Amidst the terrorist attacks on educational institutions, images of school teachers carrying firearms while conducting lessons and reports of mismanaged security drills, education in Pakistan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Long ignored by governments, increasingly controlled by privately-owned institutes and now under threat from extremists, it is safe to say that education has never been much of a priority. However, with the approval of minimal standards of teaching criteria during the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference held recently, there is some good news for this beleaguered sector. The criteria which focuses on learning environment, curriculum and teaching methods is expected to “rejuvenate the years-old methods of educating students”, according to the Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training.
These reforms have been a long time coming and it is a relief to know that education is finally being prioritised to some extent. However, the implementation of the criteria by our fractured education system — a motley mixture of government-run and privately-owned institutions, as well as madrassas, each with their own agendas — remains to be seen. Creating buy-in for the new educational criteria amongst all these stakeholders will not be easy. There is no doubt that education in Pakistan needs to be reformed, and soon. Our system is producing individuals unable to cope with industry demands and with poor critical thinking skills. Often, their minds have been shaped by a diet of extremism. This coupled with an inability to form independent opinions makes them ripe for exploitation. Then there are the millions who have never seen the inside of a classroom, and grow up with little chance of improving their situation. An inclusive environment, trained staff and greater outreach in remote areas are needed. However, none of this will be possible without adequate budgetary allocation and a steady commitment to change.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2016.
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