Manifestations Alarming Conditions Prevailing in the Education System
Multiple education systems
Divisive nature of the system
Poor quality of education
The absence of critical thinking and analytical skills among the students
Education institutions as degree-awarding factories
Deficiency of skills in students required for decent jobs
Poor access to education
Dismal male to female ratio
Lopsided educational content promoting gender bias
An alarming mismatch between the curricula and modern requirements
Snail-paced literacy rate
Extraordinary emphasis on English
Factors Responsible for Aggravating the Conditions on Educational Front
Low budgetary allocation
Scarcity of basic facilities in public schools
Absence of vibrant and efficient monitoring
Constant deterioration of law and order situation
Regressive cultural values
There is no denying the fact that prevailing education system in Pakistan is at the heart of multiple challenges facing the country currently.
There is no denying the fact the prevalent education system in Pakistan is at the heart of multiple challenges facing the country currently on many fronts. The country being in constant grip of these challenges is symptomatic of failure of education system. Socially, education system has not only failed to transform the burgeoning population into social asset for the country, but has also unleashed waves of polarization and divisiveness, rupturing the social fabric. Population’s vulnerability to internal discord and violence is so immense that the spirit of nationalism has failed miserably to get stronghold in the country. Besides, the education system’s failure to inculcate the ethos of tolerance and critical thinking among the masses has given birth to the monster of radicalization and militancy in the society. Majority of the masses are so much radicalized on religious and ethnic lines that reaching consensus through debate and criticism seems a cherished dream. Coupled with extremism, presence of illiteracy among the large segments of population has not only diminished their capabilities to participate in the socio-economic mainstream, thus aggravating their susceptibility to poverty which is, to be sure, one of the root causes of terrorism in the country. It is in this sense that the correlation between education and terrorism cannot be negated. Besides, education system’s failure to promote the requisite skills among the large swathes of population has not only blunted their access to decent livelihood and economic security, but has also increased the economic system’s inability to reap from huge population, thus shrinking the environment conducive for economic growth. Education system’s failure on the socio-economic front has also left dismal marks on the political scene. The political system is not only faced with the pathetic absence of visionary and well-informed leadership, but is also replete with illiterate and greedy politicians eating the very roots of political system. Needless to say, education system’s failure to instil political sense among the masses constitutes the main cause behind fledgling democratic system in the country.
Cutting the long story short, holistic intervention in the system is required as education has become not just development priority rather strategic priority, given the magnitude of current crises encircling the country. The fact that education system is in dire need of reforms can be elaborated in many ways. There are a host of manifestations which reveal the alarming extent and breadth of dismal conditions prevailing in the education sector. It would be quite appropriate to shed light on them.
The most prominent among the manifestations of alarming conditions in the educational sphere is the divisive nature of the education system. Instead of one uniform system, there are unfortunately three systems currently prevailing in the country, that is, public and non-private schools, religious seminaries, and the elite schools. These three systems are not only entirely different from one another, but they are also unconnected. They differ from one another in all aspects be it curricula, teaching methods, or examination system. The type of student and quality of education also greatly vary in them. The stratification is further increased when one analyses them on socio-economic, qualitative and ideological lines. Public and non-elite private schools engage the lower middle and middle class, whereas religious seminaries tend to the poorest segments of the society. As regards the elite schools, they exclusively serve the rich class. The presence of such vast disparities in the three education systems naturally leads to producing three different types of students. The students coming out of the religious seminaries are not only recipient of poor quality education, but they are also at odd with the requirements of modern economies. In other words, they are only fit for ecclesiastical spheres. Apart from lack of modern requirements, religious seminaries are also at the forefront in fuelling religious extremism coupled with sectarianism in the society. Absence of control and regulation of these seminaries on the part of the state has worsened the situation beyond proportions. It can safely be inferred that the seeds of social polarization are inbuilt in the education system.
It is pertinent to mention here that segments of population at the lowest rungs of social ladder are tended by these seminaries, which constitute almost 20% of the entire population. It is the public and non-elite schools which cater to the large segments of population. There is no denying that education being imparted in the public and non-elite schools is of extremely poor quality. As majority of masses are catered by these schools, destructive ramifications of poor quality appear in vast number of population coming out of these institutions.
The poor quality of education especially manifests itself in the form of absence of critical thinking among the students. It is an open secret that the prevalent education system has been designed in such a way that it lacks the capability to inculcate the values of logical reasoning and analytical skills among the students, which not only gives severe blow to creativity, but also aggravates the students’ chances to realize their true potential. It can be implied that the absence of such values has brought the educated and the illiterate on the same page with no distinction between them with respect to reasoning and critical skills.
Unsurprisingly, such poor quality of education being imparted at the large number of educational institutions raises question about the objective and purpose of education. No one can deny this unfortunate truth that majority of masses go to education institutions with economic objective. Their purpose is to get degree/ diploma which could help them get job in the public or private sector. Such material purpose has turned the educational institutions into degree-awarding factories rather than a platform to groom the intellectual and creative skills.
The tale of poor quality of education does not end here. Rather, it goes far ahead. Although students come to educational institutions with economic objective, even this purpose is not materialised in an effective way. Unfortunately, the type of students being produced by the current educational institutions is highly deficit in the skills required to attain a decent job or livelihood in the public or private sector. This fact is manifested by large number of students failure in the competitive examination conducted at provincial or federal level. In other words, such students are only capable of getting low paid jobs. Such alarming situation not only adds to the grievances and marginalization among the educated youth, but also blunts their ability to participate in the socio-economic mainstream, aggravating the cycle of poverty. Consequently, it can be said that education has failed to become an effective tool of social mobility in the society.
Apart from quality of education, there is also question mark on the quantity of education. There is a huge disparity between demand and supply of education, resulting in poor access to education. In remote and distant areas, majority of children remain out of the ambit of primary education. This is really concerning, given the fact that Pakistan is among the regions having highest number of out of school children. It not only shows the state’s failure to perform its constitutional obligation regarding provision of primary education to each and every child, but it also deprives majority of children of their right to bright future.
Apart from primary education, the issue of access is further aggravated when one takes into consideration higher education. No one can deny the fact that higher education in Pakistan is a luxury enjoyed by the privileged few. Majority of students end up receiving only primary education. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan has high drop-outs after primary education. The most prominent factor behind such drop-out is the rising cost of education. After secondary tier of education, the cost of education increases so much that majority of students are compelled to discontinue their education. The emergence of private sector in the higher education has further marred the scenario, turning most of institutions into profit-making entities.
In addition to high drop-outs, another abnormal phenomenon which is reflected in the education system is dismal gap between male and female ratio. The number of boys is higher than that of girls if one analyses the enrolment in primary education. This ratio becomes extremely appalling in higher tiers of education, especially in rural areas. It not only shows the state’s apathy towards female education, but also lays foundation for gender-based discrimination in the society.
In fact, if we minutely observe the phenomenon of gender bias in the society, we tend to conclude that apart from abnormal male to female ratio, the designed curricula also promote gender discrimination. Gender bias can be traced in the educational content being taught at the educational institutions. The imprints of male chauvinism and patriarchal norms and practices are galore in the educational content.
Apart from gender bias, the educational content being taught especially at the public educational institutions is so poor in quality that it does not inculcate the skills and capabilities in the students, required to cope with the challenges of modern era. To be sure, there is an alarming mismatch between the curricula and modern requirements. Perhaps, this is the reason we find the educated youth struggling hard in their practical lives. The state’s apathy towards the education sector can be gauged from the awful fact that the same trite content is taught for decades without any revision. Undoubtedly, such alarming state of affairs with respect to educational curricula has put the country on the path of regression and backwardness rather than development.
Coupled with outdated curricula, the fact that education has been used by the state as a political tool in the country also adds to the educational miseries of the country. If one minutely analyses the educational content, one comes to conclude that the learning material is highly lopsided in its nature, emphasizing a particular version of history or worldview. Needless to say, such skewed content creates an exclusionary and discriminatory mindset, which, coupled with outdated curricula, and regressive learning and teaching methods, goes a long way in promoting extremist outlook, hence jeopardizing pluralism and peaceful co-existence in the society.
Another fact highlighting the dire condition of education sector in the country comes from the snail-paced literacy rate. It is a dismal truth that literacy rate of the country is one of the lowest in the region. The picture becomes further dire and depressing, given the fact that literacy rate abnormally varies from province to province. Except Punjab, other provinces especially Balochistan and Sindh present alarming picture with respect to literacy. It not only reveals the state’s criminal negligence towards education in the country, but also makes the curse of illiteracy the ultimate fate of majority of masses, compelling them to suffer poverty-driven deprivations for generations.
Last but not least, extraordinary emphasis on the English language is another abysmal fact indicating the depredation of educational system. Grasp on the English language has become a touchstone against which one’s abilities are judged. There is no denying that it serves as a great tool of injustice to those talented and bright students who are denied opportunities due to their poor grasp of the English language. It not only triggers waves of alienation and marginalization among the talented youth, making them susceptible to destructive tendencies, but also perpetuates social divide in the country.
Such alarming state of affairs in the education sector has not appeared overnight. Rather, it has taken quite a long time to assume such magnitude. And to be sure, there are a host of factors which are responsible for aggravating the situation beyond proportions or repair.
The most important factor contributing to the abysmal conditions of education sector is the state’s apathy which is mainly reflected in low budgetary allocations for education. It is an unfortunate truth that budget allocated for education hovers around 2% which is one of the lowest in the region. From such puny allocation of resources, one can easily reach the conclusion that education has never been the top priority for the state. The consecutive governments have put education on the back burner, making it one of the most neglected fields in the country.
Apart from puny budgetary allocation, entrenched poverty is equally responsible for such alarming state of affairs in the education sector. There is no denying that poverty is one of the overwhelming factors behind poor enrolment especially in primary education. Majority of masses are so embroiled in the vicious cycle of poverty that they cannot afford sending their children to schools. Instead, parents prefer to engage their children especially boys in the labour market in order to cope with the disastrous effects of poverty. This is why Pakistan occupies top slot in the list of countries having huge, number of children in the labour market. The phenomenon of out of school children not only increases children’s vulnerability to abuse of their rights, but it also pushes the country towards dark future, increasing its incapability to reap from the demographic dividends.
In addition to poverty, lack of basic facilities in public schools also contributes towards the dire conditions prevailing in the education sector. Majority of schools are deficit in the basic facilities like boundary walls, drinking water, electricity, washrooms etc. Such situation proves to be huge deterrent to enrolment, especially in case of girls. Parents feel reluctant in sending their children to schools which are in dilapidated condition. Lack of basic facilities is also one of the main reasons that sending their children to public schools is considered a social stigma by most parents in the society.
Perhaps the main factor behind such alarming conditions with respect to scarcity of basic facilities in the public schools is poor supervision on the part of the government. The official monitoring is of so poor quality, especially in rural areas of the country, that most schools are used as barns by the influential people for their livestock. Such alarming situation has given birth to the phenomenon of ghost schools, that is, schools existing on paper rather than in reality. Besides, poor supervision not only aggravates the issue of poor attendance of teachers, but also increases the possibilities of embezzlement of resources at the local level.
Adding fuel to the fire, the constantly deteriorating law and order situation in the country is also a huge bottleneck in the way of literacy. In areas which are imbued with fear and security unleashed by extremism and terrorism, parents tend not to send their children to schools. In fact, in such areas, girls’ schools are more vulnerable to the forces of extremism. This is why Pakistan is among the countries where female education is under severe threats. And, this also account for the dire gap between male and female literacy rates in the country.
Coupled with worsening law and order situation, regressive cultural values also contribute to the alarming conditions with respect to female literacy. In some areas, these values are so ingrained that female education is considered a taboo by people. Patriarchal norms and practices have permeated the society to such an extent that female education is intentionally put on the back burner. The height of regression can be gauged from the fact that even some educated parents think that education increases the chances of the corruptibility of girls. This is why we see unusually high drop-out of girls between primary and onward tiers of education. This explains the higher concentration of boys in higher education as compared to girls.
In addition, illiteracy also plays a destructive role in the poor growth of literacy in the country. Illiteracy is so deep-rooted in the society that majority of masses are not aware of the importance of education. The state could be held responsible for it.
Summing up the whole discussion, it can be said that the education sector is in severe disrepair, which is in dire need of reforms. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the country is faced with all sorts of socio-economic and political problems, the underlying cause of which is, undoubtedly, the failing education system. The failure of education system has unleashed a host of disastrous waves across the country like religious extremism, gender bias, deep-seated illiteracy coupled with poverty, deep sense of alienation and marginalization among the large segments of population, massive erosion of pluralism and coexistence, the failing economic front and above all the fledgling democracy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the solution of all these challenges lies in the strong and vibrant education system. This is only possible through holistic intervention in the system. If measures like diversion of major chunk of resources towards education, hefty salary packages for teachers, revising the educational content on lines promoting reasoning and analytical skills among the students, introducing vibrant and rigorous assessment system, recruiting bright minds for the purpose of teaching, ensuring efficient supervision of religious seminaries along with public and private schools, improving law and order situation to ensure maximum enrolment of girls, introducing development projects in the backward areas in order to enhance people’s financial capability to afford education etc. are taken on war footing, to be sure, the country will be cured of all its ills within no time.