Pakistan’s Elusive Quality Education

Unless Pakistan’s government prioritizes the education sector, the economy will not progress.

pakistans-educationOnly a well-educated society can resolve Pakistan’s multiple challenges.

Unfortunately, no government has ever committed to turn around the education sector. However, the lawmakers introduced a National Education Policy in 2009 to increase the literacy rate which also suffers from “implementation and commitment gaps.” On the other hand, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of universal education remained elusive as per the UNESCO report; 5.5 million children are still out of school in the country.

Curricula reform, teachers’ training and language issues are other challenges that persist for decades. The poor quality of education has severely affected the economy. This has not only increased joblessness but has also alienated the youth.

According to article 25-A of constitution of Pakistan, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure free access to education for all. Despite the constitutional guarantee, no proper attention has been given to this sector over the year which remained backward. Today, the education system is confronted with many issues.

First, the status-based education across the country has divided the society into three different sections. These include public and non-elite private schools, elite schools and madrassas (Islamic religious) education. All of them follow different ways of teaching, curriculum, and examination system.

The public and non-elite private schools cater to the needs of poor and middle class population. The standard of curriculum and teaching methods are extremely poor. Students are put on an obsolete rote learning process which is incapable to instill creativity and analytical skills in students. Hence these pupils turn out to be unsuitable for the job market.

Madrassas (seminary education) promotes faith-based knowledge that creates intolerance in the society. Students of these religious schools are unfit for the job market in the modern world because it requires English language skills, broad knowledge base and robust analytical ability. While elite schools impart quality education to students they constitute only three percent in the country.

Poor teaching methods are another cause of concern

Teachers merely dictate lessons to their students and instruct them to memorize without any concept. They do not encourage interactive class activities and practical skills to develop critical thinking skills. During the class, the students remain a silent spectator. They are not put in such exercises that stimulate analytical thinking.

To what extent the government is concerned about education in the country is obvious from its policies. Pakistan’s adoption of the 2009 National Education Policy has two main weaknesses: a commitment gap and implementation gap.

First, the implementation gap is a big hurdle in the way of promoting education. According to Survey of Pakistan, the budget allocation of education remained 2 percent of the GDP, the lowest in South Asia. It was envisaged in this policy that budget allocation will be increased from 2 percent to 7 percent of the GDP but so far this has not been implemented.

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Secondly, the implementation gap also creates impediments for the state of education. As per the commitment of the government the out of school children have not yet been placed in schools. The policy aimed at meeting MDGs requirements for universal education across the country but no target has been achieved. In addition, this policy encouraged faith-based education which is dangerous for Pakistan. The intolerance level in Pakistani society is already very high. And the religious bigots will easily exploit this point for settling their personal scores.

Due to poor education, Pakistan has faced many challenges

The agriculture sector could not exceed beyond 20 percent share of the GDP. This is because the farmers are illiterate who do not know how to employ modern techniques in agriculture. In most of other industries and companies, the labor force is not skillful enough to achieve the required results. On the large scale this phenomenon has severely impacted the economic growth of the country.

Former Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Atta ur Rehman said that a “knowledge economy” is the only solution to most of the country’s problems. Unlike the past, the growth and prosperity of a country is not dependent on natural resources but expertise especially skilled labor forces is needed for the growth.

For instance, Singapore, a smaller country than Pakistan (10 million which is less than Karachi) developed their economy with the help of skilled labor forces. The leaders of this country carried out three commendable tasks. They freed the country from corruption, allocated more budgets for education and developed a linkage between educational institutions and industries. But unfortunately, Pakistan is still entangled in the web of corruption, mismanagement and politic of patronage.

Unless the government prioritizes the education sector, the Pakistani economy will not progress. According to an estimate, more than 4 million unskilled labor forces will be added in the unemployed youth reaching the total number of unemployed in the country to 25 million.

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.