societies. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11 the male literacy rate in Pakistan is 69.5% rather of female it is 44.7% (2008-09). Rather in rural areas the literacy rate for males is 80.2% andfor females it is 65.5%. The basic reason for this disparity between male and female literacy rate is the conservative social behaviour of the people. This disparity results in the declining standards of education across the country as females consists more than half a population ofPakistan. Unless both genders contribute in the mainstream of life on equal footings how the country can be put on the road to enlightenment.
It is declared in Quran;
“Verily the worst kinds of beasts in the sight, of Almighty Allah are those deaf and dumb people who do not think use their intellect”.
The disparity between the male and female education is one cause of decline in education while disparity between languages (especially English and Urdu) is another crucial factor in the current decline of education in Pakistan.
The disparity between Urdu and English medium educational institutions in Pakistan are the source of creating two distinct poles in the education sector. English language has long been associated with expansion of English from its homeland in England and the lowlands of Scotland. The Britishers influence with their expanding empires across the world (in the colonial era) is the primary reason for the initial spread of English far beyond the UK. Following the World War II, the increased economic and cultural influence of the US led to English”perforating’ many other cultures, chiefly through development of telecommunication technology. In Pakistan the private education sector is majorly dominated with an English Culture’. This has turned into an ‘English linguistic imperialism even though we have been made a free nation since 64 years. Dr. Robert Phillipson defines English linguistic imperialism as the dominance asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages English language prevails and maintains its domination in post colonial context in Pakistan as far as the education sector is concerned. The linguistic imperialism has resulted in creating a sharp class distinction between those who can afford the English based education and those cannot. A lopsided social and cultural fabric is the direct outcome of the disparity in education.
English language in Pakistan’s education sector has become an essential tool for getting advanced level of knowledge as this may not find in the national language Urdu. English language prepares the students for exams offered by foreign universities, in order to get higher jobs in multinationals. This has led to high competition among different social classes of Pakistan and everybody wants to provide good education; which is definitely an English medium education to one’s progeny. This has created an acute class conflict. The society in Pakistan has been divided into two distinct classes living in their own respective worlds. One almost breathing in the 21st century. Western society and other one trying to just survive in the conditions of yore. This kind of conflict in the education sector has made Pakistani society confront strong forces of orthodoxy, religious ethnicity, linguistic loyalties versus the need and urge to be more powerful. According to an estimate Pakistan is the 9th largest English speaking nation in the world and 3rd in Asia. The tough competition among the classes to get the English medium education causes declining standards as the various mediums and levels of qualities of education sector create a social imbalance. Still another factor behind this decline in education are the deteriorating standards of the education in the public institutions while giving way to ever increasing expenses of the private education system.
Ever since the privatization of the institutions in Pakistan (since 1999) took place. The increasing rates of the private educational institution have launched a kind of a cut throat competition among masses to get their children admitted in highly expensive and quality; as it is thought, private institutions in Pakistan. According to an estimate 1999-2009 private provision multiplied almost three fold from 36,000 schools to over 90,000 at primary and secondary levels spreading across the urban and rural areas. Private provision in Pakistan is seen to be providing a choice for even poor families. The ‘linguistic imperialism’ of English has rendered the society always striving to get education from private English medium institutions, though it so happens at times that several private educational institutions are just grabbing heavy amounts from parents of their students and that in the name of English based education which gives a sense of superiority to every class of Pakistani society. An education report (in 2008) in Pakistan estimates that 22% of children in school going age (5 -16 years) in rural areas are enrolled in private schools. The might be the reason that govt. also took certain measures to collaborate the private and public sector of education. This is a fact that, given the resources, people send their children to private institutions. The website Wikipedia claims that HEC in Pakistan (Higher Education Commission) recognized 132 institutions in Pakistan out of them 73 are public universities and 59 are private. While between 1983- 2000 the number of private primary and secondary schools in Pakistan increased tenfold from 3,300-32,000. This is a surprising statistics that this much growth of the private sector education is faster than the population of the school aged children. The mushroom growth of private institutions (especially school with) in-appropriate learning environment has caused manipulation of education.
The economic crisis of Pakistan has caused much damage to the standards of the education sector. For getting expensive education in the private institutions the parents of the students have to maintain a dignified economic status which is a hard nut to crack especially for those belonging to the middle class. The owners of the private institutions especially of schools open up the schools in inappropriate premises just for the sake of earning money. The ever increasing unemployment, poverty and inflation rates have compelled various people to manipulate education as providing education in Pakistan is a convenient source of earning a reasonable livelihood. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-2011 the unemployment increased by 5.5% and 5.6% in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. While the cumulative increase in inflation is 14.1% in July – April 2010-11. With these alarming figures the survey states that the real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate as 2.4% compared to 4.5% which was a targeted figure. These menaces on the front of economy have hurdled the way of the education to great improvement as the teachers are also victimized by the social and economic issues. These facts render them unable to impart quality education with motivation and professionalism. This decline of education certainly needs some remedies to get elevated.
The most significant step in elevating the education sector would be to ensuring a remarkable increase in the expenditure on the education. The policy documents are blank on this question of what extraordinary things are going to happen which enable Pakistan to raise the expenditure on education. From 1972-2009 levels of spending remained significantly unpredictable. Given this disappointing trajectory increasing public expenditure on education to 7% of the GDP would be nothing less than a miracle but it is not going to be of godly nature. Unless Pakistan adopts an unconventional approach towards education this sector cannot reach its desired destination. Education should be treated as a special sector by immunizing budgetary allocation and securing it from fiscal stress and political or economic instabilities. Allocation for education should not be affected by squeezed fiscal space or surge in military expenditure or debts. At the same time, there is need to debate other option about how Pakistan can invent the miracle of raising education expenditure to 7% of GDP by 2015 as the govt. pledges to.
The govt. sector of education should have collaboration with the private sector in order to ensure the provision of the quality education to non-privileged calls of the society. The ‘Education Sector Reform’s Action Plan’ ‘2001-2002’,2005-2006’ prioritized the provision of primary and elementary education to all children and provided incentives to public private partnership (PPPs) to flourish the education sector. It is hopeful sign that due to govt.’s favorable approach to private participation in education large number of institutions not only flourished but also catered socio-economically disadvantaged rural and urban poor. In Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh the World Bank is supporting the low-cost private sector through education foundations to expand access to education in districts with large number of out of school children. These are good omens but much more is required to make the quality education a possibility for all.
The international organizations should come forward in supporting Pakistan to come out of the decline of education. The United Nations Organization needs to take effective measure in virtually enabling the less privileged class to acquire education as their basic right. This act will certainly ensure the decrease in corruption and criminal activities in our society. The corruption done by the World Bank is noteworthy in this regard. Since 2004 World Bank has been supporting the education sector reforms in Pakistan though development policy credit operation in Pakistan for the poor. This promotes public financial reforms and devolution of roles to local communication, making service providers more accountable. World Bank’s analytical support for higher education sector has been completed and da high education sector programme is under preparation. Work is also underway to support college sector reforms. These remedies may at least enable Pakistan to decrease ‘Brain Drain’ as many students move abroad for the sake of higher quality education from Western countries. The reform programmes also include teachers’ professional development, textbook development, assessment with a view to improve students’ learning and classroom environment along with monitoring of the students’ learning through regular assessment. This is happening with a National Educational Assessment System supported by the World Bank.
The govt, of Pakistan must also take prompt action to impart technical and vocational education as it is necessary to make the education match able with the growing advancements in the field of technology all over the world, ‘NAVTEC’ (National Vocational and Technical Education Commission is a regulatory body responsible for promoting linkages among various stake holders to address challenges faced by Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET). These include training and skill enhancing at individual level and initiating a mega campaign at public-private partnerships. NAVTEC specially focuses on disadvantaged group to economically disadvantaged region. The most exciting feature of NAVTEC is to enhance the employability of youth and supporting women to participate in labour force more actively. Today rate of women participation is only 29% which is far less than other regional countries (Source: Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-2011). This rate should be essentially increased in order to raise the potential of women to come in the mainstream of life.
For elevating the current decline of education in Pakistan the other most crucial step could be focusing the higher education which; in this age of globalization, plays an important role in making an economy knowledge-based. It works as a driving force in the development process of a country and brings intellectual capital and technological changes, making economy more competitive and innovative by reshaping human capital, with better skills and expertise. ‘Higher Education Commission’ is an autonomous bod)’ to provide inter-universities cooperation and coordination. It is not a good sign that due to continued financial vulnerabilities, the govt, has reduced development budget to Rs. 9.2 billion in 2010-2011 compared to Rs. 11.3 billion in 2009-2010 (Source: Economic Survey 2010-11). The development budget for education should be increased especially for higher education which is a major source of development of Pakistan. In this regard education policy 2009 is an important factor.
The govt, of Pakistan must make the New Education Policy(NEP) 2009 effective. This policy calls for an increased access to higher education for the youth of age group between 17-23 years from the existing 5% to 10% by the year 2015. It is a major challenge for Higher Education Commission (HEC) and would require continuous support and generous funding from the federal govt, in the upcoming years. During 2000-10, there were 868,641 students studying in the universities. This is a satisfactory figure but the new education policy 2009 should be made practical removing all the impediments of the way. The govt. must ensure that whatever the measures have been laid in the policy are effectively implemented in the whole education system of the country as only the paper work does not produce results, for this purpose, a highly skilled workforce will be required to meet the required ends.
Highly skilled workforce has become a basic need to meet the challenges of contemporary era which is all about competitiveness and efficiency. Human development must be the first and foremost objective of the education in Pakistan as only the curriculum-based education just produces rote memorizers. It is important to note that higher education sector has been playing essential role in human resource development to support the economy of the country by contributing in workforce of1 approximately four hundred thousand university graduates, every year, during 2005 to 2009. The data shows 30% increase in the total graduates output from the universities and degree awarding institutes (DAI’s) during above mentioned period. Since 2002, Higher Education] Commission has sent about 4,313 scholars in the technically advanced] countries for research degrees such as M.Phil and Ph.D out of these; 1,214 have completed and returned to the country (Economic Survey). Further measures are to be taken to make the human development possible in the literal sense.
It is said that crisis in economics or a trade deficit comes about when the nations ‘import too many foreign goods’. In culture and education nations experience a deficit when they “import too few’. This is] what actually happened with education sector in Pakistan The govt. should make it a permanent programme of the education policies and programmes to exchange the technical and cultural learnings from the friendly neighbouring countries especially the Muslim, countries. The scholarships should be offered to the students coming from neighbouring countries to ensure that students of different countries are having acongenial and productive interaction with the world outside. It is praiseworthy that Ministry of Education is running a number of scholarship schemes for different target groups. This includes 100 scholarships to Bangladeshi, 200 to students from “Indian Occupied Kashmir’ and 2,000 to students from Afghanistan. These are pleasing steps of the govt. but this activity must be expanded to other neighbouring countries as well which will also increase the scope of Pakistani students as well.
We are living in a digital era where the dimensions of learning and knowledge have been multiplied manifold. We cannot just peep into the world through a narrow window of knowledge. Today’s world demands a wider perspectives and enlightened intellectual way of life. Pakistan’s education sector needs to cope with it which may not be a possibility but requires the struggle which can go out of the conventional ways of the country. 64 years have taught Pakistani nation a bitter reality that without investing both financially and intellectually in the education sector will keep on giving disappointing figures. With the decline in education the track of the modern world can be bumpy. This creates a vicious circle with alarming poverty ratio and unemployment as the direct fall out and then again as the cause of the decline in education. Elevation of the education sector is not only the need of the hour for the country but also (essential to) fulfill the MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals) in their literal sense.