The struggle to educate

Education is frequently spoken of by successive governments as being vital to growth and development


Editorial December 13, 2015
PHOTO: FILE

Of the many battles that Pakistan has to fight, one of the most important — and hardest to win — is to educate. Education is frequently spoken of by successive governments as being vital to growth and development — which it is — and yet the national education budget has never exceeded more than four per cent of GDP since Partition, and with the 18th Amendment devolving education budgets to the provinces, a yawning hole in the capacity to implement is revealed. As a nation, Pakistan is singularly ill-prepared to reap the benefits of the so-called ‘knowledge economy’ and is playing catch-up educationally to every country in the region, Afghanistan excepted.

Thus it is that a welcome is to be extended to the launching of the Education Reforms Programme, which aims to renovate and upgrade 422 schools in the federal capital, Islamabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke at the centenary celebrations of Islamia College in Peshawar saying that his government was revolutionising education via an improved curriculum, training for teachers and an improvement of facilities that will strengthen the education base. Crucially, he urged provincial governments to do the same and there lies the rub. Laudable as the uplift of schools in Peshawar and Islamabad no doubt is, there are countless thousands of schools across rural Pakistan — and despite galloping urbanisation, we are still primarily a rural country in terms of where the population lives — that are below par in every respect. No toilets, no boundary walls and often, no teachers. Irregular pay, no library or science laboratories and no training for the often poorly educated teachers. There is no uniformity in the national curriculum and sectarianism still poisons textbooks, as does a revisionist view of history. We do not in any way begrudge the beneficiaries of this latest initiative their good fortune, and it will be to the benefit of countless thousands of teachers and children, but if there is to be a true revolution in the education sector in Pakistan, there must be uniformity across the land and any announcement to that effect we would warmly applaud.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th,  2015.

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