Measures to ensure primary and secondary education will help Pakistan to get out of the vicious cycle of intolerance. – File photo by Online
Measures to ensure primary and secondary education will help Pakistan to get out of the vicious cycle of intolerance. – File photo by Online

When the Rs2.96-trillion budget fiscal budget for the year 2012-13 was announced amidst chaos and anarchy by Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh various measures to provide relief to the taxpayers, increase in salaries and pensions, control inflation and minimise the fiscal deficit were unveiled. The allocation for Public Sector Development Projects (PSDP) was increased by 19.5 per cent to Rs873 billion from Rs730 billion of the previous fiscal year. The hike, on the surface, appeared to be quite substantial and one could even be fooled into believing that that perhaps this year health, education and welfare sectors were not neglected.

Education, which remains one of the most deprived areas of development in Pakistan, also falls under the domain of this neglected sector (PSDP). According to a recent survey conducted by United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) an approximate number of 7.3 million children in Pakistan do not attend schools. The figure only includes primary school-aged children as the overall number of Pakistani children missing schools hovers around 20 million.

Increase in funding for education is generally a rare phenomenon in countries like Pakistan and calls for much appreciation from all the quarters of the society. However, many educationists have contradictory opinions.

Abbas Husain, Director of Teachers’ Development Centre (TDC) said, “I have been analysing the budgetary allocations for education since 1980s and the share education receives is not the only issue. A lack of transparency and accountability in our system remains the core issue, which is why I am certain that even if the funding is raised by 50 per cent, the status quo will not change.”

Husain’s research signifies that most of the funding procured by the state-owned institutes is utilised for infrastructural developments such as building more toilets, whitewashing the building and replacing old tiles with mosaic flooring.

“The urgent need is neither assessed nor investigated upon. We do not need infrastructural developments if the staff is not educated enough to teach the students. Teachers’ training is the most important facet of educational development which unfortunately is given no importance whatsoever,” added Husain.

If I have to be completely honest, I would say that as the percentage of PSDP goes up, the level of corruption quadruples
Another teacher, who has served as principal at one of the most respectable institutions in Pakistan, on condition of anonymity said, “It is absolutely true that nothing is being done to improve the standard and quality of education in Pakistan. The major chunk of the allocated funds will be utilised for salaries of teachers who do not deserve to be paid at all. Most of them sit at home and are never bothered about the welfare of Pakistani students.”

“If I have to be completely honest, I would say that as the percentage of PSDP goes up, the level of corruption quadruples,” she added vehemently.

According to Husain the problem lies in the way the funds are budgeted and channelled. He said that the areas that are in dire need of development are the education policy, curriculum and syllabus development, teachers’ training, pupils’ experience in the classroom and examinations.

“The constitution empowers us all to acquire education and we have one of the best curriculums. So no work is required in drafting the policy or developing curriculum, however, we must improve the syllabus and equip our future generation so that they are able to deal with the technological advancements,” said Husain.

Husain is of the view that the education budget should be allocated under the aforementioned headers so that transparency and accountability can be ensured. However an educationist, on condition of anonymity, very pessimistically said, “Corruption is so deep-rooted in our system that there is simply no refuge. Accountability and transparency can be easily bought in Pakistan.”

A teacher, who has over 35 years of experience of teaching at state-owned institutions, on condition of anonymity said, “The issue is neither allocation of the budget nor the funding. The issue is the fact that the allocated funds never reach the schools. The higher-ups embezzle funds and if someone tries to lodge a complaint, he/she is terminated from the service. So we all maintain a code of silence.”

She also believes that if only 25 per cent of the allocated funds are provided to the government schools, the state of affair will improve immensely.

Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq, Provincial Minister of Education and Literacy, Sindh, had similar views; however, he is hopeful and believes that the provincial autonomy will bring about positive and proactive reforms.

“We have established Directorate of Inspection and Monitoring which will look into the issues of teachers missing schools and other problems that state-owned schools lack in terms of resources. Every district will have a separate in charge officer who will be dedicated to monitor the progress and problems,” Mazhar-ul-Haq told Dawn.com.

A government teacher, however, feels differently and is of the view that the provincial setup will only result in creating more job postings for the corrupt officers and will further inflate their bank accounts.

Mazhar-ul-Haq also said that the problem regarding lack of teachers’ training programmes is also being addressed as the provincial assembly had recently passed a bill to establish Sindh Teachers Training Development Authority.

“With the help of foreign assistance, we have selected two colleges in Karachi and Hyderabad in which an estimated number of 100 teachers are being trained by the professors from University of Michigan,” he added.

However, the provincial minister still believes that lack of funding is an important issue which hampers his team’s work greatly.

A senior research analyst from the State Bank of Pakistan, who has several years of research experience on federal budget shared his findings on condition of anonymity and said, “The initial PSDP figures quoted by the government are generally inflated. Most of the time the funding is slashed to finance other projects or to minimise the fiscal deficit so the increase really does not mean anything.”

It seems ironical that in a country where PSDP funding is much needed, it is sacrificed for less important tasks.

The lack of resources is an important issue, however, the apathy that the masses have towards education plays an integral role in further deterioration of the situation.

“When a kid goes home and complains about teachers missing schools, then why do not we all, as parents, protest or meet the authorities?  Most of us have become apathetic towards the situation. Behavioural change must be instilled in the masses which should convey the message that education is as important as eating and sleeping, otherwise there is no hope for us and our future,” said Husain.

The problems are all so apparent; however, corruption and lack of governance models are instrumental in creating further hurdles in establishing a progressive and educated society. It is wise to say that an uneducated society is one of the most important reasons why our society has degenerated over the past few decades. Intolerance, socio-cultural problems and militancy can easily be traced back to illiteracy and lack of appropriate education.

Robert Frost very aptly said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

Perhaps measures to ensure primary and secondary education will help Pakistan to get out of the vicious cycle of intolerance that is one of the most important reasons why Pakistanis have been unable to excel as an educated society.

The author is a reporter at Dawn.com.

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Comments (14)

taleem portal
June 30, 2012 7:33 am
Don't you think that your relative should've shared this info with the higher ups instead of you? It's the silence of the good that makes evil prevail.
dhiraj garg
June 29, 2012 11:01 am
Is Corruption Islamic? if No, then why Pakistan, a self-claimed champion of Islam, is following it Religiously? if Yes, then why blame it for all your problems !!
Umm Sara
June 29, 2012 5:18 am
We need to stop pointing fingers and come together as a nation to find a solution for this epidemic. I am completely dumbfounded to learn that 20 million of our school- aged children don't have access to affordable schools or they can't attend schools because they are busy supporting their families and etc. We desperately need a grass-root movement by people who are passionate about education and are ready to sacrifice their time and resources. Regardless of which is power, we can't trust our politicians or ministers; almost all of them are "thugs." May Allah guide them.
Aurangzeb Khan
June 29, 2012 5:59 am
Do the ideas printed in books improve by additional funding? If a student reads a classic in Pakistan, UK or the US, should the results be different? What is the difference between mind-numbing rote-learning and parroting nonsense versus actual learning about concepts and the etymology & beauty of words?
muzammilraza
June 29, 2012 11:58 am
declining standard of education is one of the biggest issue of this crises stricken country. many reasons are there.. unprofessional teachers in govt. institutions, unfortunately I've personally enjoyed the company of many teachers who neither look teachers from their appearance nor from their manners, they abuse and even call the students names like vandals and manhandle the students. even i had the honor to get acquaintance with a lady teacher who used to abuse like men as pet words. as a profession, education (to much extant) has never remained our priority, mostly people adopt this profession as a last option, as when they are denied from other fields. so with no aptitude education remains only a matter of bread and butter for the teachers, but not a love affair. our governments are never much serious about improving the standard of education in the country, Javed Ghamdi once said that when governments are serious about improving education sector our budget for Education will be changed with the defense budget. our education systems and all the systems attached to this are corrupt, students know well how they get good marks in their internal examinations. moreover making monitoring committees, inspectorates and directorates is merely giving posts to some officers with pay-n-perks and authority. actually these are the corrupt people, they raid and visit the institutes merely for making money. I bet there would be hardly any ministers, bureaucrats and others in authority and power whose children are studying in Govt. schools. there should be a law with strict implementations that all the bureaucrats law makers and ministers have to educate their children in govt. educational institutes. then and only then our educational system can improve. even a great no. of foreign students will also enroll themselves in our institutes for education....i swear.
Ali S
June 28, 2012 11:36 am
Enough has been said about increase in teachers' budgets, but what about making sure that they actually take their classes or that the money is actually being utilized by the school administration? One of my relatives teaches at a government primary school in an impoverished area of Karachi and she says that the headmistress charges the students (who are from working-class backgrounds) to sit in exams, sells off their uniforms and supplies (which they're supposed to receive for free from the govt), keeps a cut of the janitors' fee in exchange for letting them stay at home and collect their salary and instead makes the students do the cleaning. Such people need to be severely penalized and eliminated from the education system if government schools want to produce any good results at all. Also, government schools need to completely revamp their curriculum, make it up-to-date (more focus on math and science instead of history or social studies) and divide it into different sections (especially at the primary level) to cater to needs to the needs of different students - you can't expect someone who's barely literate (yes, those people also have the right to a basic education) to perform on the same level as a first or second division student. They need separate classes.
TI Shah
June 28, 2012 7:47 pm
why private schools? why not we ask our politicians and administrators to work and develop public schools the ways they are doing for their personal interests by opening private schools. For Example (Main amer ex Dist Nazim ....no work for public schools but NOW OWNED a chain of private schools; Kasuri enjoys FM and owning private chain...no work for public schools;.........................you know better than me who own most of the private schools..... Now the question is.......what are the impacts of these private schools on our society.......did u ever think how much a average family spend on their kids schooling (for you information its about 20,000 to 40, 000 Pk per month of a family of 3 school going kids)..........how they manage this....... a Dist employeeeeee......how he or she can manage this amount.....off course ......doing nasty things.....which we called corruption...... Now a officer sitting in dist office uses Govt resources, official hours, and funds to facilitate the educational activities of their family...WHICH WE ALL LIVING in the DIST (both urban and rural) paying for......... ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT SUCH type of education system
TI Shah
June 28, 2012 3:11 pm
I have a different point of view on this. we need to understand the role and interest of different players, stakeholders, and community members in the Pakistan Education System. First of all, complex and confused schooling system: Private Schools, in spite of doing some good job, are basic problem in overall education system and one of the key factors promoting and encouraging corruption in society, which we need to stop for the many reasons. WHAT WE NEED TO DO..........Govt (whatever) should 1. introduce Enrollment Attendance Zones/Catchment Areas for each schools across Pakistan, 2. establish school boards and give them the powers of hiring, firing, development,etc, 3. Ask community to take care of the school buildings and provide funds like they do for religious places (Masjids), etc............................................................. in short, we have to work on these or similar lines if we really wanted to change OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM.........
faisalarshad
June 28, 2012 5:53 am
Corruption is the biggest problem of Pakistan. Corruption is the biggest problem of educational system. Pakistani students will be ready to learn under a tree if teachers and educational administrators are honest and competent. Top graduates will be ready to serve public universities and colleges even at half the salaries those corrupt teachers make sitting at home.
faisalarshad
June 28, 2012 6:27 am
Corruption is the biggest problem of Pakistan. Corruption is the biggest problem of our educational system. Pakistani students will be ready to learn under a tree if teachers and educational administrators are honest and competent. Top graduates will be ready to serve public universities and colleges even at half the salaries those corrupt teachers make sitting at home.
aijaz
June 28, 2012 6:49 pm
.I am at a loss to understand that when the salaries of Govt. school teachers are comparatively high in country side schools than the salaries of private school teachers, despite that sons and daughters of Govt. school teachers study in private schools.
udaip
June 28, 2012 7:34 am
Pakistan has to take measures to ensure improvement in education. This is the only way youngsters of pakistan will be empowered and will not be lured by terrorists or wrong people. Private schools must be encouraged to avoid leakages of fund
ALI SABRI
June 28, 2012 7:39 am
It is very true that, every year teachers salaries are increased by the government ,and large amount of budget is fixed to reform the education.Inspite of all doing there is not alteration in education. Teachers are taking handsome salaries,but not attend schools properly. It is required to take good steps toward teachers.
@immu070
June 28, 2012 8:54 am
its too late for reforms what indian did in the 60s pakistan have not yet done....may allah save pakistan
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