Pakistan’s development in the education sector is a unique situation with countrywide literacy rates slipping lower, rather than going higher. Pakistan is a nation that has 20 million children outside schools. Our government schools are not providing education to every child in our country. Nor are we providing quality education to the ones that are already enrolled.
First, let’s start with the difference between government and private schools. Government schools receive their funding from the government and not the tuition paid by students. Private schools, on the other hand, rely solely on their tuition funding. Therefore it is a lot easier to manage a successful private school than it is to manage a government school. This, for reasons explained later, has a negative effect on the overall development of children who are the nation’s future.
Second, and more importantly, there are two problems with the state curriculum and schooling infrastructure. They may appear simple but are quite colossal in terms of their effects.
The 1st problem
The first problem arises from the memorization phenomenon. Pakistani students memorize content, which destroys their creativity and critical thinking skills. Subjective content interpretations are brushed away causing the students’ creative potential to be shunned. Madiha Afzal, a professor of public policy, stated in her report on Pakistan’s education system that entire textbooks were literally memorized by students. She added that class sessions did not allow students to question the content either. Such stress on rote learning also means that the most successful candidates are the ones with the best memorization skills. This may not be a true representation of a student’s actual intelligence.
The 2nd problem
The lack of qualified educationists and teachers, in general, is an issue that requires attention with urgency. Because educational institutes have been targets of terrorist activities in the last decade, being a teacher has become a very unpopular career choice. Low wages and lower job security have discouraged teachers from proper training as well. Problems like these cause the issues of ghost schools and ghost teachers to arise. Even though there are some school buildings in place, children do not go to those schools due to lack of teachers. A minister in Quetta made the discovery of 900 odd ghost schools and 15,000 absent teachers. This revelation simply outlines an underachieving government’s incompetence in promoting educational infrastructure. Infrastructure that goes beyond hollow buildings that is. Security infrastructure is equally important to better the state of education in Pakistan.
These two problems have detrimental effects on child development
Every decision in this world boils down to cause and effect. The effect that this incompetency and disorganization has had on the education system is detrimental. There is an increased risk of mental and physical health problems for children. One of the many cases involved a 12-year old whose father kicked him out over low exam results causing him to attempt suicide. This huge emphasis on grades puts an immense amount of pressure on children. This, in turn, results in cheating and in extreme cases self-harm also becomes a problem. Neil deGrasse Tyson explains this conundrum perfectly:
When students cheat on exams it’s because our school system values grades more than students value learning.
Are there any possible solutions to the aforementioned problems?
People with the means to make a difference do not have the incentive to do so. Possibly because they have the luxury of private schools. If private schools did not exist or perhaps their systems were identical to government schools, I feel a lot more people would be furious with the state of the public schooling in Pakistan. Of course, this is easier said than done. But, with strength in numbers, one can only imagine the possibility of change if all stand up for the right to education in the country.
Perhaps it’s the corruption endemic that’s responsible for this or perhaps it’s the fact that only 2.5% of the GDP is spent on education. That number when compared with our conflict-ridden neighbor Afghanistan’s 3.3%, becomes a national embarrassment. What is even more interesting is that the Constitution states that the government must provide free education to all children aged 5-16. Evidently, this is a far cry from what is happening. It’s time we wake up and realize how we are under developing our generation. Let’s collectively work towards solutions to these problems at a personal level and demand more from our provincial governments to better the education situation in Pakistan.