Prioritising quality education
Quality in education continues to be a victim of utter neglect particularly in the public sector institutions of our country. The saddest part of this unfortunate state of affairs is that even after seven decades of our existence no one at the helm of affairs in the government has ever bothered to keep a tab on this critical issue and resolve it with a sense of commitment and responsibility. Unquestionably, however, rhetoric vis-a-vis the vital issue of quality has always been at the top during the reign of successive governments in Pakistan.
The situation in other South Asian countries has not been better either. In fact, it has been equally poor. According to a World Bank report, ‘Student learning in South Asia – challenges, opportunities
and policy priorities’, many South Asian teachers hardly know more than their students. For example surveys from India and Pakistan show that performance of the teachers is abysmally poor in Maths and Language tests based on the curriculum they are supposed to teach. It wouldn’t, therefore, be inappropriate to say that Quality in Education is one of the most critical challenges that the South Asian countries are confronted with today. Pakistan too occupies a conspicuous position among them.
Quality, as stated earlier, continues to be an issue that gravely confronts education in our part of the world. One of the areas prioritised by World Bank report on quality education is that learning outcomes should become the central goal of the education policy. Students learning in South Asia are far behind the local and international standards. Students do not get even the basic numeracy and literacy skills after putting in a reasonable time in school. According to some assessments, the report says, about one third of primary school students lack the minimum level of numeracy and literacy skills needed to further their education in higher classes.
The report audaciously emphasizes that ‘schooling is successful when it enables students to lead fuller lives – as individuals and as labour market participants. For this to happen, merely spending time in school is not enough; there has to be a significant gain in cognitive and non-cognitive skills’. Yet another area prioritised by the report for quality education is ‘teacher effectiveness and accountability’.
The report emphasizes that level of motivation and methodology of teaching are two important determinants of teachers’ effectiveness. Teachers in Pakistan are found lacking on both these counts. They are a highly de-motivated group. It seems as if the teaching profession has been thrust upon them. The reasons for this de-motivation are obvious and need no further elaboration, the report says. The gravity of the situation makes it incumbent on those engaged in policy making, in the education sector in the country, to put their heads together and find out as to what should be done to deal with this gargantuan challenge; a challenge that continues to unabatedly confront Pakistan even after seven decades of its independence. — Islamabad