By Khalid Hashmani, McLean, Virginia
Last week, the federal Education Ministry issued a policy draft containing several policy statements about the future Education Policy of Pakistan. I urge the Peoples’ Party of Pakistan (PPP) to reject this draft and appoint a commission composed of representatives from all provinces, ensuring that true representation from rural Sindh, Balochistan, and FATA. These three regions have poorest of poor educational facilities and opportunities and the people there are substantially lagging behind the rest of Pakistan.
The Ministry of Education of Government of Pakistan issued a draft of the National Education Policy on April 14, 2008. The draft available at http://www.moe. gov.pk/nepr/ new.pdf. Although the draft policy is comprehensive in many respects and clearly recognizes the inequities between rural and urban areas, it fails to mention that the conditions of educational facilities and opportunities in RURAL SINDH are as bad as in rural Balochistan and FATA. A synopsis of the key points from the draft is given at the end of this letter. My arguments for asking PPP to reject the draft policy are as follows:
1. The policy unfairly and irrationally pushes for centralization of Pakistan’s educational system. The centralization is one of the main reasons that has kept Pakistan from progressing. The over centralization has resulted in various forms of discrimination that the draft policy has itself recognized. However, the draft policy wrongfully says that modern states have one national education system. In fact, in most modern and progressing countries (including USA, India, Canada, etc.), the federal governments simply create some high-level guidelines, national standards and assessments systems but otherwise the matter of education is considered totally a provincial subject. This is the reason that constitution of Pakistan emphasizes gives the responsibility of education to the provinces. Unfortunately, the over-zealous proponents of the centralization have succeeded in continuing the “education” to be largely a federally controlled subject. But, we all know that the days of concurrent list are likely to end soon. The education policy makers must realize this reality and make changes to the policy to comply with the new era of decentralization.
2. The draft policy claims that new National Educational Policy supports the reflection of the local cultural contexts through curricula, etc. It forgets that only educational system that is run by provinces can truly reflect the real cultural context of their provinces.
3. The draft policy lumps all regional dialects and languages into one category. The education policy must recognize that the Sindhi language is the historical language of Sindh. Unlike other provinces, Sindhi has been used as the main medium of instruction for more than a century. The education policies must be amended to ensure that this historical role of the Sindhi language is preserved for generations to come.
4. The federation of Pakistan is composed of four (4) federating units with their distinct history and heritage. The draft policy does not recognize this important fact. Relevant policy changes must be made so that students are not only taught the modern history of Pakistan but they are also taught about their province’s distinct history and heritage.
5. The report distinctly refers to the “Federal” government but lumps provincial governments and other local governments under one phrase “Provincial/Area Governments” . The education policy makers must realize that during these times when the need for “provincial autonomy” has become the cry of almost all Pakistanis and because “education” is a provincial subject, such references in policy recommendations be changed to recognize the prominent role of provincial governments in meeting the educational objectives of Pakistan. The policy draft should recommend that jurisdiction between the local areas located in a province is to set by the provincial governments and the federal government must not interfere in such matters.
6. A policy action must include a provision that starting next year, additional 0.5% of GDP will be spent on improving education facilities in rural Sindh, rural Balochistan, and FATA areas until the the educational facilities and opportunities in those areas are brought to be apar with rest of Pakistan.
7. A policy recommendation must be made to allow provincial governments to negotiate foreign assistance for improving education facilities for their provinces.
8. The federal role in education should be limited to creating high-level guidelines, setting of national quality standards, and establishing assessment tests. The federal government must not interfere more than that in the education matters and let the provincial government meet their responsibility in education sector as the founding fathers had envisioned. There is no need for Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ (IPEM) Conference to be used as a tool to deny further provincial autonomy.
I hope some of you will also take time to read this dreadful policy draft, whose aim seems to be to further the yoke of centralization on federating units.
I look forward to hearing soon that PPP will create a new education commission to create guidelines that will empower provinces to improve education in their provinces and allocate substantial funding towards bringing educational equity between urban and rural areas of their province.
SYNPOSIS FROM THE DRAFT POLICY REPORT
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MAJOR CONCERNS ON EDUCATION EXPRESSED IN DRAFT POLICY
The draft policy rightfully points out the following major concerns:
1. The current Pakistani policy framework has not served as a satisfactory guide and has not generated desired results in the context of access rates, quality and equity in educational opportunities.
2. The current policy will fail as the new challenges triggered by globalization and Pakistan’s desire to become a “knowledge society” are faced.
3. Although Gross Enrollment Ratio, at the primary level has improved, the achieved 66% rate is below the target rate of 79% for 2005-06. One-third of primary school age and three-quarters of the secondary school age children remain out of school. THE DRAFT SAYS, “CLEARLY, PAKISTAN IS SOME DISTANCE AWAY FROM ACHIEVING UNIVERSAL SCHOOLING, EVEN AT THE PRIMARY LEVEL”.
4. Pakistan performance on enrollments lacks behind both in the context of education and literacy rates. PAKISTAN’S LITERACY RATES (49.9%) IS LOWER THAN FOR COUNTRIES LIKE INDIA (61%), IRAN (82.4%), and SRI LANKA (90.7%).
5. The low access primarily results from lack of confidence in the public sector schools due to POLITICAL INTERFERFERENCE AND CORRUPTION THAT HAS PREMEATED THE ENTIRE SECTOR. RECRUITMENTS, TRANSFERS and POSTINGS ARE POLITICALLY DRIVEN CAUSING THE ISSUES OF ABSENTEE TEACHERS, GHOST SCHOOLS AND CHEATING IN EXAMINATIONS.
6. There is a large difference in ACCESS ACROSS GENDER, ETHNIC MINORITIES, PROVINCES, REGIONS, and RURAL-URBAN DIVIDE.
7. It is common knowledge and proven by many studies that DISCRIMINATION EXISTS IN EDUCATION SYSTEM IN VARIOUS FORMS. This inequity is the result of poor implementation and social customs.
8. The girls continue to face SIGNIFICANT DISADVANTAGES IN ACCESS AS THEY REACH ADULTHOOD. THE FEMALES ARE PARTICULARLY UNDER REPRESENTED IN RURAL AREAS.
9. The RURAL DISADVANTAGE AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL IS RATHER LARGE (48% URBAN vs. 22% RURAL). THE PRECENTAGE GAP BETWEEN URBAN AND RURAL AREAS HAS WIDENED 20 POINTS IN 2001-02 to 2005-06. The SURVIVAL RATE TO GRADE 5 IS 67% in RURAL AREAS VS. 94% IN URBAN AREAS. THE PUPIL TEACHER RATIO IS 12 PUPILS PER TEACHER IN URBAN AREAS VS. 18 PUPILS PER TEACHER IN RURAL AREAS. WHILE 90% OF URBAN SCHOOLS HAS WATER SOURCES, ONLY 63% RURAL SCHOOLS DO SO. WHERE AS, URBAN SCHOOLS HAVE 88% SANITATION FACILITIES VS. 56% SCHOOLS HAVE SIMILAR FACILITIES IN OF RURAL AREAS.
10. The study says that PUNJAB and SINDH are leading are at the top of league, however, as usual poor BALOCHISTAN IS LAGGING FAR BEHIND with the following percentages:
Primary School Net Enrolment Ratio (NER)
— Punjab 68%
— Sindh 67%
— NWFP 66%
— Balochistan 40%
Secondary School Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) – Punjab (26%) vs. 11% for Balochistan and FATA.
The Literacy rate for adults is 55% in Sindh vs. 37% in Balochistan.
11. An international comparison confirms the relative POOR QUALITY of Pakistan’s education. The National Education Assessment System (NEAS) 2005 scores of Pakistani students are well below many other countries.
12. Only about 47% of teaching staff had the required teaching qualifications.
DRAFT POLICY ON FUNDING SOURCES FOR EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN
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1. In 2005-6, the governments funding amounted to about 2.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. A further 0.5% is estimated to be the contribution of the private sector for 3% of GDP. It is slight improvement from 2000-01 when it was 2.2%.
2. Pakistan spends relatively LESS on education (2.3%) than countries like Iran (4.7%), Malaysia (6.2%), India (3.8%), and Bangladesh (2.5%).
MAJOR DRAFT POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
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The draft policy recommendations in numerous areas including:
1. Provinces and local areas to affirm the goal of achieving universal and free primary education by 2015 and up to class 10 by 2025.
2. The Government shall commit to allocating 7% of GDP to education by 2015.
3. The federal and Provincial/Area Governments shall develop consensus on needs and priorities for foreign assistance in education.
4. The federal role shall be facilitator and coordinator. The federal government will be responsible for National Education policy. The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ (IPEM) Conference will have the jurisdiction over reviewing progress and implementation.
April 23, 2008
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups,