KARACHI: The Sindh government is denying children their fundamental right to education guaranteed in the Constitution by failing to provide quality education and that includes the responsibility to ensure holding exams in a fair and transparent manner. Rampant malpractices in the exam system and lack of action against corrupt officials suggest that there is no state willingness to bring improvement.
These points were raised by experts sharing their views with Dawn in the light of reports about the matriculation board exams marred by paper leaks and rampant cheating.
“Education doesn’t mean getting a professional degree or job alone. It’s a tool that helps a child realise his or her full potential in life and become a productive member of society. A defective examination system, among other factors, is a barrier to this agenda,” said Iqbal Ahmed Detho, member-Sindh of the National Commission on the Rights of Child.
‘It is the responsibility of the state to establish a fair, transparent exam system’
The commission was established last year under the National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017, with an aim to monitor situations and developments on child rights in the country and safeguard children from abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect.
‘Free education wasn’t fundamental right’
The right to free and compulsory education, he recalled, was not a fundamental right under the Constitution till 18th Amendment was passed in 2010 by the National Assembly.
“Before that, it fell in the category of Principle of Policy, which means that the state would fulfil its responsibility till it gets the resources. After 18th Amendment, people can seek court’s intervention, if they feel that the state is failing to provide quality education,” he said.
The fundamental right to education, he pointed out, had several dimensions and included the right to access a school and afford quality education.
“Also, the right to an education which is culturally and religiously appropriate. To get to this level, the state has to establish a fair and transparent examination system and not doing so means the very aim of education is defeated,” he added.
Mr Detho also referred to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Pakistan ratified in 1990, as well various provincial laws including the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013 and Sindh School Education Standards and Curriculum Act 2015, regretting lack of implementation of the legal framework available to the government.
“Of the 22.8 million out-of-school children in the country, most are in Sindh and Balochistan. The Sindh government is yet to establish a seven-member council required to oversee the state of education under the 2013 Act,” he noted.
In his remarks, Prof Yaqub Chandio, a senior teacher who represented the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA) several times and currently is an elected member of the Sindh University’s Senate, criticised the government for its failure in taking action against officials found guilty in multiple inquiries.
“One of the reasons for the rotten school/college education systems is that chairmen of boards and vice chancellors of universities never get retired. They are appointed to another key post if charges were proven against them in one particular inquiry,” he said, citing various cases in which officials with tainted records were transferred to other educational institutions.
He was of the opinion that the government wanted to intentionally destroy and disable the system to justify its privatisation.
“They are so many ways to check flaws and improve the system but the government doesn’t seem interested. Last but not least the government should make educationists secretary and minister of education rather than bureaucrats. Currently, the steering committee on education has no teacher or parent representation,” he said.
Karachi University’s dean, faculty of education, Prof Nasir Sulman called for overhauling the entire education and examination system.
“The system should be concept-oriented, which will also minimise chances of cheating. Preparation of examination papers is a science which requires teachers’ training. If countries poorer than us can improve their education system, why can’t we?” he asked.
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2021