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July 19, 2019

Helping education


July 19, 2019

The latest report on Pakistan’s education system is a rather mixed bag. The study, 'Pakistan’s Educational Crisis: The Real Story', like many others before it claims that Pakistan’s education problems have been misdiagnosed. In itself, the report is correct in noting that there is a serious problem in the quality of education that is delivered to those enrolled in the country’s education system. Noting that the 17 million children that do go to primary school are not learning much, it rightly calls for new approaches to ensure that those who do make it to school are able to learn. However, the report wrongly claims that the focus of education policy in Pakistan remains on ensuring out of school children attend school, rather than focusing on the quality of education. Anyone with access to the internet can access a wide-range of educational interventions in public and private sector schools aimed at documenting and improving the quality of learning in Pakistan’s schools. It would be better for such studies to focus on assessing these wide-ranging, often donor-funded, interventions in Pakistan’s education system.

The involvement of a range of international organisations in Pakistan’s education system for decades too has brought little improvement to the quality of education delivered to the country’s children. The report rightly points out the importance of teaching in the students' mother language, instead of English, which is an issue that has remained under debate for much of the history of policymaking in Pakistan’s education sector. The matter needs to be resolved in favour of mother languages, simply due to the fact that surveys put the number of teachers who do not know English at 94 percent. The report rightly questions the desire of donors to fund projects ‘driven by headlines in foreign capitals’, but then ends up making recommendations that are either unrealistic or simply wrong. Proposals such as having all-female teachers in primary schools and making all primary schools co-education seem to be imagined without any context in mind. Moreover, the recommendation to stop hiring teachers on permanent government jobs is a recipe for disaster. Instead of fixing structural problems, proposals such as these end up creating more. Alternate education programmes for older out-of-school children and adult literacy programmes are certainly needed but securing sustainable funding would be crucial. Right now, what we need is a bold new path, instead of the same paradigms of privatisation and devolution.

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