Education delusion

Published May 18, 2024
The writer is an educationist
The writer is an educationist

IN all spheres of governance, failures are hidden behind a smokescreen of moral mantras. Prioritising education, adhering to a single nation and curriculum, and declaring an education emergency are little more than political dupery. Education — the backbone of social mobility and advancement — is not an investment. And educational reforms are old policies and curricular orientations packaged in novel titles.

A large majority has lost faith in educational governance and management due to archaic instructional practices and an uninspiring and insular environment in schools. Palpable change requires steady action, implementation mechanisms and amendments through impartial accountability and evaluation. Changes in regimes, their interests and the social class they resonate with, drive policy actions. Such initiatives comprise one-size-fits-all, therefore asymmetric, modalities, which are out of step with global trends. In fact, management, teaching and learning practices in schools, colleges, and universities are worryingly primitive.

Our lawmakers focus only on shallow improvement schemes — new buildings, more rooms and teachers — rather than creating modern learning conditions. Sadly, decades have gone by without even basic assessment and evaluation of schooling parameters. Political commitment to education will remain invisible without relevant didactic policies formed in collaboration with scholastic and technical cadres. Moreover, authoritarian decision-making processes that are carried out by the bureaucratic tier result in deprivation among teachers and the rest of the education fraternity. The solution lies in devolution of power and making education management a purely professional segment.

For instance, field-level educational governance and monitoring should comprise regular visits to schools by higher authorities, verification of syllabus targets, student attendance and maintenance of logbooks. School managements are empowered and made efficient through certain decisions, such as class duration that does not exceed 30 to 40 minutes with eight classes per day for all subjects.

Reforms are old policies packaged in novel titles.

Perhaps a slight change can be considered: dividing subjects so that four disciplines are taught per week, along with a prolonged class period. For example, five days of social sciences are followed by natural sciences through the next week. This can make a difference; it cuts schooling expenses by half, improves class participation, learning outcomes, planning and assessment for teachers.

In addition, our learning skills have been reduced to copying from textbooks and learning by rote. Teachers engage students by having them copy the matter on the blackboard, whiteboard, or textbook into their notebooks. Most of the time, while students reproduce text without any understanding of it, teachers keep their focus on rectifying errors in students’ notebooks — the same matter they copied as opposed to interpreted. Hence, parents need to be more engaged with their children’s learning habits, and not just daily homework, so that teachers are compelled to establish higher standards of pedagogy. Eliminating replication and insisting on learning through interaction with teachers, comprehension and using books as references will lessen financial and logistical burdens on teachers, students and parents.

There is no doubt that, in public schools, the capabilities of the teaching force are substandard. For instance, a teacher who has taught in a primary school for over 10 years was reportedly unable to continue teaching due to the unavailability of syllabus books. Consequen­tly, experience beco­m­­es highly suspect given her dependence on tex­tbooks; it shows lack of proficiency in numeracy and poor orientation where the alphabet is concerned.

What we need are schools with the provision to appoint professional development teachers as mentors, who will collaborate with teachers on daily planning and teaching tasks. This will trim the enormous payments made to NGOs for supporting the education system, including through costly PDT programmes.

While there are plenty of uncomplicated and realistic solutions that can rectify our dilapidated education landscape, the ruling elite prefers its pursuit of power. The authorities keep up the pretence of their commitment to quality education by relying on superficial initiatives, catering to the privileged class and making ‘one nation’, ‘one curriculum’ and ‘education emergency’ announcements. We should be concerned about the government’s persistent disregard for a straightforward, productive and achievable approach. This deliberate indifference creates social inequity and prevents a broader understanding of society. After all, an enlightened society can challenge any dispensation’s intention to benefit and rule.

The writer is an educationist.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

China’s concerns
23 Jun, 2024

China’s concerns

Pakistan has no option but to neutralise militant threat to Chinese projects, as well as address its business and political stability concerns.
War drums
23 Jun, 2024

War drums

If it is foolish enough to launch another war in Lebanon, Tel Aviv will be solely responsible for setting the Middle East on fire.
Balochistan budget
23 Jun, 2024

Balochistan budget

BALOCHISTAN’S Rs955.6bn budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 makes many pledges to the poor citizens of Pakistan’s...
Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...