Education Reform In Pakistan – Challenges and Prospects
Education can be dangerous. It is very difficult to make it not dangerous. In fact, it is almost impossible. The only way you can prevent education from being dangerous is to try and develop an educational system in which the pupil is exposed to no ideas whatsoever. [Robert Hutchins]
The connection between education and human security – defined in a broad sense – is immediate and direct. How future Pakistanis will live, the qua lity of their lives, the kinds of employment available, the political system to be, the manner in which citizens will resolve conflicts between themselves, and the country’s relationship to the global community of nations, will ultimately be determined by the content and quality of their education.
Education also provides a society with its scientists, engineers, managers, technicians, and trained and trainable people. In a world where economies are increasingly based upon the availability of sophisticated skills and a well- informed citizenry, education in rapidly progressing countries is considered a sound investment into the future. Belgium or Holland, for example, have few natural resources but have political and economic power that is disproportionately large. On the other hand, Pakistan’s greatest need – and its single greatest failure – is its tragic failure to educate its citizens. Only 25 per cent of the Pakistani work- force is literate, and female literacy in two of the four provinces, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province, is lower than in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, education remains a low-priority issue for the Pakistani state, evident both from historically low levels of funding and a chronic inability to take major steps towards reform now that funding is likely to increase. What is true today was true nearly six decades ago as well. In fact, one might argue that the origins of the present situation are to be found at the time when the future of the nascent state was being charted out. Unlike Jawaharlal Nehru, Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah did not put educational and scientific development at the top of his agenda. Education was viewed as just one of several things that the new Pakistan would eventually need and no particular vision in this regard was articulated. Indeed, the allocations of the First Five-Year Plan were pitifully small and wholly inadequate for producing universal literacy or a system of proper schools 1 . Insufficient emphasis was given to technical and vocational education.
In subsequent decades, where military spending became steadily larger, the blame for a failing school system was all too often put upon inadequate budgets. But this was only part of the problem – there are more fundamental, but less quantifiable, issues of efficiency, purpose, and direction. Unless these are squarely faced, more funding by itself will do little.
As a country that has acquired an image of violence and intolerance, it has been frequently presumed in the international media that the madrassas are the source of Pakistan’s increasingly intolerant and violent culture. While this may be a partial contributory factor, the real problem lies in the public school system – which subsequently feeds into the higher education system of colleges and universities.
Organizational Structure of Education
Analysis requires, at the first step, an understanding of the organizational structure of the education system, its governing mechanisms, and its genesis. In this essay, these can only be touched upon. Details may be found in ref. 2 . The Pakistani education system is seven-layered (Table 1). The Federal Ministry of Education controls all matters related to education up to the intermediate level as well as colleges, and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is responsible for universities 3 .
Kachi (or nursery)
Primary school (grades 1-5)
Middle school (grades...
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