There is a curious mix of what appears on the one hand advancement in the education set-up in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P); and on the other decidedly retrograde steps. Taking the positive first, the K-P government is planning to remove 50 per cent of the teaching cohort in government schools because of their poor performance. As the teachers are unlikely to go without making a fuss, a financial inducement to retirement may be offered in the form of a golden handshake. They will be replaced by teachers recruited through a selection process that will employ the National Testing Services (NTS) exam for which there will be a minimum 50 per cent pass mark. Currently, there are about 125,000 teachers in K-P, and around Rs93 billion have been spent in an unsuccessful attempt to bring state education on a par with the private sector. Replacing half of them is going to be a gargantuan task, and the NTS exam is to be administered to all teachers as a first step, those failing may be offered a financial inducement to leave.
This robust attempt to improve standards stands in contrast to the as yet poorly defined proposal — if there really is such a proposal — to arm K-P teachers in the hope that they will fight off any future attackers. Any such move would be both nonsensical and dangerous, and to even think that this would add anything to the overall security of the education system suggests that the person(s) so minded have not thought of the dangerous consequences that such a move could entail. Teachers must not be co-opted into a role they are unfit for. Rather than arm the teachers, the authorities need to look at how extremism may be countered, because perpetuating a toxic gun culture serves nobody; least of all children. Let us hope this idea is stillborn, unlike the proposal to test teachers. We need to get rid of the dead wood and recruit fresh and better-qualified teachers — which we warmly welcome. By all means let us improve education, but not with a Kalashnikov in the corner of the classroom.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2015.