[lg policy] Pakistan: Re-examining education: ‘Security states can’t put their children first’

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 5 15:12:23 UTC 2012

Re-examining education: ‘Security states can’t put their children first’
By Aroosa Shaukat
Published: April 5, 2012

“India and Pakistan face the same education problems,” said Dr Rukmini
Banerji speaking on the first day of a regional seminar organised by
the South Asian Forum for Education Development (SAFED) and Idarae
Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with the Education Testing
Service (ETS) at a local hotel in the city.

Presenting her paper, Every Child in School and Learning Well, Dr
Banerji who is the Director of Annual Status of Education Report
(ASER) Centre, India, quoted examples from her study in India and said
despite schools having an enrollment rate as high as 96 per cent,
attendance mostly ranged between 60 to 90 percent. She said, “Even if
a child is enrolled, it does not mean they are being educated if they
are absent from school.” Dr Banerji said her study had revealed that
children were actually entering school much earlier than the
‘mandatory age,’ which she said was six years.

She advocated that education standards be set keeping needs of a
specific system in mind. She said questions were being raised as to
how annual academic progress in children’s learning could be ensured.
“Children are being forced to carry a burden of expectations which
perhaps they are not capable of meeting.” Dr Banerji recommended that
children be grouped based on their learning level instead of ‘school

ITA Programme Director Baela Raza Jamil said, “Once the right to
education is enshrined in the Constitution, laws monitoring its
execution need to be developed and reviewed periodically.” She added
that the seminar was a regional continuation of the Salzburg Global
Seminar which was held in December last year to ‘close mobility gaps
in education worldwide’. Jamil said dialogue between regions could
help resolve issues pertinent to the education of children.

ETS Senior Vice President Dr Michael Nettles said the organisation was
working in the US to ‘close education gaps’ in the system. Speaking
via video conference, Dr Nettles said it was essential for regions to
indulge in a dialogue to resolve educational problems.

Claiming that one-third of Punjab’s budget was spent on education,
Planning and Development Secretary Tahir Ali said much of that money
was spent on teachers’ salaries. Ali said provision of ‘education for
all’ and ensuring equity in education were key challenges to work

MNA Bushra Gohar said political influences needed to be removed from
the education system as this had hindered the process of teaching and
learning. “Our education system is teaching hatred,” said Gohar while
demanding that there be greater transparency and accountability
regarding the budget spent on education. “If we continue to be a
‘security state,’ we will fail to prioritise our children.”

Beaconhouse National University School of Education Dean Dr Tariq
Rahman recommended that the mother language education (MLE) structure
be included in the system. He said a study had revealed that a child
grasps concepts better when tutored in his mother tongue. In his
paper, Language Policy, Weakening of Languages and MLE in Pakistan, Dr
Rahman said English and Urdu were being ‘favoured’ by the state and
this had translated into linguistic elitism.

Dr Rahman identified more than 50 minor languages and 6 major
languages in the country and said a child established a strong sense
of identity when taught in his mother tongue. Dr Rahman said an
‘across the board’ policy of incorporating an MLE structure into the
educational system was the only way to remove the stigma associated
with the use of indigenous languages.

Sindh Education Foundation Director Aziz Kabani faced criticism from
the audience for his take on ‘test scores’ being used to gauge
learning. Kabani said education had become a commodity. “Education has
become quantifiable and market trends dictate how a child must be
prepared for it.” Kabani said the state needed to decide whether it
wanted to pursue a ‘child-friendly’ or ‘test score’ pedagogy.

Ravish Amjad asked whether an increased private sector role would help
bridge the quality-inequality gap. Amjad, a research and policy
analyst at ASER, said the 2011 ASER report had indicated that learning
outcomes were better in private than in government schools, adding
that it was a ‘relative performance’ report. She suggested greater
attention towards the quality of teacher, curricula development and
missing facilities in schools.

IG Research and Evaluation Director Dr Gordon MacLeod in his paper,
Teacher Education Models That Work, said ‘teacher quality’ was a
fashionable trend. He said there was a lack of formal information to
understand the issues related to teacher education in Pakistan.

The Citizen’s Foundation Academics and Training senior manager Rahila
Fatima said they encouraged teachers in ‘self reflection’ practices
and teachers were recruited from the same area as the school.

St Joseph’s College for Women, Karachi, Principal Bernadette Dean said
they prepared students to take up informed and participatory roles in
moving towards creating a ‘just’ society (citizen education). She
requested the government to raise the status of citizen education
which she said was currently at the bottom of the ‘subject hierarchy’.

The seminar will continue on Thursday. Dr AH Nayyar, Dr Pervez
Hoodbhoy and Zubeida Mustafa are scheduled to speak.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2012.


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