An advocacy group’s analysis on benchmarks unmet by the provincial government’s Sindh Education Sector Plan 2014-2018 should be thoroughly considered by citizens intending to participate in the upcoming elections. We welcome the initiative to facilitate improvement in education across provinces. The report comes at a time when public education in Pakistan contains many distractions like recent political riots at Punjab University and some created by authorities themselves, such as the cancelling of classes to halt Valentine’s Day exchanges at Peshawar University. The government should use the report to examine its shortcomings. Lofty policies will make the implementation of education reform a lethargic and cumbersome process.
There are many factors that confound the planning and implementation of education reform. For example, attrition rates. It is difficult for schools to plan budgets if the number of students keeps changing. In the short term, attention must be paid to retaining enrolments. Long-term planning should seek adequate facilities to cater to the total number of children in a school neighbourhood. Exact target figures for enrolment should be provided within a specified time period for effective progress. Another negative factor is that Sindh’s high school enrolment is only 15 per cent, meaning children reach adulthood without acquiring applied knowledge and the ability to make sound decisions. They will never have exposure to mathematical proofs in a high school geometry class or deductive reasoning and qualitative analysis in chemistry, which translate into crucial skills in adulthood.
On the subject of education quality, the switch to merit-based teacher appointments is acknowledged. Furthermore, the implementation of standardised achievement tests is imperative to measure learning. Education is mandated for all but the government needs to facilitate parents and students, say, for transportation and cost of supplies. The plan 2014-2018 has met with some minimal success but financial oversight, among other factors, going forward will be required in order to continue making progress.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2018.
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