Rural education: Eight reforms we need now
Educational institutions are the breeding ground for any civilization. Illiteracy is the mother of all evil and ignorance leads to exploitation of the weak, and injustice in the society.
The pertinent question: Why is the current breed of politicians so ignorant about the pitiful state of government-run schools?
The simple answer: They know that their presence in the assemblies and their luxurious lifestyle is only possible because of the illiterate masses who vote for them.
Education, especially in state-run institutions, has deteriorated. I belong to a very remote part of Sindh and have had the opportunity to observe the devastation of society personally. I have witnessed on a regular basis, talent going to waste due to poverty, deprivation and lack of education. Education is a basic and fundamental right of every person and should have priority accordingly.
Human rights organisations in Pakistan have failed to raise the issue and fight for the cause.
I don’t know. Maybe like politicians, their funding is also dependent on illiterate people - the more the number of illiterates, the more human rights violations and the more funding to human rights organisations. These organisations need to prioritise education, as it would ultimately make their work a lot easier, because an educated person would know his rights and would be able to fight for it himself/herself.
The underlying reasons for the collapse of the system is the ignorance of parents, lack of awareness, corruption, ghost schools and absent teachers.
Considering all these issues, I suggest eight step to for making the system better:
1. Compulsory Education: Education should be made compulsory for every child, at least till intermediate. I understand that similar efforts have been made in the past but they haven’t worked. They need to be put into practice with measurable and stricter targets. Yes, it can work if such policies are implemented along with banning child labour, by imposing heavy fines and punishment for employers or whoever forces underage children to work.
2. Ghost schools and ghost teachers: There are many schools whose funding is regularly granted but they never really operated. Similarly, there are teachers who are officially appointed in those ghost schools but never come to teach. There is an immediate need to appoint a supervisory team comprising at least one judge, one academic and one media person to keep a check on ghost schools and ghost teachers. There should be an OFSTED (UK) model government body, which closely monitors schools and if they are not performing well, they are either closed down or disciplined.
3. Fund control and transparency: The education budget should be specifically and transparently announced for particular areas, and the public and the media should have access to all the information and funding.
4. Awareness: NGO’s and the media should be encouraged and supported to create awareness of education in the rural areas. The lack of motivation and deprivation is also a major cause of the low level of education. Awareness schemes need to be launched, which can partly be done by encouraging different levels of competitions between different regions.
5.Downward filtration theory: I am a firm believer in the filtration theory. The theory says that if quality education is arranged for those who can afford it, they will work towards educating others. For example, one person from one family receives higher education. He will probably realise its importance and strive to educate the rest of his family. So, by providing quality education to one person, you are eventually educating a whole family. This can be achieved by encouraging reputable private schools to open in interior areas.
6. Centralisation of primary schools: The vast network of non-functioning primary schools has caused an educational failure. A decade ago there was one school for five to six villages and students from surrounding villages had to walk a mile or so to come to school. That could be termed as a centralised system of primary education, as there were fewer schools so there were more students and more teachers in one place. This was also a great source of socialisation between the village students as it provided an opportunity to villagers of five to six villages to meet and due to more than one teacher appointed, there was a proper check on teachers as well. Currently there is predominantly one teacher per school and no accountability as the teacher is solely responsible for running the school. This results in the lack of quality education and is the main cause of ghost schools and ghost teachers.
7. Eradicating incompetence: A commission should be formed to sack or relocate incompetent teachers who have been appointed politically or by corruption. It will provide opportunities to reappoint, by transparent means, a new batch of qualified teachers.
8. Change of curriculum: It needs to be amended and changed and simplified according to the current need of the society. As per my experience, there are many subjects which are of no use to many people who choose to go into areas other than medical or engineering.
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