The Great Education Divide in Pakistan:
Khadeeja Rana from PACE
There is no better way to define education other than what the American writer, historian and philosopher, Will Durant said, “Education is the transmission of civilization.” It is the life-blood of any society, moving it towards progress as stated by Gilbert K. Chesterton, an English writer, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” It is also a self-enlightening process but unfortunately education in Pakistan is everything but self-enlightening.(The Great Education Divide)
Moreover, luckily or unluckily, I’ve had the gracious opportunity to experience the jolty ride of three different education systems in Pakistan. There is not any system that is void of disparity making it extremely hard to gain something valuable from such an education. I’d like to shed some light on the education discrepancy and its impact. You can see for yourself just how well-formed and promising the system is.
The entire education sector is peppered with poorly-run, persistently neglected government schools and elitist private ones. There’s absolutely no middle road. There are even some ghost schools that sadly exist only on papers. Recent estimates reveal that they may be as any as 30,000 throughout Pakistan. On the contrary, privately run schools, colleges, universities have towering fees which makes it exceedingly unaffordable with the middle class. According to a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan, 74% of Pakistanis have one or more school-going children in their family. Although 59% of the respondents have a preference for private schools, 70% of people have enrolled their children in public/government schools. The main reason for this is affordability. Nearly 49% of Pakistanis, from all income groups, believe schools charge ridiculous amount of fees.
Urdu medium schools are mainly government operated while English medium are run privately. The medium of instruction and the language of the textbooks are different in both systems. The Urdu medium students later enrolling in higher education institutions (which are all English medium) have to go through the linguistic shock, not to mention the inferiority complex. They are faced with multiple challenges throughout their academic journey.
Further awesomeness is when there is yet another disparity within the English medium system. There is International Boards of Education like Edexcel, Oxford, and Cambridge while there is Punjab Board etc at local level. They offer O’ levels and Matric respectively, and as if this wasn’t enough, A’ levels and Intermediate follow closely behind. Our youth is dangling between two opposing cultures and societies. It is certainly daunting to be able to strike a balance between western ideas and eastern values. This has paved way for social maladjustments like superiority/inferiority complexes and not to mention the confused identities. The youngsters suffer from a major identity conflict; they are cut off from their roots. They are taught western books and stories, yet they are born Pakistanis. They don’t know who they are or even where they belong. More, when they want to join local universities, they are asked to produce the ever-so-nasty Equivalence certificate. Nasty because it reduces your average marks to about 10% for no good reason at all. I think it’s just that the inter board people are too jealous of all the money your dad spent on your O’ level exams fee.
Now I shall take into account yet another discrepancy. This deals with conventional vs. online education, though in its infancy but growing rapidly. There is a huge obvious difference between the two. One is the traditional classroom environment whereas the other one is based on technology, making best use of television and internet. Keeping in mind the literacy rate we really need to pump up resources and spread quality education country-wide. According to economic survey of the current year, around 57.7% of adult Pakistanis are literate. Male literacy is 69.3%, while female literacy is 45.2%.
I cannot fathom why we have annual system in college but bi-annual system which is nicknamed as semesters in university. It makes no sense to me of this sudden shift from one path to another, time after time. The ministry of education seems to be in a terrible inner confusion which makes them keep hopping from tree to another.
Another key flaw is the difference in the curriculum of every system. In the various aforementioned educational systems prevailing there is separate syllabus. This is even more magnified in higher education. Almost all universities offer Bachelors and Masters program in major disciplines but every single one of them has a unique curriculum. At least this should be consistent so the opportunity cost of choosing one university over another is reduced. Already the dearth of dedicated teachers makes a widening gap between universities.
Next up, surprisingly each of the four provinces has its own medium of instruction. The people are quite possessive and fairly attached to their local languages. Although local languages are an asset to our culture, but when it comes to education, we must be future-oriented and progressive. Learning English has become the need of the hour, a guarantee for success.
The learning methods in the system are no better either. It goes from rote learning to creative thinking with no stopping in between. As you must have guessed by now, usually government schools adhere to rote learning as the best teaching practice while lofty private institutions focus on teaching students to use their imagination. They encourage them to be original in their ideas. When two students from each of these groups go out in the professional world, do you even think they can make a decent conversation without feeling an unbreakable barrier between themselves?
When I entered college after doing O’ levels I went through a massive cultural shock. Our systems have varying grading schemes. In O’ levels we were repeatedly trained on how to be to-the-point. But in Intermediate my teachers used to tell me to write bigger so as to fill up more pages. But when my send-ups result came out I went into an academic shock. They just gave me a bare 65% in English when I had previously got an A*. I was hardly able to take the bitter sip down when I was perplexed by the four point grades in the university, lovingly called GPA. And by God, I still don’t know what divisions are, where do they end and begin!
Coming to how to fix the loop holes, I would say that this bilingual language policy should be abolished. There should be one medium of instruction throughout the country. Also, there should be one single sole body which should be responsible for curriculum designing and examinations of all educational institutions, from Montessori’s to universities. It should be a blend of modern education and Islamic teachings that form the basis of our value system. We have blindly adopted the western education but it’s not for us. It goes against our society hence we become misfits.
The government should become a little less slack as recent study shows public expenditure on education is only 2.2 percent of GNP in recent years. The poor quality of education must not be a surprise then! Moreover, Higher Education Commission recognizes 132 universities of which 73 are public and 59 are private. Only 127 of those are fully operational though. You can see the list of universities on this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_universities_in_Pakistan
The system should be such that it preserves the uniqueness of every individual. It should encourage mental growth from a very early age. I believe each human being has some innate abilities and is blessed with a share of the seven intelligences. Effective method of teaching can develop and polish those smarts and skills. John B. Watson founder of Behaviorist school of Psychology said “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.” This goes out to show that careful mentoring at a tender age can work wonders.
The field of educational psychology is yet another land to conquer in our part of the world. We need to raise awareness for it as I deem education should be balanced, consistent and cognitive. Also the knowledge we acquire should be useful and not just reproduced material. Someone put it right, “Education should include the knowledge of what to do with it”.
Courtesy: Khadeeja Rana