Improving science education: Capital’s mean score above national average, but still low

Alif Ailaan report recommends introducing lab classes much earlier

Our Correspondent March 13, 2017
Alif Ailaan report recommends introducing lab classes much earlier. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The government needs to overhaul the system of education to improve basic levels of science and mathematics in the capital including provision of financial resources, robust management coupled with transparency and accountability.

In the third report of its series ‘Powering Pakistan for 21st Century: A Roadmap to Transform Maths and Science Education’ released last week by education campaign Alif Ailaan, it provided comprehensive recommendations and suggestions for immediate, short and long-term goals to improve education.

The report noted that the national mean score was 46.1 per cent while Islamabad Capital Territory had a slightly above mean score of 46.6 per cent. While it was the highest among all the provinces, it was still below 50.

To improve this score, the report suggested that the government take up a three-pronged strategy and how, with concerted efforts, to meet education goals by 2018.

Presenting a short-term strategy – which looked at goals which need to be achieved till the 2018 general elections, the report suggested appointing a “chief scientist” or a “chief scientific officer” within the office of the Prime Minister with the status of a federal minister.

Besides, it suggested a robust data regime linking learning outcomes with school indexing for public and private schools, while forecasting medium and long-term schooling demands and planning to meet these targets.

Moreover, to improve scores in science, the report suggested introducing laboratory exercises for students much earlier. It suggested laboratory time for classes VI, VII and VIII. Further, the report suggested increasing the allocated time for laboratories for classes IX and X.

It also suggested that seminars on science should be regularly hosted by high schools.

It further suggested establishing minimum qualifications for teachers as well as establishing a professional body or association to oversee the conduct of members of the cadre should be developed to raise a more professional the teaching force.

The report also suggested using Islamabad-based government schools under the Prime Minister’s Education Reforms Initiative to test out a number of measures which would improve school autonomy and financial management.

As part of this pilot, the report suggested increasing the independence and autonomy of SMCs, through easing constraints on spending funds, and reducing the influence of head teachers and local government agencies, to the benefit of parental autonomy.

Further, it suggested that public financial management reforms should incentivise teachers and school leaders to spend money towards improving learning outcomes – by working with the Auditor General and PIFRA to develop robust, but flexible mechanisms for school expenditure across the country.

Under the pilot, it recommended that the authority to make human resource related decisions such as hiring teachers, managing leaves, appointing substitutes and conducting training should be devolved down to the school level – with increased accountability of school leaders (principals, head teachers etc).

The report also recommended streamlining human resource policies through close coordination between federal and provincial stakeholders, set up a joint task force between the establishment division of the federal government, and the services and general administration departments of the provinces, to convene and collate proposals for improved human resource management for education service delivery.

Formulate and implement a coherent approach which connects the curriculum framework and standards, writing of textbooks, teacher recruitment and training and learning in the classroom. It also suggests that teacher promotions be tied with performance and not seniority.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2017.


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