Abysmal Situation of Primary Education in Pakistan
Primary education undoubtedly plays the role of an edifice in a society. The importance of education in society cannot be denied and overlooked. The progress and expansion of primary education are always associated with expediting economic growth, improved income equality, descending rate of poverty and upgradation of human capital. For the society as a whole, it provides increased opportunity, wisdom, knowledge, critical thinking and also plays its role as a driver of social progress bringing awareness to the masses.
Primary education unequivocally is the basic and premier right of every child which should be available to him or her without any impediment. Every child, whether a girl or boy or belonging to the third gender, should have absolute access to complete course of primary education. Primary education is essential and cannot lose its importance as it is the first step towards the acquisition of basic skills. In primary education, a child learns basic things like word formation, counting and most importantly, norms and values which not only lay the foundation for his or her future but also equips the child with basic knowledge, abilities, dexterity and adroitness which are beneficial and necessary for subsequent future education.
According to a research study by the Institute of Education, attending a good primary school has a great impact on children’s academic progress, irrespective of their class. The Institute of Education in this study further states that the quality of teaching is more important than the child’s gender or family income. It also points out that academically, an effective primary school gives children’s development a significant and a positive boost. Another research of American Psychological Association also highlights some points which are astonishing to note, as it says that the human brain gains maturity even before birth. In the late elementary and middle school years of a child, inferential learning should be promoted and emphasized upon, rather than rote-learning, because in these years more connectivity and chemical changes take place in the neural pathway of a child.
Thus, strong, flexible, result-oriented, vocational education explicitly plays a great role in the progress of a country as it provides the base on which the further building is built. The stronger the base, the stronger will be the foundation.
But in Pakistan, where the basic human needs seem so far to be fulfilled, the focus on education, especially on primary education, seems to be a luxury. It is positive to note that the rate of children out of school has decreased from 24 million to 22.6 million but the number of 22.6 million still paints a gloomy picture. It is distressing that 44 percent of primary schoolgoers in Pakistan are still out of school. On the other hand, only 30% of children remain enrolled from class 1 till 10th.
The situation becomes bleaker as statistics show that even the petty amount of children going to school, especially public schools, do not have access to basic facilities of the school. A report published in Dawn newspaper states that 40% of public sector schools were without electricity, 25% with no boundary walls, 43% with unsatisfactory building and 7% with no infrastructure or building.
Strengthening the quality of education at all levels has become the global agenda and so should be the priority of the Government of Pakistan. According to the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, Article 25 A (right to education):
“The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
According to Article 37 – Promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils, clauses (b) and (c):
(b) “remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.”
Clause (c) states further:
(c) “make technical and professional education generally available and higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”
According to international law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 under its Article 26 states:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Article 13(2)(a) of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 also declares primary education as a compulsory right of a child as it states:
“Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all.”
Including the right to education, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child under developmental right also gives the rights of child play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Problems in the education system have become so huge that they have gone beyond the duty of the government. NGOs and small public groups should also join hands in order to compete with the terrible storm of illiteracy that has the potential to bring drastic results for us with changing global and political situations.
Hindrances like social restrictions, gender gap, lack of funds, absent teachers, distance and war on terror, etc. are further aggravating the situation. According to an Alif Ailaan report, Pakistan is facing this educational storm as 40-50 percent of primary students of the country can neither read nor write a sentence in Urdu and English. The conditions in cities are quite dingy as 41 percent in Lahore, 45 percent in Karachi, 50 percent in Islamabad and 30 percent primary students in Rawalpindi are unable to read and write even simple sentences.
The stumbling blocks in the educational system are rote-learning, less trained teachers, outdated syllabus and low enrollment rate.
Other issues which are further destabilizing the education system in Pakistan are faulty policies, lack of funds and political will, non-serious management of schools, lack of seriousness of teachers, the paucity of uniformity, disoriented educational policies and poor research.
In future, it will be difficult for Pakistan to survive without an educated and trained manpower to keep up with the changing political and world dynamics. It should also be remembered that Pakistan can take the maximum advantage from CPEC development only when it has an educated public that can work in a righteous manner. Moreover, the menace of terrorism will keep affecting us unless and until we review our syllabus according to new methodologies, technologies and researches. Pakistan occupies a great geopolitical space on the map and can take full advantage of it when its people are educated and adopt virtuous and right manners in order to boost the economy. The problem with education is increasing day by day. Thus, the work of NGOs and local governments together on grassroots level can solve this problem in the right manner by spreading awareness and education among people. Moreover, there is a real need of sound strategic thinking, planning and implementation. Indeed we are in need for the imposition of a real education emergency. Despite all other necessary steps, it is also the duty of the government to ensure uniformity in the syllabus so that there are equal opportunities for all.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.