[lg policy] Pakistan: National education policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 16 13:37:21 UTC 2009

National education policy
Rizwan Ghani

Learning from others experiences differentiates a man from an animal.
Human beings unlike animals learn from experiences of others. Instead
of supporting or criticizing the policy, I am going to rake through
200 years of (general) education in America and Britain to help
politicians, planners and professionals determine a course that serves
youth rather than chasing a wish-list mirage leading to nowhere.

According to the results of triennial Program for International
Student Assessment (PISA) Survey Report 2006 organized by Economic
Co-operation and Development on Science scale out of 57 states UK was
21st and USA 36th (P-22). In Reading UK was 17th and US is not
reflected (P-34). In mathematics, UK is 24th and USA 35th (P-47). PISA
tested more than four lac 15-year-old students from 57 countries
including 44 advanced states and leading world economy states to
evaluate student competencies for tomorrow’s world. The data covers
student, family and institutional factors that could help to explain
differences in performance. In the OECD 2004 report, USA was 24th and
UK withdrew its students.

Finland leads the OECD 2006 and 2004 reports. It shows there is more
to good education standards than fat budgets and adopting foreign
education models. The school education authorities in UK and US
allegedly lowered exams standards to show improvement. The test
results from the US National Assessment of Educational Progress, finds
that American 12th graders are actually performing worse in reading
than 12th graders did in 1992, when a comparable exam was given. A NY
Times Editorial Public vs. Private Schools dated July 19, 2006
debunked the widely held belief that public schools were inferior to
their private and religious counterparts. On average, American
schoolchildren are performing at mediocre levels in reading, math and
science. It shows that privatization is not the answer to raise
education standards; poor education standards are not only there in
public sector and nationalized education as part of “big governments
lead to serfdom and poverty”. Islamabad should seriously consider
keeping education in public sector including nationalization of
private schools. Take a stand against Reaganism presumption that if
the government does it, it’s bad. The Danish model school plan should
be reviewed because IMF thinks that it is too costly for developing
economies and needs longer duration to deliver.

Advanced Placement Tests offered in American schools to help students
do better in colleges are leaving minority students behind (The NY
Times 7 Feb.2007). In UK, it is opined lack of social mobility is a
serious threat for poor students. The average US wages have decreased
from $37,000 to $32,000 (adjusted after inflation) in last fifty
years. Pakistan’s 90 percent population living below one dollar a day
(against government’s conservative claims of 35 percent) should be
reason enough to offer free education up to the university level.
College education costs are too high in UK and US. Ninety percent of
Pakistani students cannot self-finance college education. Therefore,
state has to uphold its responsibility. The quality of education is
contested vigorously resulting in life and death difference for a
student from public education institution vs. elite private
institution. The calls for education watchdog in UK are case in point.
Pakistan education policy needs to address education standardization
issue at school, college and university level to replace public
private sector rift in current system with healthy competition and
save students from taking more than one test to enter professional
colleges. At school level, US has National Assessment of Education
Progress, at college level entry exams like SAT, MCAT and for medical
education at national level, it has National Board of Medical

American model of education administration developed over two
centuries offers important lessons. The option of Inter-Provincial
Education Ministers Forum should be scrapped and provinces should be
allowed to retain control of education policy as part of provincial
subject right up to university level. It will keep federation out of
provincial public service commissions, avert getting bogged down in
revision of national language policy and avoid further increase under
the head of federal education administration expenditure. Instead,
Islamabad should do away with higher education ministry, federal
ministry for education and restore federal education liaison officer
of grade 19 to coordinate education matters with and between
provinces. The huge budgetary allocations for federal education setup
be allocated to provinces and allocate 3 percent instead of one
percent yearly increase to reach 7 percent of GDP. In America, the
students and professionals who want to study or work within states
pass state board exams and those who want to follow federal government
or overseas route have to clear national board exams. The state boards
and national boards on case-to-case basis get national and or
international accreditations. It relieves federal government from
maintaining and financing large bureaucratic setup, avoid curriculum
and text board controversies, and maintain quality of education
standards at international level. The boards self-finance themselves
through minimal fees and other charges. Government regulates these
institutions to keep the exam evaluation fees at reasonable rates.
This system absolves individual education institutions to strive for
national and international accreditation because the state or national
board with which it is affliated acquires it. The results determine
the standard of teaching. It will allow the government to do away with
inspection setups and the funds can be allocated for pure education.
The professionals of state and national boards devise the curriculum
and textbooks are printed by the private sector accordingly. On
average, the books of major state and national boards are revised
after five years. The online availability of United States Medical
License Examination contents not only facilitate students, publishers
and employers but also allow international medical graduates (IMGs) to
take the exam. Each year some 21,000 thousand doctors enter US job
market including 9000 IMGs.

Interestingly doctors studying in state medical schools across America
can take USMLE Step 1 and 2 after passing third and final year exams
respectively. In addition, American medical student can pass be a MD
in eight years in which five years are spent on medical education and
depending on the specialty three-five years for the residency
training. The state and federal jobs are given through Electronic
Residency Application Services and National Residency Match Program.
These services charge $90 and $60 respectively for matching the scores
of the applicant with the job requirements.

Finally, education policies are made to support domestic needs and
with entrenched poverty nationalization is need of the hour. Education
policies must be indigenous and philosophy driven. Malaysia has
stopped teaching mathematics and science in English. Pakistan is an
agribased economy; its curriculum should proportionately focus on
dairy, agribased skills more than industry, finance or English.
Therefore, for delivering at grassroots, provinces not federation
should control education policy.


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