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The education system in Pakistan is regarded as one of the most backward, underprivileged and underdeveloped systems in Asia. Poor quality of education system is one of the chief reasons why countries are unable to flourish and grow. In a developing country like Pakistan, the quality of education has remained far below the international standards, despite various efforts by government to uplift it.
The system of education in Pakistan is basically divided into the following levels: Pre-primary level, Primary level, middle, secondary, higher secondary, degree colleges and universities. The overall situation of education in these categories can be assessed by the indicators such as student enrolments, number of teachers hired, and the number of institutions under each category.
The pre primary education, which is also known as Prep class, forms the basis of the early childhood education and is for children between the ages of 3-4 years. According to the (Pakistan Economic Survey report, 2011-2012), enrolment in pre primary education has experienced an increase of 7.4% in 2010 to 2011, with an expected increase of 4.8% in 2011-2012. The primary education category falls for classes 1 to 4. In 2010-2011, around 155,495 primary schools were functional, accompanied by an increase of 18.7 million enrolments. There has also been an increase in the enrolment in middle education that is class 5-8. 5.64 million Enrolments increased in 2010-2011, while in the year 2011-2012, it is expected that these enrolments would increase by 1.3%. Around 25,209 secondary schools (class 9-10) were operating in 2010-2011, which was an increase of 2.58 million from past year 2009-2010. In the same manner, the higher secondary (class 11-12), degree colleges and universities have experienced an increase in the enrolment rate. An overall assessment of the education system has definitely shown some slight improvement, as seen by the table below:
No. of institutions, enrolments and teachers by category
Source: Ministry of Professional & Technical Training, AEPAM, Islamabad
Although there has been a considerable increase in the number of teachers hired, but the quality of teachers' education is still undergoing major problems. These include ill-equipped training institutions, short period training courses, an over emphasis on quantitative enlargement, drafting of a limited curricula, undue emphasis on the theory as compared to the practical knowledge and the poor quality of instructions. (Government of Pakistan, 2009. Pg.42) blames training structure that is deficient in quality and an inadequate training reign responsible for the poor quality of teachers in the education system of Pakistan.
The public provision of education sector as a % of GDP in the past few years can be summarized in the table below:
This table shows there has been a declining trend in public expenditure on education as a % of GDP. Although there has been a total rise in expenditure in this sector, but the developmental expenditure has remained more or less stagnant.
1.1.2 Analysis of Educational outcomes in Pakisan
Despite the increases in number of institutions and the teachers hired, the literacy rate and the enrolment rates are lagging behind those of other countries in the same region. The present rate for adult literacy in Pakistan is around 54%, male-66.25% while female being 41.75%. Since 1998, there has only been an increase in literacy rate by 2% per year, which is way too low than the international standard. (Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2004-2005). Majorly, the illiterates in Pakistan are concentrated in remote and rural areas, or in the slums of the urban lands. Illiterates can be categorized into those who are poor, rural people; disadvantaged in terms high opportunity cost of attaining education, or girls and women.
Thus, the education system in Pakistan is characterized by low participation rate, high illiteracy and drop out. (Choudhry, 2005) states that this prolific illiteracy would not be simply overcome by increasing the awareness of the significance of education, but would require increased financial commitment, serious attention of NGOs and CBOs towards this sector as well as an integrated approach to make the literacy in Pakistan more meaningful.
1.2 Dualistic education in Pakistan by nature and type
Even in this era of globalization, despite all the long term plans for educational development, many yet dispossess access to the basic formal education and equitable education attainment opportunities. The differences are found as a result of Pakistan being a dualistic economy, where there are clear divisions on both, economic and social lines. (Lewis, 1965) described one sector being recognized as the 'capitalist' or modern while other being the 'traditional' one.
There is lack of uniformity in the education system, meaning that people in Pakistan have to face dual standards in education system. For example, on one side, there is the public sector, offering matriculation while on the other hand there is our private sector offering O/A levels. The government established schools, colleges and universities are imparting educational service in almost all studies of life; however, students in these institutions have to then face limited opportunities in practical life as compared to those who study from private sector. Parents who can afford to educate their children would definitely prefer enrolment of their child in private institutions, regardless of the fact that not all public institutions lack quality.
Dualism is also characterized by urban and rural differential in educational service. There is huge inequality of resource distribution across the regions and genders, constraining equal opportunities of education attainment for all. The public schools in rural areas are featured by nonexistent or extremely low funding, poor infrastructure, low teacher-student ratio, high absenteeism and dropout rate, lack of comprehensive curriculum and qualified teachers, (Iqbal, 2012). He explains that it is not impossible to have a good school in rural areas, but very difficult. While on the contrary, the situation is just the opposite in urban schools. That is why the literacy rates in urban and rural schools contrast so sharply, as shown by the table below.
According to the table, literacy has remained much higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas, and much more for men than women. Province wise, literacy rate is highest for Punjab, followed by Sindh and then KPK. It remained lowest for Baluchistan. Thus, sectoral (that is, private or public), gender and regional disparities in education attainment are major factors that define dualism in Pakistan's education system.
1.3 Rural- Urban biases in access to education
1.3.1 The rising issue for gender inequality in education attainment
Gender disparities in education attainment in Pakistan has always risen and appeared to have widened over the time. Participation rate for boys have remained much higher than for girls. (Lloyd and Sathar, 1994) quote the figures for increase in girls' participation rate as by only 7% as compared to an increase of 12% in boys' participation rate. This divergence is even more marked between the urban and rural areas. The attendance of children aged between 7-14 yrs in 1990-1991 has remained significantly higher in urban areas than in rural. For girls, 73% have been enrolled in urban areas as compared to 40% in rural areas. And 83% of boys have been to urban schools than 74% in schools located in rural areas. All these figures suggest existence of gender disparity on a substantially high level in Pakistan.
Many reasons are accountable for low female participation rate in rural areas. First is the lack of awareness of importance of education for women. They are encouraged to stay at home for household chores. Since hardly is there any secondary school for girls in rural areas, they are left with no option but to get married and take care of the household. Education for women is the bottom most priority, due to illiterate parents. They believe providing education to girls would make them non obedient, and give them a say, which may prompt them against their traditional family set up. Also among the family determinants of access to education comes the cost of access to education. It includes both monetary as well opportunity cost. An urban woman has lower of both the costs attached to her education attainment. It is due to the literate background and a higher economic status enjoyed by the family.
1.3.2 The issue of public educational funding
The urban education in Pakistan has always been able to enjoy greater resource input and higher attention by the central government. Due to inadequate government funding of education in rural areas, children are unwillingly forced to drop out of school at primary levels or the secondary levels. As a result, they are unable to pursue higher education. Thus being the disadvantaged one from an early age.
Although the government expenditure on education as a whole has risen by 2.2% in recent years, but the developmental spending has remained low. The skewness of public fund allocation is more towards the higher secondary education in urban areas. That is why great diversity of educational inputs can be seen between the institutes of the two regions, significantly affecting the enrollment rates. Quality of education can be measured by inputs such as availability of well qualified teachers and adequate facilities, scholarship provision, a well drawn curriculum as well as by strong provision of infrastructure in that region. Dependency of all these factors lies on the government budget. In order to provide all with equitable access to the quality education, federal government is to pay serious attention towards its financial commitment to the education sector, especially towards the rural areas.
The table below shows a marked difference in the publicly provided facilities between the two regions.
Clearly, the urban educational institutes experience greater public attention. This accounts for one major reason why students in urban areas are more likely to avail the education attainment opportunities as compared to those in rural areas.
1.4 Rural Urban biases in returns to education
1.4.1 Public- private segmentation in the labor market of Pakistan
Due to marked differences in standards of education of public and private institutions in Pakistan, a large wedge has appeared in the returns to education for both the sectors. Thus, labor market in Pakistan is also dualistic in nature. It offers higher rate of return to private sector students as compared to the public sector ones. (Chen 2009) describes the major factors behind the creation of this wedge as the family background, abilities and achievements of the students. Family background includes the household income and the education of parents. Definitely families in urban areas of Pakistan tend to enjoy higher incomes as compared to those in rural families; therefore they tend to enroll their children in private institutions.
Student's skills include the productivity of learning, which is assumed to be positively correlated with the family background. Greater the education of parents and higher the income enjoyed by family, larger are the marginal returns from investment in child's educations. Wealthier parents can afford to provide their children with higher quality educational inputs, thus the output that is a student skills & achievements tend to be higher. As a result, private sector students are paid higher (Behram & Knowles, 1999).
Also, in this era of rapid technological change, demand for highly skilled workers has risen by far. Students learning from poor public or rural institutions of Pakistan are less likely to develop qualitative and innovative skills, due to high dropout ratio. As a result, they are categorized more into the bracket of unskilled laborers, being paid lower poor wages (Khan & Jamal, 2005).
1.4.2 Variation in rewards between men and women schooling
Male female income differential has always been a serious problem in labor markets of Pakistan but the nature and extent of this disparity varies across different regions. This depends upon the economic structure and distribution of resources in that region. In general there is a higher reward for men's schooling as compared to women's. As a result, it prompts parents to invest largely on boys, thus widening the gender income gap (Aslam, 2005).
In recent years, the gender income gap has narrowed down in urban areas of the country, while has remained more or less the same for the rural areas. This is because females in developed urban areas are more likely to complete their basic formal education. Therefore they have started to become equally productive as men in all walks of life.
(Aftab & Sabir) explains that there is regional variation in gender pay gap found based on the treatment of women. In rural areas, an increase in the unequal treatment of men and women has proved to be a major lever for expansion of gender pay gap in labor markets. Also the structure of feudalism has remained very strong in such areas, characterized by powerful male dominance. Men consider women to be their subordinate, thus restricting their access to education and labor market. This as a result has increased the gender income gap on a substantial level (Taga, 2012).
1.5 Educational Dualism and the resulting socio- economic imbalances
Today's Pakistan has been divided into two parts; one for the under privileged ones, and the other for the elite and privileged. And by no means is education an exception to this phenomenon. The duality of education system in Pakistan has divided the population into one segment that is enjoying good nutrition, strong position in the labor market and thus a better standard of living. While the other more than half into a segment totally deprived of all sorts of bounties of life. They are those who not only are born poor, but due to lack of access to good quality education, and consequently, deprivation from all social and economic spheres, are forced to stay poor. (Malik, 2007) contends that it is very unfortunate with Pakistan that dualism has been defended since what long. No other aspect is as much a cause of criticality in situation of education system as the fact that this duality has been intentionally or unintentionally promoted.
This dualism has dichotomized our society into a hierarchy, where each level represents different sets of knowledge defending that particular class structure. Therefore, the Pakistani education system not only supplements class inequities but is also producing perverted minds that are enslaved and lack morals. On one side, there is education for common man, what we say the public education while on the other side we have those institutions that are copying western education. Although they are doing this in a pursuit of imparting best quality and international standard education, but they are forgetting that it is not that which suits our societal needs, neither this scheme is relevant to our economy's complex problems. Undoubtedly, effectiveness and efficiency of these institutions is far better than that of those imparting normal standard education, but it is dividing that one social group into different classes and formation of elite. Pakistan's education system would only serve the needs of its society when it would not generate unique thinking at individual level. This is because under the current system, there is a sharp contrast between an individual and the society. We are ending up having double standards, where one is for us, while the other is for the remaining society.
1.6 Review of the educational policies and reforms for reducing rural urban biases in access to education
1.6.1 Overview of National Education Policies
In the last few years, the primary goal of government has been to assure and enhance the quality of education throughout Pakistan. Various efforts have been made for the expansion of primary education and minimization of rural and urban educational disparities. Literacy rate and primary enrolments have undoubtedly demonstrated an improvement, but these values still lag behind that of the other countries in the same region. The series of policy reforms have been discussed below.
Back then in 1993-1994, the Government of Pakistan in collaboration with foreign donors had launched SAP, Social Action Programme, which was later included in the 8th Five year plan. The basic emphasis of the plan was on the primary education, centre of focus being the girls' education. It aimed at increasing the access, quality and proficiency of education. Furthermore, co-education was introduced in all provinces of Pakistan in order to enhance girls' education. In Baluchistan and Sindh, separate schools for girls were also established, and as a result, girls' participation rose up by 15%. Various findings reveal that SAP had a positive impact on girls' education in rural areas. Thus, the main beneficiaries of an improved education system were the rural girls and women. Under this Action Plan, 4000 schools were opened, where 1000 were for the girls alone, thus, significantly affecting the adult literacy rate.
Adult literacy has been an ignorant aspect in the education system of Pakistan in past 5 decades. It was during Zia's era, when Nai Roshni schools were set up under Literacy and Mass education Commission (LMEC), in order to target adult literacy. A reward of Rs.1000 was granted for converting an adult illiterate into literate. It became mandatory for every student who passed Intermediate Examination to turn one uneducated into educated citizen, so that those children who were unable to attend government or private school at appropriate age could be targeted. Sadly, the policy came to an end at the beginning of Bhutto's first regime. After that no particular adult literacy policy has been in effect (Mahmood & Khan, 1997).
(Ministry of Education, Islamabad 2003), briefs about other developments in education policy reforms including the initiation of ESR (Education Sector Reforms), Action Plan for 2000-2003. It aimed at enhancing the quality and quantity of education at all sub sectors of the education system. Following are the 6 major areas of priorities under this Plan:
Raising literacy through EFA(Education for All), Quality deliverance, Increasing accessibility for higher education opportunities, strengthening the public-private partnership and the link between post secondary education and employment. This Action Plan was supposed to be not any other ordinary policy reform, but a plan aimed at enhancing educational performance in all respects of access and quality of education at each level
National Education Policy of 2009 was considered a millstone, as it proposed to increase the literacy rate by up to 86% by 2015. Basic aims of this proposal were to target adult literacy rate, to universalize the primary education and to draw an assumption of zero dropout rates at primary level. Introducing the concept of free education was something new. It had also has focused on maintaining gender and regional equality at various education levels, most importantly at the elementary level. As a result, substantial increase in enrolment of rural children between the ages of 6-16 was found. Also, the private school enrolment was set on rise, where highest was seen in Gilgit Baltishtan, followed by FATA and Punjab. Decent improvement in arithmetic proficiency was also one outcome (Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2011-12).
1.6.2 Issues and concerns with these policies
In spite of the fact that government has initiated various policy reforms to improve the education system of Pakistan, the situation remains the same. Our education system still is one of the most fragile and weakest amongst other developing nations. Neither the efforts of government, nor of the private sector are yielding any remarkable change. Lack of productive reforms will only produce youth that is not an asset, but a burden on the shoulders of the economy. So there is a dire need of looking into the loopholes of these policy reforms and of overcoming them with a serious concern.
Firstly, the importance of education itself has been unknown to all the policy makers in Pakistan. They still haven't realized that investment in human capital is the most important and the most productive investment. According to (Khan & Mahmood, 1997) true it is that most of our Ministers appointed in education sector are illiterate, or not highly educated. Had been this realization there, the largest chunk of budget allocations would have been allotted to education, but unfortunately, this isn't the case as yet. The allocations are still far below the actual requirement.
Then, most of the reforms target primary level education, ignoring the importance of secondary or higher education. It is very evident from the fact that all post graduates turn their faces towards abroad for good quality higher education. This is a serious concern since our youth, with developed expertise and skills don't serve the Pakistan's economy. Instead of providing large scale and long term benefits to this economy, they help flourish foreign economy.
Also the political instability and high level of corruption is one other major reason why various reforms still aren't helping us. Incidence of bribery, established at all government levels is exceptionally high in case of Pakistan. Every year, a huge chunk of budget is lost in terms of bribery and unfortunately, there is no account of that. Plus, the safarashi thing continues to increase. Therefore, the lack of accountability plays a crucial role in promotion of corruption and the resulting inefficiencies in the education system.
Although there has been a provision of free primary education on those fancy reform papers but practically, this concept has not been implemented on a noticeable scale. Many still are unable to access education in underprivileged areas, and even in urban poor areas due to lack of financial resources. (Aly, 2007) emphasizes on the key management issues in our education sector, saying that education system is whole big machine to look after. By just implementing reforms, the govt. cannot change the outcome. Rather, it is the effective management of this machinery that will actually produce productive outcomes.
1.6.3 Areas of potential improvements
There is a whole lot of potential in Pakistan's Education sector to serve in most efficient and effective manner, thus yielding highly productive outcomes. For this to happen, government needs to pay serious attention to various sub sectors of the education system. Expansion and improvement of Early Childhood education needs to be looked upon first, since it is considered highly important input towards the beginning of child's primary education. Efforts are required to create momentum for the integration of Early Childhood Education into the system, so that rural and urban pre-school education can be expanded and strengthened.
An action plan must be devised to stimulate demand for education, especially in the rural areas of Pakistan, while making sure that supply of necessary educational services is provided. Awareness creating campaigns must be organized so that illiterate or not to educated parents can realize the urgent need of investing in their child's education. Provision of free education and scholarship programs on a wider scale can act as major incentives. Increased budget assessment and financial arrangements are required, since the allocations for education sector have been far less than the actual requirement.
Improved governance of strategies and monitoring of educational policies is required under the current educational system. Lack of accountability has only led to formation of strategies and not the effective implementation. So when there will be accountability on central, provisional and district level of govt., it will not only ensure that policies are being implemented in a desired manner, but also that they are revised and hitting right on their targets in practice. On part of educational institutes, increased monitoring of students' performance is also that needs to be looked upon. Minimum standards for student achievement must be defined, which are to be shared with parents, teachers and all other stakeholders.
It is now the time to strengthen public private partnership in education system. The gap between unmet educational demand and the shrinking financial allotments for fulfilling this demand is increasing. Govt. alone cannot withstand the increased burden of financing. Thus it is high time to attract private investors towards uplifting of this sector. They have huge potential for expanding equitable access to schooling and of enhancing the educational outcomes (Robertson & Verger 2012).