Education is our future

Courtesy:-   SHAMSHAD AHMAD



In a message to All-Pakistan
Educational Conference at Karachi on November 27, 1947,
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali
Jinnah said: ““There is no doubt that the future of our State will and must greatly depend upon the type of
education and the way in which we bring up our children as the future citizens of Pakistan. Education does not merely mean academic education, and even that appears to be of a very poor type. What we have to do is to mobilize our people and build up the character of our future generations.”
This was indeed a message of prophetic relevance to our nation’s future. The Quaid correctly emphasized the critical role education plays in the over-all health and well-being of a modern nation-state. Unfortunately, with misplaced priorities, we never focused on developing education as a pillar of our nation-building and as an asset for a modern, progressive and prosperous Pakistan.
Historically, as a public sector responsibility, education in Pakistan has remained a most neglected sector both in terms of budgetary allocation and systemic development. It has been among the lowest of our national priorities with scant attention paid to the need for systemic reform and redressal.

The increasing disillusionment with the public sector educational system led to a phenomenal shift towards private education with mushroom growth of commercially motivated institutions at all levels. There are, however, conspicuous exceptions in the private sector, providing high-quality education though with limited affordability.
Over the decades under almost all successive governments, numerous studies have been undertaken at the national as well as international levels to identify the long-standing problems in our education system and to recommend remedial measures.
We already have an elaborate 'menu' of creative options available to delineate a pragmatic reform strategy, closely tailored to our country's problems and needs, backed by requisite resources and political will. But we remain backward in education only because of our misdirected sense of priorities. Education must be made a high strategic priority with its GDP allocation raised from the current less than two percent to at least five percent to start with.
We also need structural and curricular reforms in our education system to make it more productive, equitable and coherent. For a successful education system in our country, we must do away with multiple systems and evolve countrywide uniform syllabi and curricula. At least this aspect of our education system must remain a federal responsibility.
Some provinces of China, such as Shanghai, which topped a recent survey of 60 education systems, have also shown what is possible. Why not Pakistan? We must be focusing on genuine structural reform in our education system. But till now, we have not gone beyond lip service to our neglected education sector. Pakistan’s population is expected to increase to 350 million by the middle of this century, and without good education, there is no future for this country.
The basic parameters for improving our education system include universal coverage at the schooling level and quality not quantity at the higher education level with adequate resources and efficient management. The foremost benchmark must be the constitutional provision that every child in our country is entitled to a good education A determined effort is needed to overcome the barriers to this goal that include “lack of resources, unqualified teachers who don’t turn up to work, poor quality facilities and poor quality teaching.”
In Punjab, one did see new passion and zeal as a ray of hope. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, from the very beginning of his first tenure has been focusing on providing quality education facilities to those who could not otherwise afford it. His intention was well-meaning and his priority attention to the educational needs of backward Southern Punjab was also understandable.
We don’t need any more elite schools (even for the poor) to expand the “islands of privilege” that only symbolize the anachronistic culture of elitism in our society. It is against the principle of Islamic justice and equality. The resources allocated to elitist schools would be best utilized for improving the entire network of government-owned schools by equipping them with basic facilities that most of them now lack.
We need to provide the basic modern student support services in public sector schools such as qualified teachers, well-furnished and well-maintained classrooms, libraries, laboratories and playgrounds.
As is the practice in most countries, our schools at every level must have latest computers in their libraries for use by students to ensure compulsory computer literacy as part of IT training with professional support and maintenance from a non-burearocratic but professionalized IT Directorate to be established in each province for this purpose.

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