Rural education: Eight reforms we need now

Published: July 18, 2011
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There are many reasons the state of education is a mess. A few steps in the right direction can change that. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN

Educational institutions are the breeding ground for any civilization. Illiteracy is the mother of all evil and ignorance leads to exploitation of the weak, and injustice in the society.

The pertinent question: Why is the current breed of politicians so ignorant about the pitiful state of government-run schools?

The simple answer: They know that their presence in the assemblies and their luxurious lifestyle is only possible because of the illiterate masses who vote for them.

Education, especially in state-run institutions, has deteriorated. I belong to a very remote part of Sindh and have had the opportunity to observe the devastation of society personally. I have witnessed on a regular basis, talent going to waste due to poverty, deprivation and lack of education. Education is a basic and fundamental right of every person and should have priority accordingly.

Human rights organisations in Pakistan have failed to raise the issue and fight for the cause.

Why?

I don’t know. Maybe like politicians, their funding is also dependent on illiterate people – the more the number of illiterates, the more human rights violations and the more funding to human rights organisations. These organisations need to prioritise education, as it would ultimately make their work a lot easier, because an educated person would know his rights and would be able to fight for it himself/herself.

The underlying reasons for the collapse of the system is the ignorance of parents, lack of awareness, corruption, ghost schools and absent teachers.

Considering all these issues, I suggest eight  step to for making the system better:

1. Compulsory Education: Education should be made compulsory for every child, at least till intermediate. I understand that similar efforts have been made in the past but they haven’t worked. They need to be put into practice with measurable and stricter targets. Yes, it can work if such policies are implemented along with banning child labour, by imposing heavy fines and punishment for employers or whoever forces underage children to work.

2. Ghost schools and ghost teachers: There are many schools whose funding is regularly granted but they never really operated. Similarly, there are teachers who are officially appointed in those ghost schools but never come to teach. There is an immediate need to appoint a supervisory team comprising at least one judge, one academic and one media person to keep a check on ghost schools and ghost teachers. There should be an OFSTED (UK) model government body, which closely monitors schools and if they are not performing well, they are either closed down or disciplined.

3. Fund control and transparency: The education budget should be specifically and transparently announced for particular areas, and the public and the media should have access to all the information and funding.

4. Awareness:  NGO’s and the media should be encouraged and supported to create awareness of education in the rural areas. The lack of motivation and deprivation is also a major cause of the low level of education. Awareness schemes need to be launched, which can partly be done by encouraging different levels of competitions between different regions.

5.Downward filtration theory: I am a firm believer in the filtration theory. The theory says that if quality education is arranged for those who can afford it, they will work towards educating others. For example, one person from one family receives higher education. He will probably realise its importance and strive to educate the rest of his family. So, by providing quality education to one person, you are eventually educating a whole family. This can be achieved by encouraging reputable private schools to open in interior areas.

6. Centralisation of primary schools:  The vast network of non-functioning primary schools has caused an educational failure. A decade ago there was one school for five to six villages and students from surrounding villages had to walk a mile or so to come to school. That could be termed as a centralised system of primary education, as there were fewer schools so there were more students and more teachers in one place. This was also a great source of socialisation between the village students as it provided an opportunity to villagers of five to six villages to meet and due to more than one teacher appointed, there was a proper check on teachers as well. Currently there is predominantly one teacher per school and no accountability as the teacher is solely responsible for running the school. This results in the lack of quality education and is the main cause of ghost schools and ghost teachers.

7. Eradicating incompetence:  A commission should be formed to sack or relocate incompetent teachers who have been appointed politically or by corruption. It will provide opportunities to reappoint, by transparent means, a new batch of qualified teachers.

8. Change of curriculum: It needs to be amended and changed and simplified according to the current need of the society. As per my experience, there are many subjects which are of no use to many people who choose to go into areas other than medical or engineering.

Ghulam Dars

Ghulam Dars

An Internee with Liaquat Merchant Associates in Corporate Law who has done Bar-at-Law from Lincoln's Inn, LLM from SOAS London, LLB from University of Hertfordshire and BA (International Relations) from Karachi University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://thebizzlog.blogspot.com/ Amir Nasiruddin

    Excellent….Recommend

  • Samina

    I think its a forward thinking and very interesting article. Its very well researched and highlights some of the key issues around education in Pakistan…Keep up the good work…Recommend

  • Ameer Ali

    After long time i have seen right article with right approach along with solution. I strongly agree with your point of view that education is the ultimate solution of our every problem. Recommend

  • Ameer Ali

    After long time; i have seen such a detailed article addressing our most critical issue. I strongly agree with your point of view that why NGOs and other concern authorities are pushing our nation to darkness; just for their self interest. Recommend

  • Ameer Ali

    Excellent and detailed write up; addressing most critical issue of our nation. I strongly agree with your point of view that why NGOs and other concern authorities are pushing our nation to darkness; just for their self interest.

    I am very much sure that political government will not come with concurrent policy for boosting our education system but if they can only follow suggested eight steps, I am confident that we will be able to some positive results. Recommend

  • Irshad Khan

    Whether fuedal lords of Pakistan will allow their labourer`s(Harees) children go to school and be educated. First you have to control Jagirdari, Sardari, Peeri and tribal nizams in Pakistan. and then think to implement any scheme for awareness or development work, other-wise it will miserably fail as earlier schemes have failedRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/britpak Mohammed Abbasi

    Excellent article – except their needs to be a ninth suggestion – KEEP MULLAHS AWAY FROM SCHOOLSRecommend

  • Dhanesh kumar

    You have discussed very nicely all the pitfall and solution , most of these reforms already practice in Pakistan . but there is no any fruit fill result came. The basic reason is no will of our feudal system and politicians .Reforms are only came to get extra funds for there pocket. Main concern is how can we bring these reforms effectivly in this corrupt system . Recommend

  • D

    this is aboubt failure of schools, feudals come next and currently its not easy for fudals to stop some1 from going to schools, it would be rare if happensRecommend

  • D

    @Mohammad Abbasi: agreed, religious education shoud be provided in state schools and be controlled by state rather than mullahs and Foreign agencies.Recommend

  • Aijaz Ali

    Very well written and it highlights the common issues of rural areas which has been ignored by the our own governments over the ages. moreover, what I like about this article with key issues writer has suggested the solution to these issues. Recommend

  • Ahad Jatoi

    Very well written I am glad someone is raising the voice for my beloved rural area where talent has been neglected therefore they are living in state of denial I hope someone from government read this article and implement these 8 simple steps. Recommend

  • Ahad Jatoi

    Well chosen topic with very good approach and least not last perfect solution to stop the long going failure of education in rural areas. Recommend

  • Ahad Jatoi

    excellent piece of work good to see someone took the initiative to write about this key issue.Recommend

  • Asiya

    Its very thought provoking with the right message.Recommend

  • zarah

    Well written excellent workRecommend

  • Murtaza Razi

    Very Good topic with detail research Recommend

  • kamran

    After long time seen the genuine issue has been raised well done. Recommend

  • shahbaz khan

    well quite interesting specially highlighted the more issues in one topic literacy plus child labour good work Recommend

  • shahzad jameel

    excellent work must appreciate the writer for bringing up this issue in media Recommend

  • rabia

    very these issues must be addressed properly Recommend

  • A

    At some point or another, we all ponder over the gazillion measures that can be taken to improve things here. But unfortunately, there must be more emphasis on HOW these measures will be implemented. How will we get rid of corruption? How will be make sure education becomes a basic right of every child? How can we FIX the 101 things wrong in our system. There needs to be less talk, and more ACTION.Recommend

  • D

    @ A: thats the purpose of this article, why NGO’s, Human Righs and media is so ignorant about this issue?? why there is no watch by media on failure of education, they literally live on politicians heads why dont they watch on closed schools and hospitals etc.Recommend

  • Kabs

    Smashing article mate!! Hit the right nodes at all times. Recommend

  • Ibrar Ahmed

    Good Work Brother and it need a good and permanent startRecommend

  • Sajjad Bhatti

    Very nice and interesting stuff….. Recommend

  • hyder

    right thing on the right topic, thanks to express tribune otherwisew media has other unimportant thingsRecommend

  • parvez

    Great article and excellent suggestions.
    Problem is, as one comment put it, nothing will get done if there is no will to do it.
    A motivational force generated by the society on a national level is required to infuse the will that is needed, even if this has to done through coercive methods it certainly needs to be done but it will not be easy. Recommend

  • http://gloriouscars.webs.com M.A.S.K

    great article ……….. excellent work!
    I’ve been reading many articles in the Tribune but this is the most perfect and excellent article by the way that you have explained it ……..

    Pakistan has two most big issues and problems:
    One is the law and order situation, the second one is Education…..
    keep it up ………… and I can surely say if we all could resolve this issue in Pakistan, its fate would be changed and it would be near to the list of developed countries!Recommend

  • mgkhattak

    thoughtful discourse….. as rightly said an apodictic article to read…. suggestions with solutions rarely seen in any write up…. adding to it , we strongly need to review our education policies…. we need to abolish the pre-existing dichotomy in our education system…. there are public schools as you righty describes ”ghost schools and ghost teachers” , unable to serve even the purpose they are build for , yet alone to expect certain level of education they will cater!!!!!… flip side of public schools are the private schools in our country , there level of ”everything” is only for elites or nouveau rich of our society…. there is a gap in between way too wide , in between these two levels of education!!!!! it’s hard to make two ends meet :) …but not impossible , to work on public schools and rejuvenate them and decry private school’s system serving only certain class….. we certainly need less talk and more Action.Recommend

  • zia

    We are badly wasting our national resources on white elephants like Army, Railway and PIA but totally ignoring the most crucial area i.e. education. History fails to offer even a single example where a nation had achieved a glory without Education and advancement in most current areas of research and learning. Education in Pakistan is has a lot of distortions and anomalies because of corruption, aristocracy, political interventions, inconsistent state policies and most importantly lack of sufficient allocation of budget. Education never remained a top most priority of state in Pakistan.

    Teacher, the most important part of an Education system, is one of the most neglected communities in our country. There are many voices in Educational reforms, but reforms can not bring the desired results unless doing following things:
    – Recruitment of teachers from top most talent and offer them with the best possible salaries plus benefits.
    – Mono-curriculum system
    – Implementation of a curriculum; absolutely free of religious and political biases
    – Improving the quality of teacher training.
    – A periodic performance audit of teachers and education managers.
    – Zero political intervention
    – Zero tolerance for corruption and merit violation
    – Equal standard for every Pakistani
    – No quota and merit relaxation for the children of Military officers
    – No discrimination between Civilian and Military (currently there is a huge and unjust discrimination between these two)

    Nations can save their ideological and geographical make up only because of synchronized Educational system, not by useless larger Armies and defense budgets. Recommend