Our education system is in a quagmire so deep it seems difficult to understand how we can ever step out of it and move towards a brighter future. Education is, of course, the first rung on which we need to step to achieve progress and prosperity but it seems even the ladder is not propped up yet. A recent study by the NGO Strengthening Participatory Organisation notes that Pakistan has one of the most stratified education systems in the world, with about eight different kinds of institutions functioning in the country. These range from government schools to elite private institutes offering ‘O’ and ‘A’ level education. We also have madrassahs, cadet colleges, Urdu and English-medium private schools, schools run under the Aga Khan Board and public and private sector colleges. The SPO study points out that these differences create divides rather than unification in society. We are, of course, all familiar with the manner in which different schools are graded in social terms. Moreover, there is little regulation of either private schools or madrassahs, and this adds to the problems with some 6,000 registered and 4,000 unregistered private schools running in Karachi alone. The SPO survey also noted the dismal standards at government schools, with grade level students unable to construct simple sentences or solve basic maths problems.
But these are not the only problems Pakistan faces as far as its education sector goes. During the current fiscal year, while Pakistan decreased its spending on higher education by Rs10 billion, India expanded its higher education budget five-fold. In India, more than 1,000 billion rupees was allocated for higher education for the year 2012-13. This is 40 times more than what Pakistan spends on education. Higher education enrolment in India is 18 percent as compared to a dismal eight percent in Pakistan where few make it past a badly flawed primary and secondary structure. Experts also point out India invests far more in research, creating far higher standards as far as education goes. The depths to which we have sunk in the educational sphere is something to think about very deeply. We have a pile of problems facing us. Somehow this pile needs to be cleared and sorted out.