General Elections 2018 will be held in a few days on 25th July and while all the parties are busy in slamming each other in pressers, we are taking some time out to review one of the biggest crisis of Pakistan, education and the policies provided by the three major political parties, PTI, PPP and PML-N through their manifestos.
Pakistani education has long been atrocious where over 22 million children are still out of school and as per history, there is little talk about making amends in this important sector.
In 2010, Article 25-A which states “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,” was added in the basic rights section of the constitution as part of the 18th amendment but we have seen no steps being taken to implement it in letter and spirit.
The 18th amendment made education a provincial responsibility, which was solely for the delegation of power to the authorities closer to the masses. Surprisingly, if you review the manifestos of these three parties, you will see that all of them have made tall claims about transforming education but have no major plans if they come into power after General Elections 2018.
PML-N, who has recently stepped down after completing a tenure of 4 years should have detailed steps outlining how they are going to bring reforms in the education sector but we are again handed over a list of promises for the General Elections 2018 with no action plan.
According to the report titled 2013-2018 Five Years of Education Reform: Punjab Wins, Losses and Challenges for the Future 2018-2023 by Alif Ailaan at the 90-Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, Punjab (the supreme region of the PML-N government) failed to utilize the education budget and let’s not forget that they neglected the sector once again while presenting the Budget 2018-19 earlier this year.
The country’s Public expenditure on education as a percentage to GDP is estimated at 2.2% in the fiscal year 2017 as compared to 2.3% of GDP in the fiscal year 2016, which is the lowest in the region and short of the required 4% commitment the party made in 2013; indeed a shameful ordeal.
If you look at the PML-N’s manifesto, it shows an ideal picture of the world that seems more like a dream
Statements like “achieve universal primary enrollment in 2023” and “introduce broad-based curriculum fostering critical thought, analytical ability, and cultural value” make us wonder, what was it doing in the last 4 years when it did have the power to work on making these claims a reality.
PPP governed Pakistan from 2008 till 2013 and they are again in the front race to promise reforms for the people. Their manifesto highlights that quality and free education for all is their goal which they plan to achieve by increasing the public expenditure on education to 5% of the GDP by 2025.
Like PML-N they have also made many promises but have offered a few action plans for the General Elections 2018. Let’s have a look at them:
- Giving autonomy to produce quality books, the development and review processes for which will be standardized and institutionalized
- Encouraging special in-school and afterschool programs for children who have been through adverse childhood experiences and trauma
- Providing cost-effective education like distance learning programmes and study centers to act as remedial centers before board examinations
The most shocking thing about PPP’s manifesto is that once again we get no mention of secondary education
The party didn’t even give a conceptual framework of how we can set targets for ourselves, measure performance, etc.
It is quite strange that every political party wants to change the world only after letting go of their government and not once remember their promises when they have the power to make a difference.
PTI despite being inexperienced of running an entire country did a pretty good job in defining their education goals in their manifesto, setting themselves against harsh criticism if they failed to live up to their claims.
Here are a few measures that the political party will be taking if it comes into power after the General Elections 2018:
- Establishing a National Ministry/Commission for Human Capital Development to forecast future domestic and international labour force to look at the supply of different fields of education, evaluate the curricula and develop a National Human Development Strategy annually to propose the supply of any new fields of technical or professional education
- Establishing a National Commission for Education Standards that will issue a revised “Minimum Standards” list within 6 months of its constitution and will also look at approval of policy on the teaching of languages at each level of education.
- Creating public-private partnership via vouchers for low-fee private schools and granting access to credit for educated youth to teach students in their communities
- Creating an Education Fund for young entrepreneurs to develop ICT based solutions to provide access to education in remote areas
- Engaging 50,000 youth volunteers across Pakistan to teach literacy in exchange for university credits
- Launching nation-wide radio, television and online self-learning programmes for secondary students
- Providing stipends to secondary school-going girls to reduce barriers to access
- Establishing a National Steering Committee to enact examination board overhaul and move towards instituting a standardized central examination scheme
- Bettering teacher training, equipment co-curricular activities to improve instruction and learning of STEM subjects
- Establishing at least 10 technical universities in Pakistan to provide skills
Setting up a National Endowment Fund for international universities
It is quite refreshing to see concrete goals set by a political party against which people can hold them accountable
This is not the case with the promises of reform by PML-N and PPP which can be translated into anything done by their respective parties in the field of education.
According to the Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has moved up the index and now leads the provision of infrastructure at the primary level across all the provinces in the country; however, at the middle school level, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is at the second spot after Punjab. But, we are still not over the 2013’s claims of the KP government of turning CM and governor houses into higher educational institutions, parks, and libraries.
The state of the education system is quite horrifying where we can only find shoddy curriculum and mega corruptions. The fake Ph.D. phenomenon has shaken the foundations of our Higher Education and the abundance of degrees coupled with lack of research is pushing us back in the race of development. It is not just the public sector that is plagued with destruction, private schools are also in the horrible state.
There is no return on investment in education at the moment so maybe you should take all educational reforms with a grain of salt and vote which you think is the best candidate in General Elections 2018.