Dr Tahir Husain Shah
The Pakistani education system is one of the oldest in the world but over the years it has not kept pace with time. Quality education is a must for the progress and prosperity of a nation. The countries which early on realized the importance of education have attained a high place in the comity of the nations. They have done so by creating an intellectually stimulating educational system in sync with evolving times. A modern education system enables students to develop critical thinking and adopt a creative approach to life’s challenges. However, in Pakistan, education has never received the attention it deserves.
There are many factors which have hindered the development of a modern education system in Pakistan. These include an outdated curriculum, lack of access to quality education, corruption and inadequate government investment. Other issues are gender discrimination, rising costs, poor quality and lack of opportunities. These problems can be addressed by improving the education system as a whole. Poor funding affects the quality and impact of teaching in classrooms. Poor funding means few people have access to quality books and labs, etc. This is a prime lack which needs to be overcome immediately.
The literacy rate in Pakistan is the lowest in South Asia. The literacy rate of the population above ten years of age in the country is 58.5%. Male literacy is 70.2% while female literacy rate is 46.3%. This is so because successive governments in Pakistan failed to formulate and implement proper policies in this regard.
Different kinds of education system prevalent in our country is a basic reason for our backwardness in this sector. There are four categories of education being imparted at school level. The first category is Cambridge school system. The Cambridge schools are very expensive and unaffordable for an average middle class family. The second category comprises the so-called English medium schools in the private sector which cater to the needs of middle and lower middle classes. The third category is the government school system which forms the bedrock of our education pyramid. The fourth category is Madrassa school system which provides free education to the masses, specially in the rural areas.
Our educational system encourages rote-learning. The disciplines that spur analytical, creative and critical thinking hardly find space in the country’s academic discourse. While the West has gone ahead with modern research, new art forms, quantum mechanics, robotics and artificial intelligence, we are still making do with the classical pseudoscience and obsolete academic discourse. The result is that the country’s ramshackle educational framework continues to produce cognitively inefficient, intellectually dwarfed and pseudo literates.
In our curriculum little emphasis is placed on improving the student’s critical thinking skills. Furthermore, when curricula is developed in languages that are not native to an area, the ability of students to learn is affected. Research has established that learning in one’s mother tongue is most effective whereas studying a subject in another language presents the additional challenge of learning that language.
There is an urgent need to reform the education system by increasing budgetary allocation, curbing corruption in the use of educational funds, reforming curriculum in line with the demands of modern times, promoting state-of-the-art research culture, encouraging creative and critical thinking, replacing rote learning with real-life experiences and skills, and developing an intellectually stimulating academic environment.
Pakistan is faced with multiple challenges in the education sector. These can be divided into quality (curriculum, teacher quality, learning environment, etc) and quantity (increased enrolment, infrastructure facilities, teacher availability). The first priority is to increase the salary of teachers and funnel more investments into school infrastructure, including school buildings, electricity, drinking water and availability of toilets and sanitation facilities to create a conducive learning environment for children. Secondly, steps should be taken to reduce the bureaucratic red-tape and interference in school affairs and empower parent-teacher councils and school committees so as to enable parents to more fully participate in school affairs. Thirdly, teacher training should be an ongoing activity to improve the quality of teaching.
Education and societal stability go together. When quality education is not accessible to everyone in a society, it weakens their ability to work cooperatively. A lack of opportunities gives rise to class jealousy and resentment. This brings instability in a country. Educated societies generally have stronger democratic institutions and more accountable leaders. This is because voters are better able to assess the performance of their politicians. This means the best way to save democracy is through education. Education helps in the growth of pluralistic and more tolerant societies. This promotes political stability and national integration. Thus educated societies are less prone to violence and more inclusive and equitable.