Need to streamline broken school system in Pakistan

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By Amjad Islam

WITH over 22 million children deprived of school education, Pakistan has the world’s second highest number of out-of-school children, next only to Nigeria. This represents about 45 per cent of the total population of children in this age group.  The gravity of these devastating figures could be understood more clearly by looking at another data–nearly 10.7 million boys and 8.6 million girls are enrolled at the primary level but by the time they reach class V, only  3.6 million boys and 2.8 million girls remain, a little over one-third remain in school.

It is important that the government of Pakistan establishes certain educational policies, aiming specifically at the rural areas of Pakistan, such as parts of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. It is stated that education is a crucial need for the betterment of the future of Pakistan as the current population consists of 64% of youth. Therefore the current government should adopt certain policies which help develop schools, colleges, and other academic institutes with fully functioning capabilities and abundant resources in order to reduce the risk of illiteracy.

Both the private and the public sectors should take this issue under serious consideration and aid the children of these areas in terms of providing them with quality education. This will not only increase Pakistan’s literacy rate rapidly on a national level but will also bring advancement in Pakistan’s soft power projection on international platforms while at the same time changing the future of the children living in these rural areas.

Those who remain in class V are in an equally worse situation. Half of them cannot read, write, or answer mathematics questions meant for a second-grader, according to the Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education report. The report, released early this month, is an eye-opener–it tells the real story of Imran Khan’s `naya Pakistan` and his promise of investing in educating his people.

The survey found that around 40% of the students failed to read a clock. More than 40 per cent of them could not read stories in Urdu or any regional language, in short they cannot read, leave alone write, their mother tongue. Little less than half of them could not solve the two-digit division problem meant for second graders.  The English daily, Express Tribune, commenting on the situation, said: “ Our education system is so broken that almost half of students being three grades behind their peers is supposed to be an improvement.“

Education opportunities for girls are notably worse than boys. Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys. By grade six, 59 percent of girls are out of school, versus 49 percent of boys. By ninth grade, only 13 percent of girls remain in schools. In Punjab, the most resourceful province, as many as 5.03 million girls out of 9.2 million of children remain.

Other issues with the education system are equally appalling. For instance, over 40 per cent of government schools do not have toilets. Even some of the private schools are bereft of this basic facility which is critical to keeping children in the school. More than 40 per cent of primary schools are running without electricity and about 30 per cent do not have access to water.

The ready answer to this crisis is a higher budget, more schools and teachers. The budgetary provisions have risen considerably in the past few years, but there is nothing to show on the ground because the education sector is one of the most corrupt sectors in `naya` Pakistan. Instead of opening more schools, over a thousand schools have shut down in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone.

The annual survey report is not the first report to flag the failing education system in Pakistan–it merely confirms what several international bodies like the World Bank have been highlighting for years. For instance, a recent World Bank’s research showed that, on average, a Pakistani child went to school for 8.8 years, but in terms of learning, it only translated to 4.8 years.

What a apathy to standard of education in Pakistan where budgetary allocation remains quite high ($28 billion for 2019-20) to deliver improvised methods for upliftment of children but Pak authorities pocket million of rupees through corruption and by misusing their authorities.  Education department officials get away with illegal financial benefi5ts in the name of fake employee’s retirement, pension and death claims. Furthermore, these officials carry out fake employment of wives and family members of many politicians and government officers in the department as teachers to draw salaries for many years without even attending their duties.

What a apathy to standard of education in Pakistan where budgetary allocation remains improvised methods for upliftment of children but Pak authorities. Education department officials get away with illegal financial benefits in the name of fake employee’s retirement, pension and death claims.  Furthermore, these officials carry out fake employment of wives and family members in the department as teachers to draw salaries for many years without even attending to their duties.