The results of the BA/BSc exams, announced for Punjab, show that, as in previous years, women have claimed the top place in all categories. This, of course, follows a familiar pattern. What is also familiar is that the top candidates are enrolled at private institutions. No one from a government college has been able to climb up that ladder of honours that could lead to scholarships and other opportunities.
This too is no surprise. The conditions we see at most government institutions make it unlikely that their pupils will excel. The decline of the government education sector at all levels means that today it is highly unlikely that men such as Dr Abdul Salam or scholars in other fields who in the past had attended public schools would rise to the top ranks in their fields. Essentially this means children who go to government schools, and then colleges, are condemned from the very start to a lower status in life and to a reduced opportunity to recognise their potential. The teachers who once willingly made every effort to produce award-winners at government schools have essentially vanished over the years.
The decline of public education has had an impact on other areas of life too. The emergence of madrassas, scattered across the country, is just one of these. We have also created an acute dichotomy between those able to attend private schools and those whose parents cannot afford the fees and other expenses. This essentially means a deeply bifurcated society where only a few have access to the quality learning that can allow them to move up in life. Addressing this issue should become a prime priority. The fact that this has not been the case for decades accounts for many of our failures —but suggests also how they can be remedied.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2010.
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