“Pakistan’s education spending is nearly equivalent to the military budget”, I tweeted during the report launch of “Pakistan’s Education Crisis” by Nadia Naviwala. Right after that, I received several comments from my Pakistani mates, doubting about the fact I mentioned. Yes, the education and military budget are really close. For 2016 fiscal year, $ 7.5 billion is allocated for education and $ 8.2 billion for military according to the report findings. The number of government teachers is more than the active duty personnel’s in military
Even after this ample spending on education why our education system is broken? There are three main facts to consider here:
- Pakistan spends on education more than we think
- Educational reforms are in full swing in four provinces
- The ultimate problem is learning
Pakistan is the number one recipient (overall, not limited to education) of UKAID and number two recipient of USAID from 2010 to 2013. Now the question is where does the money go? After Nigeria, Pakistan has the second highest rate of kids out of school. Most of the provinces have doubled their budget since 2010 then why the illiteracy rate is high? Two of the reasons are below:
- Absent Teachers:
Teacher’s absenteeism rate is quite high in government schools. It’s 20% in Punjab and 30% in Baluchistan but that is the reason? According to the report findings, most of the government teachers are associated with political parties. During the election period, big school buildings are used as the polling station and government teachers as polling staff. If it’s not an election season then the teachers might have assigned inappropriate duties like helping the polio campaign or running the anti-dengue drives. Secondly, most of the teachers take off in the name of training which seems quite acceptable but not true all the times. The weak accountability is also another reason of absenteeism. So, the first step for reform is making sure that teachers are in school and not busy in other activities unrelated to their profession. So, some kind of mechanism needs to be introduced to monitor teacher’s attendance.
- Broken Budget:
The whole budget debate process takes 14 days in Pakistan which is the shortest time period in the world. Budget is such an important pillar of any economy and it needs deep and detailed study, analysis and then allocation. Education in Pakistan is critically political. Political leaders of big political parties must take the responsibility to make a difference. Several donors have tried to fix the budgeting process through “Capacity Building” training but now it all depends on the political will of leaders. If there is a political will they ways of better and quality education are always open.
Last but not the least; learning is one of the basic issues. Teachers are incapable of teaching the modern English and the new modern and updated curriculums. Despite the fact that children go to school, they are still illiterate. Private schools have the different modern curriculum as compared to the Government school so the level of education depends upon the money you are spending. I believe that the curriculum needs to be revised, incorporating the world’s modern learning and innovation. Along with this, there should be only one curriculum around Pakistan to be used by both private and Government schools so that the level of learning and education remain same. Teacher’s training and continuous learning should have given more importance.
- The political parties must put the strongest merit-based people in charge of the education sector.
- The education sector in Punjab and KP are relatively doing a better job compare to Baluchistan and Sindh. So the Government of Baluchistan and Sindh needs to put more effort to effectively raise education in the province.
- Construction and rehabilitation of hundreds of school in KPK were abandoned after the earthquake in 2005 so the federal government must be held accountable to continue the construction.
- Think tanks have been doing excellent work and study on education sector but I think there is a gap between think tanks and public that can be bridged by media.
- We need strong minister’s for education
Money and budget are not the only problems but there are several other gaps in the education system of Pakistan. The system could have been managed in a more effective way in the same budget. The Government and political party leaders really need to focus on this issue to raise the literacy level in Pakistan in a better way.