Private schools – quality of education in Pakistan

Published: June 24, 2012

In Pakistan, one business sector that has flourished is private education.

LONDON: In an overall environment of doom and gloom in Pakistan, one business sector that has flourished is private education. There are several private schools like Beaconhouse (which claim to be the largest private school system in the world), followed by City Schools, Roots Schools and Lahore Grammar Schools, etc.

While most of the aforementioned private schools target the relatively affluent strata of society, there are others like Dar-e-Arqam Schools and Allied Schools, which focus on middle-income groups – a larger proportion of the population. Dar-e-Arqam has a religious dimension as well, although it cannot be termed a madressa.

Similarly, some international private schools, like PakTurk International Schools, have a religious and social dimension, although their curricula remain by and large secular.

In a country with a population of over 180 million (the sixth most populated country in the world), and a near breakdown of the public education system (from primary to the university level), it was only natural for the private sector to fill the vacuum. In fact, the role of the private sector and charitable organisations in the provision of education could have been significantly greater had the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime of the early 1970s not nationalised almost all medium and large-sized economic units, including many schools and colleges.

After the demise of the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime in the mid-1970s, a number of private schools, colleges and universities were set up in different parts of the country. Notable educational establishments of that era include Beaconhouse School (1975), City School (1978), Fauji Education System (1982), Lahore University of Management Sciences (1985), Punjab Colleges (1985) and Roots School System (1988). These are all successful names in the provision of education at different levels, albeit with varying quality standards.

Although tertiary education has assumed a lot more significance in the last 20 years in Pakistan (with over 140 institutions of higher learning registered with the Higher Education Commission and provincial authorities), the real growth has been in primary and secondary education. So compelling is the education story of the country that the number of new private-sector schools keeps increasing with every passing month.

On the back of this success, Pakistani schools can and must play a role in the international market for education and studies. Beaconhouse has already started operations in some other countries, like Malaysia, Bangladesh, Thailand, UK, etc, but it is necessary to bring sizable foreign investments to build more, and larger, schools, colleges and universities.

The huge domestic market must attract international investors to the education sector. There are already some foreign groups operating in Pakistan, like Choueifat School System. Other schools that have financial backing from people outside Pakistan include the American International School Lahore, whose shareholding primarily comes from Pakistani diaspora in USA.

While the likes of Choueifat are welcome to operate in Pakistan, it is even more important that greater investment is brought into the country to develop Pakistani institutions like Beaconhouse into an international brand. At present, these institutions are merely offering foreign qualifications like A-levels and International Baccalaureate, but should be looking to innovate and expand.

Consequently, there is a need to develop new curricula and qualifications for the Pakistan market, with such quality that these would be marketable internationally. This can be achieved provided Pakistani private schools become real leaders in the provision of a high standard of education worldwide. Failing to think outside their comfort zone, Pakistani schools will continue to deliver foreign qualifications locally (or elsewhere) without getting due recognition in the international market for school education.

The success of private schools is not merely failure of public-sector schools, but also the failure of Pakistani curricula and examination boards. It is imperative to develop an alternative examination board, nationally, in addition to the boards of intermediate and secondary education on a divisional level. All the private schools must subscribe to the examinations conducted by this alternative board, even if they follow British or American curricula. There is also a need to develop new qualifications, which must be taken up by the students of private schools.

Opportunities abound in developing new, internationally marketable qualifications on the back of success of Pakistan’s private schools. Given the continual changes in professions, a wide spectrum of new qualifications may be developed.

For example, instead of A-levels (offered by the British examination boards) and Higher Secondary School Certificates (offered by divisional education boards), new pre-university qualifications should be offered like Pakistan Professional Qualification, Pakistan Academic Qualification, Pakistan Technical Qualification, Pakistan Religious Qualification, Pakistan Media Qualification, etc. If such qualifications are recognised internationally, this would establish Pakistan as a leader in education provision. It is an ambition that can undoubtedly be achieved.

THE WRITER IS AN ECONOMIST AND A PHD FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY

Published in The Express Tribune, 25th, 2012.

Reader Comments (18)

  • S
    Jun 24, 2012 - 10:17PM

    The main thing for us, that most of these school are creating a youth that is too westernised, we need to introduce Islamic education and morals in to our education system, that is the only way to guide a mis guided youth and increase our moral values. I by no means mean madarrasa or any thing similar.

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  • curious
    Jun 25, 2012 - 1:28AM

    Very true@S but good character as well as good breeding comes from the home, parents have to instill the values in the child.

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  • ukmuslim
    Jun 25, 2012 - 1:50AM

    new pre-university qualifications should be offered like Pakistan Professional Qualification, Pakistan Academic Qualification, Pakistan Technical Qualification, Pakistan Religious Qualification, Pakistan Media Qualification, etc.

    i never been to pakistan. i don’t know if these qualifications are real in presence or the author is just thinking of their name and type. what about fundamental research in its content and delivery. just composing catchy lines and names, will not make you stand out.

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  • Ali
    Jun 25, 2012 - 3:13AM

    These schools cater to the top 20% of the population at most.
    What about the remaining 80%.

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  • moz
    Jun 25, 2012 - 3:30AM

    @S You mean like the taliban coming out of the madrassahs.

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  • H.A. Khan
    Jun 25, 2012 - 9:02AM

    Education for what?
    The Biggest problem is the curriculum! and then the content knowledge of the teachers.We do not teach the students the skills that are needed /required.Where is agriculture being taught althought 65% of population is involve in agriculture one way or another

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  • abc
    Jun 25, 2012 - 9:30AM

    these private school systems charge steep fees and make parents pay thru the nose. in the rest of the world, pre-K to Grade 12 education is cheap or free but here in Pakistan the costs are astronomical.

    Whereas university education in medical/engineering colleges is heavily subsidized in Pakistan and almost free. University education fees should be increased 300 percent to 500 percent in public sector so that the students enrolled on taxpayer money realize the value of subsidized education they are getting. They should take loans and financial aid as in USA to pay for their education if the parents cannot help.

    What is really troubling is that 60 percent of Pakistan’s population is under 16 years of age and there is no good education sytem. Private school cater only to elite. What about the remaining 90 percent? Where should they or will they study?Recommend

  • Zee
    Jun 25, 2012 - 1:13PM

    this is a very shallow article. the real issue at hand is that even these so called private institutions are churning out pathetic output. so no use spreading their networks everywhere if they cannot produce good quality output.

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  • Shyam
    Jun 25, 2012 - 1:33PM

    @S
    we need to introduce Islamic education

    Yes, complete with Islamic software programming, Islamic internet, Islamic engineering and Islamic medicine.

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  • AntiKingClass
    Jun 25, 2012 - 1:46PM

    @moz: Giving Islamic education does not mean schools will start developing ‘Talibans’..Only talibans do not read Quran & its translation or Hadith..If u are a muslim, have u become ‘Taliban’ after studying anything about Islam and even if u r not a muslim, there are many non-muslims in this world who read quran to gain hidden knowledge inside it..Taliban is a political term being used by both religious parties as well as the west for their own causes..Do not relate it with Islam.

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  • Wajid
    Jun 25, 2012 - 1:47PM

    @Zee.

    Agree with your comment!. Private Education in Pakistan costs a fortune and level is nowhere near international standards. My education in the west was based on learning and understanding, whereas here my children are burdened excessively and their education is based on memorisation.

    For examinations, they pass based on memory and then get ready to memorise next terms work at the same time forgetting previous.

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  • mir ali nawaz khan panhwar
    Jun 25, 2012 - 3:03PM

    what is new in this note ………

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  • M. Asim
    Jun 25, 2012 - 3:13PM

    @S
    Islamic education and morals should not be taught in schools, it is parents duty to teach such things.

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  • zafar ul hassan
    Jun 25, 2012 - 3:47PM

    The issue is not islamic education. Its about nurturing a good citizen. But to do that we need to come up with ways that are based on our belief. Quran clearly shows us the way by which a person can become a socially responsible citizen besides telling what socially responsible behavior is. Quran also tells us ways to get wisdom and knowledge (knowledge creation). The problem is that our educationists have ignored this. It is this which needs to be incorporated in the educational management framework. Only then we would be able to nurture individuals who are not only good citizens but also creative individuals. International acceptance of our degrees would come automatically. Its the end result that is going to lead to recognition of education system.

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  • Sissyboy
    Jun 25, 2012 - 4:02PM

    Beaconhouse doesn’t offer IB.

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  • Big Rizvi
    Jun 25, 2012 - 4:37PM

    @S: But what about disciplinary measures? Not everything in this world in about Islam and not everybody is a Muslim. The world does not revolve around your brand of religion. Ciao.

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  • Ali tanoli
    Jun 25, 2012 - 5:15PM

    The peoples who teaches at private school are not Oxford returns hahahahahah

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  • K.
    Jun 25, 2012 - 5:18PM

    Graduate of the International School of Islamabad. Parents made the best decision of my life by sending me to one of the best private albeit very expensive school. Was taught a wide range of subjects from arts and sciences. Teachers paid special attention to every students needs. Got to travel South Asia due for sports and art classes. Had my religious teachings done from home.. and school is where I was taught worldly matters. Today, I’m a proud graduate of ISOI. Long Live!

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