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Writing about education in Pakistan is a complex task. Too many factors, too many voices, too many analyses, too many reports, make it an uphill task to sift the facts from junk. It is also open to conjecture because any number of ideas may be floated and are flying around.

I shall try to walk on a thin line and rely on several sources and hard data to make this discussion worthwhile. I shall give references at the bottom which may not necessarily be in the same order, but some parts of these would have been used as source in this discussion.

Yesterday, chief minister of Punjab announced that the government shall provide free education till graduation through public institutions. Some calculations must have been done before making such a generous offer, though it does not appear so.

We start with basics.

Pakistan Population:                                       220 million est.

Population Rank                                             6th most populous country in the world

Population Estimate 403 million by 2050

Percent of Young Population                         64% under the age of 30

Compulsory Years of Schooling                    16 years

Constitutional Obligation                               Free, compulsory education between 5 -16 years

Medium of Teaching                                      Urdu, English, Regional Language

Additional Languages                                     Mother tongue, Arabic

Literacy – Overall                                           62%

Literacy – Males                                             71%

Literacy – Females                                         47%

Levels of Education                                        Preschool, Primary, Middle, Secondary, Higher Secondary

Enrollment                                                      32% of population

Out of School Children                                   22.8 million est.

Dropout ratio                                                  33%

Number of Schools                                         317,323 – 62% Govt; 38% Private

Number of Teachers                                       2.1 million est.

We discuss primary school education before going further.

The number of children who enroll in the preschool and primary is the highest and corresponds to the high number of primary schools. Almost 50% schools are primary schools. Government also focuses on this segment; therefore, 88% primary schools are public and only 12% private.

It shows that the parents try to send their children to school for a short time, but later let them drop out. It is either because they cannot afford further expense, or the child has grown a little and should be deployed to work to earn money, or both. Providing free education, therefore, does not produce enough good results. It can give free teaching, books, stationary, but it cannot pay to parents.

Another important reason for disparity between primary and secondary education is the availability of schools. As mentioned above, 50% schools are only primary. When students leave primary education, they do not find a school to go to. The secondary schools are fewer and far away. Girls are immediately dropped due to safety reasons, even the boys find it hard to attend these schools. These reasons contribute to higher dropout rate.

The quality of primary education is also questionable. Majority of teachers are not qualified, much less interested. The rural schools have huge problem with absenteeism of teachers, and ghost teachers. Many teachers are doing dual jobs, they mark attendance at the school, and then go and work elsewhere. Field jobs are particularly favored by them due to flexible working hours.

Besides education, the teachers’ behavior and understanding of children’s psychology is poor to bad. The whole system operates at some sub-human level which involves mental and physical abuse also.

The curriculum is also a problem. Local education books were historically written by the senior educationists, PhDs, who had left their own childhood behind by 50-60 years. They were not even qualified in Montessori or primary teaching. Of late, some change is occurring. PTI government also finalized a Single National Curriculum which was rejected by private schools because of vested interests.

Here we are, with a flawed system of primary education which provides flawed education to the children in their formative years. We should not expect great results in later years, though we tend to do so.

To be Continued……

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