Private Schools – Redefining Educational Landscape
One of the main pillars of a society is a solid public education system that responds to all its citizens, regardless of their income or background.
We want to give our children the best – how do we decide that private education is really worth it?
The educational landscape of Pakistan has gone through numerous transformations in the past decade. Enrollment levels in the private sector have been on the rise.
The changes in the education sector that have been taking place in Pakistan have created an environment with numerous opportunities as well as challenges in terms of policy development. With an increasing population of children under the age of 16 and the addition of Article 25A under the 18th Amendment Act 2010 to the Constitution, the government is faced with a daunting task of enrolling all children aged 5-16 years in the country in schools as well as improving the quality of education. Even though enrollment in government schools is much higher than in the private sector, the declining trend in favor of non-state providers is significant.
Education, especially primary education is mostly considered a public service which should be provided to the citizens without discrimination, irrespective of affordability and mainly as the government’s responsibility. This was the ideology behind the nationalization of all education institutions in 1972, which severely interrupted the role of the robust private sector particularly at post-elementary level.
Like other services provided by the government, education provision has been severely constrained by governance, quality and effectiveness. After the end of nationalization in 1979, Pakistan witnessed an increase in the role of private education service providers. The negative experiences of government schools instigated parents to shift children from government to private schools.
Overcrowding of public school classrooms is one of the most common complaints about the public education system – a significant problem that inspires parents to seek private school alternatives. Class size in private schools is often smaller, giving students, especially boarders, a chance to forge lifelong bonds. Uniforms, too, flexibly allow children to express their personalities in other ways. And as the public sector slashes many arts programs, private schools still can offer well-funded music, theatre, arts or science courses.
Since they do not use public funds, private schools are not as restricted in their program development or curriculum and are not subject to budget limitations imposed by the state (although they may in fact have more restrictive limitations). This freedom allows private schools to develop their own curriculum. As long as parents agree with the intellectual, philosophical basis brought to the curriculum, this independence from ‘government interference’ is seen as a great advantage of private schools over public. On the other hand, public schools use curriculum designed to include all students, thus invoking in them a tolerance for others.
In Pakistan, most of the middle-class parents would not dream of allowing their children to attend public/state-run schools. They are showing “increasing interest” in private school options.
Prestigious private schools in Pakistan are likely to have teachers who are more qualified, with graduate degrees and higher level awards. In the private sector, schools have greater freedom to hire “the best person for the job.”
Continuity and kinship are decisive factors as well. Children whose parents and even grandparents attended a specific school are inclined to attend the same school. As to the claim that independent schools are the exclusive domain of the wealthy, many now have well-funded scholarship programs to assist families with more moderate incomes.
Over the last decade, private school education has become a way of life for many Pakistani children. In recent years, there have been greater parental expectations for education, and a broadening array of private schools. Today’s parents are more educated than those in years past. They have more formal education than previous generations’ parents, know more about education systems and are consequently more demanding. They have fewer children and focus on their children’s needs in more elaborate, individualized and specialized ways.
As parents expectations and preferences change, educational entrepreneurs are responding with a variety of services, forming what some label as the “new education industry.” Offering an even more personalized service, private educational institutes are a new breed of professionals who help parents.
Private schools in Pakistan pride themselves on customer service. The principals we interviewed emphasized that their classes, markedly smaller than the public school norm, offered more attentive, individualized education. These principals mostly know each student by name, answer the phone themselves and meet personally with all the parents.
Private schools go beyond offering just mandatory subjects required by provincial curriculum. They can offer students a wide range of specializations including arts programs, athletics, mathematics and science, etc. thus have been responsible for producing many leaders in politics, business and other fields, with the skills of adapting quickly to changes in technology and culture.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which she might be associated.