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Pakistan’s educational quandary

M Omar Iftikhar

Recent news of the Sindh Text Book Board publishing science textbooks comprising a topic on Windows 98, 2000, NT and XP, which were discontinued nearly five years ago, and on the floppy disk, now defunct for over a decade, shows the backwardness of those planning and publishing these textbooks. Students are unaware that their course material has no such real-life value. Such information can be helpful when reading books on history or encyclopedia, but they do not bode well for the minds that need relevant, appropriate and up-to-date information to keep pace with the world. Here, credible research is needed, which seems to be scarce when looking at the textbooks of class nine. Education in Pakistan has been in doldrums for many years. While education must be the same for all, unfortunately, only a handful of the population can afford attending private schools and universities while parents from the lower and lower-middle strata can only afford to send their children to government-owned educational institutions where the state-of-affairs is bleak, to say the least.
The government must implement an all-inclusive education policy whereby changing and restructuring this sector to bring in growth and innovation. Take for instance, the public schools opened in every city and province. Teachers of these schools are not capable to teach therefore the students remain in the dark over the course structure. Moreover, it is observed that most teachers at public schools do not pay heed to their responsibilities and students do not learn anything. On the other hand, private schools and educational institutions provide a sound education, however, primary schools charge more than average fees that become a nuisance for parents in this economic age of rising inflation. Where the public schools have no governing body to plan regular classes and maintain a system of transparency, the private schools are united in becoming a money-minting business more than a place for disseminating education.
Furthermore, since students acquiring education from private schools and colleges are generally the privileged ones, they have an educational background related to either Intermediate or the Cambridge system of education. It is imperative for the government and the Ministry of Education to carve out a strategy where students in Intermediate know their future in terms of where to acquire professional education. The world today has changed drastically in terms of academic and professional exposure over the last decade. Companies tend to hire those who have skills to complete tasks, have the aptitude to learn new skills and those who can get things done. Although the value of a degree and an educational qualification is still relevant, companies know that many of the skills and traits employees acquire while doing the job is not part of any textbook. Unfortunately, textbooks used in secondary classes publish repetitive course year-after-year that does not build students’ character or aptitude. While courses of science are important, intermediate classes must include courses related to leadership studies, general management, marketing, and finance.
The problem for students arises when a student from Intermediate science (Pre-Engineering or Pre-Medical) enters into a business management institution to complete a BBA degree. If they were to study basic courses of BBA in intermediate, they would at least have some sense to comprehend the courses they were to study in the first-year of their BBA degree program. This will enable students to grasp the courses related to management, finance, and economics effectively. Although most of the students from Intermediate Pre-Medical track opt for M.B.B.S or BDS, we now see a trend where doctors are opting a Masters in Business Management or in Computer Science to accentuate their educational prowess and credibility as a professional. Some might opine that teaching courses of finance, management and marketing may not be appropriate in Intermediate. Education must be a gradual progression of thought.
What students study in Intermediate must have some link with what they study at their university. In reality, the kind of teachers and schools student connect with during their primary and secondary education determines how much awareness and acumen they would develop as they grow up. Unfortunately, students in Pakistan who are unable to complete their education or those studying in government-owned institutions seldom reach the social standing and match the mental acumen of those students who are studying in private institutions. A uniform education strategy must be implemented whereby the public sector educational institutes must evolve to come at par with privately owned institutes otherwise the state of government-owned educational institutes will remain in doldrums.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Karachi.