The education system in Pakistan has hit the rock bottom as almost 40 to 50 percent of students of primary schools, believably the future of the country, can neither read nor write a sentence in Urdu or English. Rote learning is proven as the root cause which reigns supreme unabated since the inception of Pakistan.
Dilemma worsens because rulers are in deep slumber, and they are unready to realize that instead of terrorism, energy woes, and economic hardships, the ultimate enemy of the state is none but the rotten education system that bases on learning parrot-fashion.
What to talk about others, the most urbanized cities where so-called quality education presumed to be excellent present a dismal picture. Approximately 41 percent in Lahore, 45 percent in Karachi, 50 percent in Islamabad, and 30 percent in primary students in Rawalpindi are unable to read and write simple sentences.
These startling revelations have been documented by Alif Ailaan Pakistan District Education Rankings 2015, Annual Status of Education Report 2014, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, PSLMS 2012-13, Academy of Educational Planning and Management, and National Education Management Information System 2013-14.
Educationists engaged in the Beaconhouse School System Aysha Khalid blasting stale education system in Pakistan commented that most of the primary schools, both in private and public sectors, had been fast turning into junk factories. “Cramming has superseded creativity, and the final product is just human debris,” she opined.
Prominent scholar Dr. Hoodbhoy pointed out that students must be graded not by how much they memorized but by how well they were capacitated to use their learning to solve problems.
“In science, knowledge is useful if it is internalized rather than memorized. It must become part of one’s mental toolbox,” he opined.
All is banked on what is prioritized and how it is designed and what is execution strategy to achieve set targets. One of the disappointing factors that wreak havoc is to place education on the lowest priority list.
It is an irony that the total development expenditure in Budget 2015-16 stands at Rs. 969,039 million. Merely 2.3 percent have been earmarked for education. This is enough to show what the government feels about education.
If compared to others, Pakistan is spending only 2 percent of its GDP, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth of everyone.
The data bore the facts war-hit Afghanistan is allocating 4 percent, India 7 percent, Rwanda is spending 9 percent of its GDP on education.
Meanwhile, Pakistan stayed below the illiteracy of Iran, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Burma. It is adding fuel to fire that that literacy level rated around 50 percent to 58 percent is closely knitted with memorization.
Since progress on the education path is out of sight, Pakistan happily missed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on educational reforms which talk about how to instill a sense of creativity into the minds of students and how to salvage systems from learning by heart.
Ex-Dean in Punjab University Dr. Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal asserted that MDGs called upon Pakistan to attain 100 percent Net Primary Enrollment Rate in 2015 but all in vain.
Pakistan laid down three education policies in 1992, 1998, and 2009 and plenty of development plans comprising the National Plan of Action 2001-2015 and Education Sector Reforms (ESR). However, he said, the rote learning phenomenon had not been addressed in a befitting manner.
Lawmaker Meraj Humayun Khan lashed out at the government for launching Ujala schemes doling out solar lights to students, showering laptops, student loans, and an increase in enrollment rate, saying the root cause of educational meltdown was cramming.
Unless the system is liberated from the memorization phenomenon, progress will remain a distant dream.
There is a close connection between education and development. Quality education breeds quality development. Education has a fundamental role in begetting rich human capital. It ramps up the performance and efficacy of individuals and thus spawns skilled man force to channelize the economy towards the path of sustainable economic development. All over the world educational institutions are the breeding grounds of creative minds people nipping the demon of memorization.
However, in Pakistan, the situation is worst. Rote learning, low enrollment rates at the primary level, a dearth of trained teachers, outdated syllabus, poor planning are the order of the day.
A special report of the United States Institute for Peace on “Education and Attitudes in Pakistan” prepared by Prof at US university Madiha Afzal mentioned that textbooks were memorized verbatim and class sessions did not permit questions from the students, teachers’ presentation of evidence, or discussion of alternative sources.
As per statistics, Pakistan houses 260,905 educational institutions which are imparting education to 41,018,386 students with the help of 1,535,471 teachers. The breakup shows 180,836 public institutions and 80,058 private institutions. The private sector runs 31 percent, and the public sector operates 69 percent of educational institutes in the country. A majority of them are the hotbed of rustic minds.
The problems that are deep-rooted in the education system in Pakistan are lower budgetary allocation, memorization-based examination system, defective policies, implementation, lack of teacher quality, disoriented educational policy, directionless educational priorities, lack of political will, outdated curriculum, clumsy management, poor research and lack of uniformity.
Multiple education systems in Pakistan
Pakistan does not enjoy a uniform education system. There are different systems of education functioning simultaneously. Public, private, and Deeni Madaris (religious seminaries) are contrary to one another. This paved the way for polarization creating wide gaps among the people. A divided nation cannot put their act together, and this leads to an impasse for all kinds of development.
Education is not at all aligned with national needs and requirements. The top brass of government, policy-makers, and planners are never cognizant of the fact why and how many doctors, engineers, teachers, literary people, entrepreneurs, enterprising persons, agriculturists, scientists, and other skilled manpower are the need of the hour. This brings the result of burgeoning unemployment.
The curriculum is the kit of gadgets that help achieve the aims and goals of education. Unfortunately, it is now in our genes to promote rote memorization. It coerces the learners to memorize certain information and facts sweeping reality under the rug that education is the holistic development of an individual. The current educational curriculum rates students on their power of Ratta instead of research.
Cramming-based examination system
The examination is the tool to evaluate students’ learning. It should rely on qualitative and quantitative techniques to comprehensively weigh the performance of students. The standards must make sure the reliability of the procedures in the estimation process. Pathetically, the examination system is not only fusty, but it also lacks the credentials to judge the performance of learners.
The examination system determines only the memory of students. It does not evaluate them in totality. It has also been significantly affected by external and internal forces of illegal practices such as unfair means. As a result examination system foster rote learning and cramming which negates the role of the high intellectual power of learners in the education process such as critical thinking, reflection, analytical skills, and so on.
Lack of quality teacher
Teachers, indeed, anchor the education system in Pakistan. Their credentials, qualifications, experience, training, and aptitude act as a catalyst to produce the refined future of the nation. Student learning, motivation, examination success rate, enrollment rate, and the dropout rate depend on the quality of the teacher.
It is unfortunate that the majority of teachers hired by private and public schools are not highly qualified. Except for large school systems like Beaconhouse, City, Lahore Grammar, and others, the majority of others have roped in those who are qualified up to intermediate or BA. They are paid meager salaries compared to their counterparts in the government sector in addition to no job security.
A large number of teachers lack proper training and certifications. They are less-immersed with hands-on training. They believe in cramming and their students shy away research-based work.
According to a UNESCO report, “the majority of teachers are ignorant about lesson planning which renders them incapable of handling multiple problems in the process of teaching and learning. Teachers egg on cramming of the materials by students. Students do not know the use of libraries in educational institutions. Thus, reading habits are decreasing among students”.
“Teachers are highly responsible for all this mess. It is their professional responsibility to guide the students towards book reading. Teachers rely on lecture methods which do provide an opportunity for students to participate in the process of education as active members. They only note the information and memorize this just to pass the examination. Thus, students are evaluated on the basis of memorization of facts and information rather than performance.”
Muhammad Mehdi, PML-N senior leader who worked on educational reform in the manifesto, said that simmering the issue of making kids memorize also prevailed with U.S. schools. As per a movie documentary, “Race to Nowhere.”, fallouts of cramming have been manifested in an interesting way. However, he claimed that the government had been using all resources to pull the plug on rote learning by launching various policies in the future.
Governor Punjab Rafiq Rajwana said that to pace with the world, quality education had to be put in place. “We have doled out maximum funds to revamp the educational system, and the flow of grants would see more surge in coming future,” he added.
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