The current budget, following old traditions, has nothing heartening or optimistic about the allocation of funds for the education sector and the amount for this very significant area in the financial year (2012-13) has been fixed just under 48 million after an increase of a mere seven million to the previous year’s allocation.
For the last many decades, we have been trapped severely in the vicious circle of poor economy — poor education — poor economy. We are not ready to spend more on education because we are hand-to-mouth and we are unable to sustain our economy because we are lagging behind in the field of education and training. We are, presently, undergoing a very critical and decisive span of economic crisis marked with unemployment, rising trade deficit, low GDP growth, extremely high inflation and the continuously-growing monster of sordid poverty.
Even a cursory glance at our socio-economic conditions can lay bare the fact that, among other dynamics, illiteracy and the lack of professional and skilled youth are the most prominent factors behind our economic depravity. So, how can a nation improve or develop its economy on modern and successful lines when it gives very little importance to the education and professional training of its masses?
Moreover, whatever is being spent on our education sector, too, is proving to be a futile effort as the declining standards of the knowledge and ability of our inflating segment of degree holders is no big secret. The previous government created an educational inflation by allowing a mushroom growth of universities working in small residential houses in every nook and corner of our country under the supervision of some half-baked teachers hired by the educational investors.
It would not be hyperbolic to opine that the modern world is the world of technical and vocational education and skill development.
People in our part of the world, unfortunately, have always focused on general and very nominal education in order to join government service and grab a secure financial career. That’s why unlike in the developed countries, the employees here are like a sheer burden on the state and society and have little to do with fund generation. They do not create their salaries but depend on the state-paid budget that in itself is a non-developmental pool.
But gone are the days when states were strong enough to sustain such parasites in the name of government servants and employees. Now people will have to learn and develop skills to earn their salaries and generate incomes for self as well as for the nation. With the explosion of Information Technology and Industrial Revolution, the whole economic sphere of the globe is taking new dimensions. We do not have skilled labour and the managements to cope with the emerging neighbouring industrial powers such as Bangladesh, India and China. On the other hand, our youth is following the old pathetic curriculum that provides degrees but not any specific skill or knowledge.
During the first All Pakistan Educational Conference, held in Karachi on Nov 27, 1947, the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said, “There is an immediate and urgent need for training our people in the scientific and technical education in order to build up our economic life, and we should see that our people undertake scientific commerce, trade and particularly, well-planned industries.” The statement shows how prescient Mr Jinnah was even at that time. But even in this age of modernisation and volatile global economic conditions we are not focusing on designing a type of curriculum that can produce skilled and trained persons to sustain our declining economy and social fabric. It is high time, especially in the 21st century, that we build up the character of our students and impart such education as advised by our great leader, who always happened to be an advocate of education.
A major objective of education is to enable people and society to earn livelihoods through employing intelligence and skills. So, general education, and especially the kind of general education rampant in our part of the world, cannot help the society to develop its economy and vocational skills. An Indian scholar Balamurali, in his book An Introduction to Computer Science says that “The modern era of education will focus on professional, technical and vocational education for it is the only way to face the challenges of the 21st century.”
There are certain factors behind our educational bankruptcy. Our common students don’t care for professional aspects and prefer to study those subjects that help them most in getting good marks with less labour. Our main focus is to get a degree and that, too, by rote learning and without understanding. The solved question papers of the previous three to five years and guess papers have been like the last nail in the coffin.
Without any serious considerations, our political leadership and bureaucracy has always opted for an easy way to get applause by establishing traditional educational centres that are capable of providing the public with general and so-called education in every town and village. The service has proved counter-productive and has made rural public more vulnerable to economic crises. The essential duty of the state as well as the society is to make our rural people trained and skilled by establishing institutions of professional and vocational training, and to provide them proper career counseling and job security.
There have been very little efforts made here to introduce Computer Assisted Learning (CAL), which has become the need of the hour as the western education system introduced computer-based teaching and learning 25 years ago bringing about overwhelming and positive changes in their school-going children.
Our conventional and orthodox families and social system does not sufficiently offer professional or career choices to the children, who are normally bound to opt for a line only to satisfy their parents or other family members.
Our curriculum is devoid of any flexibility, moderation and diversification and it does not correspond to the socio-economic needs of the country. It’s a path towards acquiring a degree and not towards enabling a person to enter the market for generating his income.
As professional education demands more funds and extra labour to achieve its goals, we have to suffer due to our limitations like high student-teacher ratio and shortage of physical infrastructure and facilities such as science laboratories, computer labs, workshops, audio-visual aids and libraries.
Another big hurdle in the way of a revolution in our education setup is the illogical fear and lack of confidence among our common school teachers and administrative staff. They always criticise and reject any modernised methods for which they have to get trained and educated first. The CAL experiment couldn’t achieve success here on the broader spectrum because our traditional teachers were not computer literate, neither were they ready to learn computers. Here I would like to quote Susan S. Hubbard: “The teacher must adjust to the changes in education, and to the changes in the knowledge base along with the changes in the needs of the learners and the society.”
The writer, a teacher of English Literature and Language, is also a teacher trainer.