Nearly half a million children in Sindh attend pre-primary, or katchi, classes in public schools, where the teachers have still to learn the early education curriculum. Needless to say, these children are hardly learning anything in these classes and are, therefore, settling for a standard of education that is far below what they deserve or what can be of any use to them in later life. In addition, the infrastructure of public schools in Sindh also fails to offer these children the education environment they need. A large number of the 44,500 primary schools in Sindh do not have enough classrooms for all grades, which means that students of classes one to five are often crammed together in one room. The lone teacher in this multi-grade classroom does not know what or how to teach these young minds. It comes as no surprise that class five students in Sindh can barely read a sentence in Sindhi or Urdu.
Since the level of public education in Sindh is dismal at all levels — katchi, primary, middle and secondary — the solution lies in systematically addressing the problems being faced at each level. Early childhood education needs to be recognised as a formal level of education. Teachers should be imparted the required training, the government must give sufficient budgetary allocations for better policies on early childhood education and long-term development strategies must be formulated. These solutions, however, will not be easy to implement. In a province where the education department has become a venue for a tug of war between the education minister and the education secretary, the focus is clearly not on improving the standard of education. Any policy or project introduced by the secretary will be shot down by the minister and vice versa. Teachers hired by one minister, both legally and illegally, will be fired by the next one. In such a situation, policies to improve early childhood education sit on the back burner. A sincere effort on the part of the department is needed if the standard of education in the province has to be salvaged.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2014.
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