Pakistani policymakers are renowned for slipping some significant policy issues under the carpet. Be it the implementation of RGST, issues of sick SOEs, or more pressing development issues such as education.
The Pakistan Education Task Force (PEFT) draws attention to the dearth of quality education in its aesthetically appealing report titled ‘Education Emergency Pakistan’.
Highlighting the pitiable state of affairs in the education arena (7 million children deprived of primary education in the country, a less-than-adequate percentage of GDP spent on the necessity, and a paltry 30 percent enrollment in secondary school), the reports knocks down a common myth amongst many – that parents, particularly in rural areas, are indifferent towards education.
Rather, with only 4 percent of those whose children are not in school saying there is ‘no use for education’, the demand for education in Pakistan appears quite strong.
And they’re willing to loosen up their wallets for that too – not just urban parents, by the way. According to the report, an average rural family, with a minimum of four children, spends 13 percent of its income on public education, or “20 percent if they have made the choice to educate privately”.
But are the parents receiving their money’s worth? Doesn’t seem so, especially considering that 65 percent of parents consider teaching as the key determinant of quality.
STEP (Strengthening Teacher Education in Pakistan) – a project undertaken by UNESCO and USAID for the professional development of teachers in Pakistan – says that 26 percent of the teachers in Pakistan are untrained, while 44 percent are least qualified (non-degreed, certificate holders), highlighting the deplorable state of the quality of teaching in the country.
Rural areas are particularly far at the receiving end, with a significantly lower percentage of teachers serving at the secondary and tertiary levels of education compared to urban areas.
Ironically, even though the number of teachers in rural areas is greater than that in urban areas, particularly at the primary level, nearly 2/3rd of rural children between 6-16 years cannot read a story.
It’s not that remuneration for teachers is particularly low either. The PEFT says, “A teacher in a government school earns 4.5 times as much as the average per capita household income for Pakistan.”
The reasons for the poor quality of education are many – from teacher absenteeism, which can be as appalling as 15-20 percent on a given day, to incompetent methods of teaching, such as rote learning from textbooks, and lack of training, as pointed out earlier.
To establish a sound education system, the quality of teaching has to be resurrected, and teacher development is one of the basics for that.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry cant be given such a grave responsibility of educating the masses, more efforts towards training and stringent qualification standards for teachers are required.