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Sunday Sep 25, 2022, Safar 28, 1444 Hijri

Policy Repairs Through Educational Reformation

22 June, 2006

By Dr Shahid Abrar Awan

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The substantial changes in the national education policy will be a giant leap if a pragmatic implementation design is perused over a period of time. The policy repairs address pertinent issues which concern parents, students, and educators alike. It seems that the ministry of education is rolling out drastic changes in the education system by focusing on areas like polytechnic education, madrassa reforms, and Language Planning (LP). The amendments about LP in the education policy would be significant headway towards the resolution of language bewilderment in country’s education system. The LP has been an area of inconsistent policies and several experiences had been tried by inclusion of foreign languages like Persian, Arabic, and the late start of English language teaching (from grade six). Now the federal government in a thoroughgoing change has declared English compulsory in all public and private schools. The decision will bring uniformity in compulsory English language teaching in all school campuses. The minister of education while sharing his ministry’s policy observed that over a period of time alterations about English language teaching had adversely affected the education system. For instance, teaching of science in Urdu at school level has disadvantaged our students. The minister further remarked that the functioning education system is procreating “non-productive and meaningless education” which is not a market oriented produce.

American educationist Skinner describes, “Education is what is left when what has been learnt has been forgotten.” Education can be a skill or the ultimate impact on an individual’s awareness and abilities. The minister’s remarks like unproductive as well as purposeless education can be seen in this backdrop. It is especially true about the public sector educational institutions. Perhaps, the paradigm of education in play throughout the country does not target skill development of students which can be specifically relevant to the escalating socio-economic needs of the country. It is a fact that social development will need skilled human resource, which can contribute towards social, agricultural, and industrial sectors of the country with over 160 million people. Social development depends upon economic development and the education complex plays a formidable role in the development of human resource base. It seems that present education system does not meet the expectations of students and parents. One can easily authenticate this perception by asking parents and students of public schools. There seems a big gap between the objectives of education system and the development of an individual as well as cumulative human resource. A host of reasons can be instantly spotted for distressing public education infrastructure and the policy implementation, but the education policy itself needs radical repairs.

English language in Pakistan is an identity marker, a tool of vertical social mobility, and a mean to access prestigious jobs in the country and abroad. Whether pleasant or horrid, it is a rampant reality. Quite a lot has been said about English in Pakistan and some genuine research has solidly established this actuality. Thus, if English is not taught at all schools as a compulsory subject from grade one, it will create social class differences between English and Urdu medium education. In fact this phenomenon is already well spread and has shown its effects which, in addition to other problems, has resulted in social disharmony. The eventual taxonomy of education in Urdu and English mediums has also been hazardous to the national language status of Urdu. For instance, quality and value is usually associated to English medium education while Urdu medium education would be perceived as unsophisticated and dismal quality education. It leads young learners think about perhaps any inherent incapability with Urdu as a language for quality education.

English and Urdu need to go side by side in the education system as two compulsory languages even from pre-school level. Nevertheless, at present teaching English commences from grade six. However, in many public elementary schools in Punjab English is being taught from grade one by contractual English teachers. In the existing public educational complex, English is the medium of instruction for social sciences and pure sciences from higher secondary (11th grade) level onward. For social sciences like economics, sociology, political science, psychology and few others, students can opt for instruction in English or Urdu. In public schools, students study sciences in Urdu till the 10th grade. From the 11th grade all science education is in English. This transition from Urdu to English is a significant stumbling block for many students. At the same time, this incongruity is another pertinent reason that solicits changing medium of instruction for science education in schools. Pakistan does not have enough academic resources for science education. There is growing reliance on international resources for science education, which are adapted and translated into Urdu for public sector schools. The private sector is already using English as medium of instruction for science education. Because large financial resources are involved in accessing latest versions of scientific developments in Urdu, usually science textbooks are not updated. Consequently, students rely on somewhat outdated editions of science textbooks which are neither interestingly organized nor current. English as a medium of instruction will make accessing wide range of scientific resources easy and less expensive. Urdu translation will not be required and even the Internet can be used as a ready resource. Introduction of English as medium of instruction will have rejuvenating impact on the quality of science education.

Polytechnic education undoubtedly entails immediate ministration. The current plight of polytechnic education demands multidimensional upgradation in areas like syllabus design, teacher training, and adequate technical equipments. Numerous polytechnic institutions already in the country are sites of student conflicts and unsubstantial technical education by any standard. Operating with resource-starved facilities, these institutions aspire for capacity building to cater the demands of motivated students for effective technical education. However, advancing polytechnic training should not be at the cost of other academic disciplines like arts, humanities, social sciences, and basic sciences. The policy overhaul needs a balance in order to beget tangible and lasting success. 

Education is a provincial subject and every province will set its own priorities. If national educational policy process will also involve provinces and a coordinated policy framework is negotiated, it would be probably a concrete and feasible plan. On the higher education front, tremendous developments have been made in recent years. This phenomenal advancement is a reflection of well-coordinated work of federal and provincial institutions. Over the past five years, higher education policy has been quite successful in establishing and strengthening universities and degree awarding institutions (DAI). The following table shows this amazingly bullish trend:

New Public and Private Institutions Founded
Public Universities
Private Universities
(Source: The HEC, 5 Dec, 2005)
New education policy reformation may not prove to be panacea, but realization for rectification seems apposite. A thorough diagnosis followed by concerted policy formulation would certainly enhance chances of success. Flow of adequate resources and effective implementation will be two very pivotal independent variables to the success of new policy. Addressing these issues would help plugging holes in the education system of the country. It is commendable that perhaps for the first time the minister for education has so candidly reflected upon the policy and vowed repairs of fault lines. Capturing this scenario in policy is the first step, which would entail optimal implementation of the reformation. On the contrary, the policy repairs are likely to be buried in the piles of ministerial manuscripts.

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