The current National Education Policy (1998-2010) was framed in the light of historical developments, modern trends in education and the newly emerging requirements in the country. The policy aiming Education for All (EFA), included elementary education, adult literacy and early childhood education. The stress to the National Education Policy is on three categories of education discussed above.
Now it is in the fitness of things to discuss the objectives, problems concerning each category of education. We deal firstly with Elementary Education.
The policy stipulates an access to elementary education through the effective utilization of existing facilities and services and also to provide for new ones to promote elementary education.
It declares the building of character at the elementary level on the Islamic lines to promote humanism. This is not something new as this objective underlies all Education Policies designed and formulated at different times. The objective remains sacred but unrealizable in view of the operation of socio-politico-economic institutional forces in the country, let loose on account of the thrust of economic development.
The policy stands for improving the competence of teachers through various training programmes. Teacher is a major component of the education process and if he could play his role effectively being armed with new teaching methodologies, the objectives of the Education Policy could be realized greatly.
The policy recognizes the need for introducing Katchi class at the primary level for improving the achievement of pupils. The measure is intended to improve the achieved level of pupils.
The policy assigns an important role to family, school, community, non governmental organizations (NG0s) to maximize elementary education. The objective can largely be achieved if there were co-ordination among the organizations under reference.
Another objective of the policy is to remove disparities and imbalances of all types in regard to gender for promoting equality. It is no less than a Herculean task to achieve the objective in Pakistan where a number of socio-economic constraints operate to encourage gender discrimination. One could only wish god-speed to the framers of the policy to realize the objective of gender-equality in elementary education.
The policy’s contention is to bring ‘out of school children’ within the ambit of elementary education. It accords a high priority to this objective, though it appears pretty difficult to bring it within the reach of realization. It requires a degree of high will on the part of the government and the community to strive for the achievement of this objective.
The policy aims at diversifying the financial resource base in respect of the elementary education. This basically calls for increasing the percentage of GNP to education. True, there is a competition among different sub-sectors of education to claim resources for their development. It calls for broadening the financial resource base to develop elementary education. It is a landable intention which needs to be translated to practice. The government will have to decide to increase budgetary allocation for all sectors of education including elementary.
The policy intends adopting non formal system to complement formal system to achieve the targets of elementary system. In the past non-formal system did not prove a success for a number of reasons. The forces operative in the past could still have their hold to undo national efforts to make non-formal system a success. The past mistakes need to be avoided if non-formal system were to succeed in supplementing the formal system.
The policy envisages to institute a monitoring system for obtaining timely and reliable information pertaining to enrollment, retention, completion etc. It also means to introduce qualitative monitoring of achievement. These are good objectives provided they are supervised and monitored properly.
The last but not the least is to introduce management and supervision system effectively by bringing about greater decentralization, participatory governance and accountability. Pakistan is not deficient in making policies, laying down laudable objectives, but it is in the field of management and monitoring. Management and supervision need to be made effective to monitor about the achievement and non achievement of policy objectives.
Adult Literacy: The policy stands for introducing programmes of adult education. It includes literacy and functional literacy programmes, which it regards a must, for promoting economic development in the country. Above all, it considers it necessary to create equality of opportunity for all citizens.
The policy rightly recognizes the need for achieving Universalisation of Primary Education (UPE) for doubling the literacy rate. To achieve the objective, it is necessary to complement the formal primary school system with that of non formal one. Hence the need to promote adult literacy.
It is intended to launch a massive non-formal Basic Education Programme to provide access to 5.5 million primary school age (5-9 years old) children who are at present out of school. Top of all, the policy has the intention of covering 10-14 years old adolescents through a crash condensed course to enable them to complete primary education cycle in 2-3 year time. The objective looks very attractive but one is skeptical of its success as the adolescents are more interested in improving their economic conditions through earning rather than learning education. They wish to obtain odd type of employment, though at low wage level, to better their economic lot. Hence education offers little attraction to them. Hence the thrust should lie towards achieving the universalisation of primary education, which holds a key to raise a high literacy level in Pakistan.
Universalisation of Primary Education
Now a word about Universalisation of Primary Education (UPE)
The goals of the Policy for the UPE are as under:
(i) “ensuring that by 2015 all children with special emphasis on girls and children in difficult circumstances have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality;
(ii) eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender quality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality;
(iii) improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills?”
The primary school age group (5-9+years) i.e. or more than 5 years but less than 5 years, population was around 18 million in 2000, of which 9.3 million were boys and 8.6 million were girls. According to 1998 census, the male population of primary age group is more (52%) than female population (48%). Rural population is 12.2 million (68%) and urban population is 5.7 million (32%).
It has been estimated that the total number of primary age group children may rise to 19.6 million in the year 2006 and then gradually decline to 17.5 million by 2015 (considering a decline in population growth). Due to rapid urbanization to urban population may rise to 38% by 2015 and rural population reduce to 62% from the existing 68%.
Net enrollment at primary level is around 12 million (male 7.6 million) female 4.3 million). To achieve the target of UPE for male by 2010, all the male children in the relevant age group, 9.6 million are to be enrolled. In case of female 8.5 million girls will be enrolled by 2015. Total enrollment is estimated to be 19.5 in 2015. If the target as laid down in the policy is achieved, it would lead to universalisation of primary. There is a saying: There is a difference between many cup and lip. These are anticipated projections, which if achieved by the target year, can bring about UPE, but there is no guarantee that hundred percent targets would be realized by the end of the period. There are many factors which militate against the achievement of hundred percent enrollment, (male or female) by the target period to realize the objective of Universalisation of Primary Education. It would be worth while to discuss briefly those factors. There are internal and external factors accounting for low enrollment at the primary level.
(i) Distance as well as lack of facilities in schools: Children in certain areas have to cover long distance to reach the primary schools. In other words, distant schools negatively impact on enrollment at the primary level. Coupled with that lack of facilities in the form of furniture, suitable rooms also account for low enrollment. In the absence of proper facilities in schools children get discouraged to join them.
(ii) Sub-standard text books and irrelevant curricula: This factor also inhibits enrollment in primary school. The need is to introduce standard text books and to co-relate curricula to the relevant social, economic needs of children.
(iii) Non-motivated teachers and harsh attitude of teachers: Teachers, by and large, show no motivation in teaching. They remain largely unmotivated and exercise a sort of negative influence on the minds of pupils. An unmotivated teacher cannot shed any inspiring influence on his pupils. Top of all, their harsh attitude towards pupils is one of the contributory factors to low enrollment.
(1) Rampant poverty in society: Masses are in poverty. More than thirty three percent of population lives below the poverty line. Poor parents can’t afford to meet the minimum cost of schooling of their sons in the form of buying books and stationery. Poverty prevents parents from sending their children to schools and that explains why enrollments are low.
Another factor for low enrollment is the high opportunity cost of sending children to schools as they can help at work and home. The time spent in schools is regarded economically unproductive because it does not yield any income for the family. If the same length of time were earmarked to the grazing of cattle in the pastures that would indirectly increase the income of a poor family. Hence it involves an opportunity cost of sending children to schools by the poor parents and it results in lowering the enrollment in schools.
The poverty factor greatly reduces enrollment, as the children (5-9 years) age who should enter the primary schools, do not join them and that greatly hinders the objective of Universalisation of Primary Education.
Another impact of poverty appears in the form of high dropout rate. Children enrolled, do not complete the five grade cycle of primary education. More than fifty percent of children leave schools after completing the third grade. In a way it leads to a waste in the use of various inputs. Economic poverty drives the children out of schools, who join various odd jobs to supplement the income of their families though indirectly. Economic poverty emerges out as a main piece of villain in achieving UPE.
Parent’s lack of understanding of the value/benefits of education is another factor for low enrollment. Illiterate parents do not realize the benefits which would accrue to their children if they become literate and educated. The horizons of illiterate parents are limited and they can’t perceive the benefits of education properly that would accrue to their children. Research has revealed that there are specific causes of low enrollment, participation rates of female education at the primary level. The causes may be listed below.
i) Poverty, illiteracy and conservatism of the parents which generate negative attitudes towards girls’ education;
ii) Inhibiting role of uneducated mothers and severe attitudinal barriers to girl’s education in the rural and tribal areas. These barriers are gradually being broken as a result of the operation of economic development which brings enlightenment in its wake;
iii) Non existence of a girls’ primary school or availability of a school at an inaccessible distance
iv) Demand for separate girls’ schools
v) Lack of incentives for girls to attend schools and for teachers to take up teaching duties with commitment and devotion;
vi) Heavy population growth rate and burden of household work in large families on female children.
The causes responsible for low male/female participation rates at the primary level have been outlined and suitable strategies need to be formulated to remove them for ensuring universalisation of primary education. Top of all, inefficient supervisory system of schools (male and female) needs to be improved. The government of the Punjab’s decision to provide text books to primary school children free of cost is a welcome step as it provides a measure of financial relief to the poor parents. The legislation has already been done in Punjab to force parents to send their children to primary schools of the relevant age group. It needs to be pursued most vigorously. The administration should ensure the implementation of the legislation since passed. The National Education Policy discussed above is a part of the National Plan of Action (2001-15), Ministry of Education, Islamabad. The salient features of the policy with respect to elementary, primary educations have been outlined above for the information of the reader. If he / she is interested in going through the National Plan of Action on Education for all (2001-2015) he may study the document to acquaint himself with the problems and suggested remedies. The next section is devoted to the problems of Higher Education.