Policy matters: ‘Poor management of resources preventing improvement in education’

Speakers suggest letting districts formulate their own need-based educational policies

Our Correspondent January 25, 2015
Compiled by the public policy research think tank, Manzil Pakistan, the report was launched at an event on Friday. PHOTO: MANZIL PAKISTAN

KARACHI: The primary reason for the repeated failure of the eight five-year plans and 10 education policies is ineffective administration that correlates with the absence of political will, says a newly-launched educational report, titled ‘Access to Education in Sindh.’ As an alternative, the report advocates for devolving the responsibility of planning to the districts. 

Compiled by the public policy research think tank, Manzil Pakistan, the report was launched at an event on Friday, followed by a panel discussion presided over by Sindh Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro.

With the objective to inform the Sindh government of their current performance in the districts across the province, the report ranks the districts in Sindh vis-à-vis the condition of primary public schooling, including the status of enrolment, infrastructure, and administrative performance, explained Naheed Memon, Manzil chief executive officer and co-author of the report.

“There always remains a huge gap between the formulated policies and their implementation on the ground. This disparity has prevented development in Sindh’s education sector,” asserted Memon, while opening the discussion. “Primarily, because education-related polices were formulated too far from the schools, leading to poor implementation and management of resources.”

Shahnaz Wazir Ali, president of Syed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, agreed as she asserted that the core of all problems, which plagued the education sector in Sindh, was bad management. “Planning is restricted to offices in the provincial capital and not the districts where all these intricate and fancy plans are supposed to be implemented,” she said.

Taking the cue from Ali, Shereen Narejo, Sindh education department’s secretary for planning and development, argued for need-based educational policies formulated by the districts themselves. “For instance, there is a strange disparity in the number of primary and secondary institutions in different districts,” she said. “This leads to a harrowing 82 per cent overall drop-out rate between grades 1 and 10.”

For Narejo, the districts should be allowed to plan for the resources according to their needs and the provincial government should act as the facilitator.

She pointed out that the problem of ‘too-much-centralisation’ was also associated with the provincial education budget that kept increasing steadily for the past couple of years, but failed to reflect allocation of money where it was required. “This disconnect can be resolved by reliably gathering district-wise data about schools and students’ enrolment as well as an effective coordination between the district education officers and the education ministry,” said Narejo.

Former State Bank governor, Saleem Raza, pointed out that short-sighted policies, combined with poor management in their implementation, had caused some regions in the province to have more facilities and perform better than others.

The concerns posed by the panellists were also reflected in the report, which highlights lack of schools, defunct schools management committees, lack of coordination between government and districts and poor utilisation of budgetary resources as the main reasons for the handicapped education system in Sindh.

Sindh education minister Khuhro argued, however, that devolving educational planning to the districts would make it difficult to maintain cohesiveness in the education system.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2015.

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