Revolutionizing education system

By Engr. Muhammad Qasim (Dept. General Secretary MSM)

Education is the basic tool for the development of any society. According to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education creates awareness among the people about challenges in the world. It produces creativity and is the key to unlock the door of a bright future. It is an established fact that only those nations, having sound educational systems, have made progress. Since 1947, Pakistan has lagged behind in national development in comparison to other countries of the Third World due to a class-based education system.

From very inception, Pakistan, the newly independent state, inherited an already defined system of education. This system was weak and poorly instituted. The system could not be reformed according to the needs of the people. The major factors of this negligence were parochial feudal and self-serving politicians, authoritarian regimes, culture of nepotism, thirst for power, corruption and fake democracy. Political interference in the educational institutions is rampant, which breeds corruption, favoritism and nepotism. The education system was structured on the basis of class distinctions.

The poor segment of the society was provided of equal educational opportunities in the presence of flawed and inadequate system which was characterized by absence of such basic needs as classrooms, teachers and textbooks. Majority of the schools were opened under the shade of trees where the children of common man were to be educated. On the other hand, state-of-the-art educational institutions were established in the private sector to cater to the needs of the elite class of the society. This system of education has further created more divisions in our society.

The recent report on education issued by UNESCO has revealed the reality of education in Pakistan. According to this report, Pakistan has almost 5.5 million children that are out of school, the second highest number in the world only after Nigeria. Pakistan also has the highest number of illiterate adults in the world, after India and China. Pakistan is among the 21 countries facing an “extensive” learning crisis. This encapsulates a number of indices, such as enrolment, dropout rates, academic performance and literacy. Pakistan scores low in every index.

This report also exposed the inequalities in education within the country as well: “Geographical disadvantage is often aggravated by poverty and gender. In Balochistan province, Pakistan, only 45% of children of grade-5 level could solve a two-digit subtraction, compared with 73% in wealthier Punjab province. Only around one-quarter of girls from poor households in Balochistan achieved basic numeracy skills, while boys from rich households in the province fared much better, approaching the average in Punjab.” Report stated that despite the implementation of promising programs, Pakistan is far away from achieving the 80% enrollment target it had set for 2015.

As far as the financial resources for education are considered, Budget 2013-14 shows that education is not a priority for this government. In Election 2013 campaign, PML (N) promised to increase financial allocation for education to at least 4% of GDP, the global standard to which most countries have committed and the majority has lived up to. But in Budget 2013-14, the combined allocations for all tiers of education amount to 1.9% of GDP. According to the UNDP Human Development Report 2013, only seven developing countries in the world spend less on education than Pakistan. Pakistan, globally, is ranked 177th in terms of public spending on education which represents an alarming situation for the future of Pakistan.

The quality of education in public sector is deplorable. There are 154000 primary schools with only 42000 teachers in both urban and rural sectors of Pakistan. Most of these schools do not have enough rooms to meet increasing students’ needs and management’s requirements. Some schools even do not have basic facilities which compel the students to get education under trees. In some places school building is used by the locals as place for hooking animals due to poor administrative supervision.

Our examination system is also outdated. The standards of examination of primary education in Pakistan are the lowest in the world. This system does not meet the requirements of the national and international standards. Evaluation and assessment of students is conducted to check only memory and capability of rote learning rather than creativity. Institutional politics has further worsened the examination system of Pakistan. Malpractices such as copying and other exam related crimes in schools are result of poor system of supervision during examination. The primary school curriculum does not improve the thinking abilities of students. It is outdated, non-productive and impractical.

Students memorize the content and reproduce it in the examination. Thus schools in Pakistan are producing the best types of parrots in the world. This practice is creating a gap between understanding of the curriculum and its effective implementation. In developed countries of the world teachers are invited to participate in the process of designing curriculum. Their inputs are considered vital by the authorities.

In Pakistan, education has not been the priority of any government since partition. The reforms were neglected due to political interference in the system, which breeds corruption, favoritism and nepotism. No effective mechanism of supervision has been adopted. System of accountability is very poor in schools. Moreover, feudal system, extreme poverty, and lack of good governance are the main hurdles in the way of a better education in the country.

So here a question arises as to what we can and should do to reverse the tide. The answer is simple. We have a voice and we should raise it. Article 25-A of Constitution of Pakistan obligates the state to provide free and compulsory quality education to children of the age group 5 to 16 years. “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.” It is a constitutional right of every child to get education.

Today, 5.5 million children are deprived of their constitutional right. This is the responsibility of every citizen of Pakistan to raise his/her voice for reforms in educational system. Every student should join the struggle for Revolution of Mustafavi Students Movement to improve the quality of education and eradicate class-based education system from Pakistan. Mustafavi Students Movement wants to bring uniform education system for everyone, irrespective of any discrimination. Our education system should be so structured that it is capable of addressing the demands of industry and achieving integration of society. Let us rise to occasion and strive for an educated Pakistan. Let the future generations not say that we did not prove equal to the task.