For too long, the constitutional promise that all citizens are entitled to an education has been haunted by betrayals. Officials and politicians pontificate about the failures of public education. Their rhetoric describes a flawed system. But little has been done to counter the country’s universal education crisis that threatens its cohesion.
In recent years, Pakistan has increased its spending on education. But our national challenge is not underspending on education. It is the misspending in the sector that needs to be prevented.
In many parts of the country, including Balochistan, this rapid rise in spending is not translating into education for all. Even if enrolment drives succeed to get students into school only a few cross the finish line. This is primarily due to the lack of planned infrastructure in the provincial education sector. Evidence shows that Balochistan suffers the most in this sector. Statistics tell us that the province has spent over 85 per cent of the total budget allocated for education since 2013. However, a significant portion of the development budget, on average, goes unspent every year. Such failures contribute to the burgeoning number of out-of-school children in the province. Students who transfer from primary to middle school in the province are not improving in terms of their overall learning outcomes. This shows that Balochistan faces a series of challenges, including a learning crisis and the massive imbalance between the provision of primary and post-primary schools. Despite much debate on funding for education, adhoc policies by the federal and provincial governments, the ills that haunt Balochistan’s education sector have been consistently misdiagnosed. While the increase in the number of teachers has been an easy policy for everyone, the province needs a secure universal schooling system that focuses on the learning outcome and retention of students — because our children deserve much better.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2018.
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