Monday July 15, 2024

Education failure

By Editorial Board
January 24, 2022

A latest study by the Institute for Educational Development (IED) of the Aga Khan University has revealed that 90 percent of lower-secondary pupils in Pakistan have only a basic understanding of the mathematics and science they are supposed to learn at that level. This was a country-wide study the faculty of the IED conducted with over 15, 000 students in grades five, six, and eight. With the cooperation from 153 private and public schools, they completed standardised tests in the two subjects. The study had support from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. Normally such studies become questionable if they are not properly aligned with the curriculum that the students are going through. But this study was clearly aligned, making it rigorous in its approach and findings.

It should be a matter of serious concern that the average mathematics score was just 27 out of hundred. That means that slightly over one-fourth of students in any class can do the mathematics required at their level. In science, the score is 34 out of 100, making it around one-third of the total number of students in a class possessing the knowledge of science they should be having at their level. Even more amazing – or rather disturbing – is the figure of just one percent of students who could score over 80 in either subject. Educationists the world over agree that in an ideal class a majority of students should hold at least 80 percent proficiency in what they are required to learn. Any score below that demonstrates a serious lack in educational standards. The IED study also highlights two more points: one, girls slightly outperform boys in science and tie with boys in mathematics; two, the average score in private schools was higher than in public schools but did not exceed 40 in either subject. This level of poor performance is nothing unexpected, as numerous previous studies have also shown results that are similar or only slightly different.

Essentially this is a major failure of our decision- and policymakers more than educational practitioners. Our state has never given the priority to education that it deserves. If at all, our governments – both civilian and military – have been more interested in establishing ‘model’ institutions catering to just a fragment of society. Top class educational institutions exist for a selected segment that learns in isolation of the rest of Pakistani society. The teaching practices in most schools are still primitive with a focus on the ‘transmission’ model in which students get little opportunity to learn and mostly end up as passive listeners. With hardly 60 percent literacy rate in the country after 75 years of Independence, most parents themselves lack education, resulting in a vicious cycle of perpetual poor educational performance. This study should serve as yet another wakeup call for all education managers in the country – both at the federal and provincial levels. Just by cramming more obsolete sets of ‘knowledge’ into the heads of already overburdened children, the country is likely to remain educationally where it is now, or even decline in the coming years.