Can Pakistan’s Declining Education System be Fixed?

In spite of many education challenges, Pakistanis continue to seek higher education to improve their society and nation.

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Education in Pakistan faces many challenges. Credit: ilm.com.pk

Pakistan’s education system suffers from many problems ranging from poor quality curricula to lack of a unified language instruction (in Urdu) which obstructs students to develop critical thinking. However, positive factors seem to have emerged recently such as an increase in PhD scholars and a growing public aspiration for children to become educated.

First of all, the curriculum, which is considered to be the backbone of any educational institution, is in the worst condition. Unlike international exams such as the Cambridge Education Exam which aims to teach practical skills and knowledge, education in Pakistan is based on rote learning, or memorization and repetition. The course books contain raw materials rather than practical concepts required for talented students to develop creativity.

These books are also decades old. From K-12, textbooks are not up to par by international standards. Owing to this poor quality of education, myriads of problems have grappled the country making it difficult for the masses to lead comfortable lives. Problems such as a declining economy, rising inflation, growing insecurity of employment and a crippling energy crisis have brought the country almost to a standstill.

Secondly, Pakistan has a status-based education system which creates a huge gap among different sections of society. Today, nearly three different forms of education is prevalent in the country: Elite schools, private and government schools as well as religious education (madrassa). Therefore, the nation is being driven toward three different destinations.

1.  Elite schools

The elite schools based on O/A level curriculum only caters to the need of the upper-class. No doubt, it is the most expensive education in the country but it produces good professions. Students in such schools may easily obtain good positions both in government and the private sector. Practical knowledge, creativity and real knowledge is particularly emphasized. However only a few students are able to study in these schools.

2.  Private and government schools

There is also a difference in the government and privately run school as well. The government schools are the most neglected in the country. Teachers withdraw huge salaries but do not fulfill their duty of teaching the students properly. Most of the teachers fail to take classes regularly. Different government departments at the district level seem indifferent towards teacher performance. Students are not being assessed by the concerned authorities if they have acquired particular skills and efficiency in different grades.

Poor and talented students continue to suffer at the hands of teachers. Moreover, private education is somehow better as compared to government school but many consider that it has also cheated the public with using the title of “English Medium School” while no real learning is occurring. Exuberant fees are being charged from the students while teachers are poorly compensated.

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3.  Religious schools

Seminary education provides free education along with food and accommodation service but it only focuses on religious education. Many people are critical of the role of madrassas. Moreover, incompetent and indifferent administration of education has always been a problem in Pakistan. Education authorities both on district and provincial levels have never carried out their work successfully.

Administration, teacher and student failure

District administrators are unable to keep check on the schools under their jurisdiction. Consequently, students suffer from these issues. Years pass by but students of these schools seldom improve their knowledge and skills and are oblivious to the growing changes. Corruption is also rampant, and funds are misused by staff in connivance with the authorities.

Teachers are recruited on the basis of political affiliation and through unfair means while the deserving candidates are denied employment opportunities. This represents the worst state of governance in our country. The deserving and qualified students are rejected on the pretext that they do not have the required credentials. The exam system has discrepancies, too.

Student are normally allowed to cheat in the exam or sometime the exam papers are leaked.

Not all is lost

In spite of this bleak reality, there have been positive developments.

The efforts and contributions made by higher education is encouraging. Since its establishment in 2003 during the Musharraf regime, it has opened up new horizons for youth education. Scholarships are being provided to talented students to study in various schools both in Pakistan and abroad. With this initiative, many students have been acquiring PhDs.

Today a number of PhD scholars are present in the country who are serving the nation. They will not only develop an educated and civilized society but will also be helpful in making coherent policies for the country. The Higher Education Commission has a vital role in keeping checks and balances over different universities and conduct various assessment tests for awarding scholarships to students.

Most of all, there is growing awareness among the masses due to the media. Every parent is concerned about their child’s education. No matter how hard they have to compromise their daily needs over education costs, they are sure to send their children to schools. This is commendable and forward thinking on the part of parents yet this alone will be futile if the government shows apathy and callousness.

Tariq Hussain writes for the Lahore-based tabloid newspaper, Pakistan Today. He earned a degree in Mass Communication from National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad. Tariq started his career in 2010 by joining a news agency, Infochange News and Feature NetworksRead other articles by Tariq.