Why Is School Education In Balochistan On Verge Of Collapse? Challenges And Ways Forward – OpEd

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Primary school education is influenced by several factors that have caused a decline in the province. Some of them are more prominent, such as low enrolment and a high dropout rate at the primary level; different standards of education; low budget allocation for schools’ education; unnecessary political interference; low quality of curricula and textbooks; massively missing facilities in schools; rapid growth in population; poverty; and unemployment; poor quality of teachers and irrelevant induction of duties; our substandard evaluation system; medium of instruction in schools; a top-to-bottom approach; faith-based education at the primary and secondary levels; etc. Although the provincial government tries and claims some bold steps to overcome these problems, there are still huge gaps between the wording and the action.

Though the provincial government and various donor agencies are pumping billions of rupees into school education each year, the challenges are deepening day by day due to a lack of commitment and political will at the government level, coupled with a non-serious approach by policymakers and other stakeholders, including the public.

Even this year, the provincial government has allocated 85 billion 17.70% of the provincial budget for the years 2022–23, for school education, 75 billion 12.1 percent, is earmarked for non-development expenditures, and about 10 billions, or 5.69%, will be spent on various development schemes, but the outcome is discouraging and the impact on the public in terms of social change and economic growth is minimal. Careful cost analysis depicts that the literacy rate is up to 10 years, with males at 60% and females at 25%. Adult males make up 68% and females only 18% according to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM), which is far lower than in other parts of the country. Moreover, the staff prepared for the higher secondary levels is of low quality.

As per article 25-A, the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children aged five to sixteen years. Contrary to the constitutional obligation, out of a total of 2.9 million schools going from age 5 to 16, Children in the province only number 1.74 million, of whom 62% are enrolled, and the rest, 1.16 million, or 40% are out of school due to the non-availability of buildings and other allied facilities, which is one of the biggest challenges to the government. Further Low enrolment and a high dropout rate of students in schools, especially at the primary level, show the dreadful situation of our education system.

One of the most significant issues facing education is the deterioration of school facilities across the province. The non-provision of essential facilities has badly affected the school education sector. Out of the total of 15000 government-run schools with an enrolment of about 1003661 students, more than 1940 schools are running without proper buildings, about 8000 schools have no boundary walls, and some 11850 schools lack drinking water. Further, 12300 schools have no electricity, and 950 schools are run without libraries, science labs, or IT labs. The provincial government has turned back to meet the demand for missing facilities due to a lack of commitment and financial resources.

Shortages and a lack of trained teachers are other challenges. Teachers truly are the backbone of the education system, particularly at the primary and secondary levels. Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. They teach students different moral values and can instil qualities such as honesty, fairness, respect, and commitment. Teachers need to be given regular training opportunities to create conducive conditions for improving classroom learning. However, more than 3200 schools are non-functional due to a shortage of about 2500 teachers, and the teachers already engaged in teaching have received no professional training in content knowledge and pedagogical skills because of a lack of budgetary allocation and master trainers, coupled with non-professional postings in the teachers training institution PITE. At the moment, about 4750 teachers are working in the schools. The government has so far imparted training to fewer than 12000 people, and the rest are waiting for basic training.

The government needs to streamline its policies and strategies to address the challenges mentioned above and take immediate measures to change the status quo.

It must raise the education allocation in the budget from 2% to at least 5% and focus on the restructuring, strengthening, and performance of its attached departments. The Head of the attached department must be a qualified professional and posted on merit.

Ensure the true implementation of the Balochistan Education Sector Plan 2020–25 with a 17% increase in the provincial PSDP for school education already committed and approved by the provincial government.

The monitoring system must be strengthened, and necessary financial resources must be provided for carrying out these duties in the province .

Teaching and management cadres must be separated as a top priority, and proper professional training for the management cadre in the relevant areas should be imparted.

Politicians’ unnecessary interference in educational and school matters is a big hurdle in achieving high standards in education. It must be stopped forthwith.

The issues with the quality of our curricula and textbooks must be fixed once and for all.

Teachers are not well trained, and they are not equipped with new teaching skills, resulting in their poor performance in their professional field. Adequate training equipment and financial resources should be provided to the Provincial Institute of Teachers’ Training (PITE) for launching crash training programmes for the professional development of teachers.

Timely and merit-based recruitment of teachers against the vacant positions is needed to make the non-functional schools throughout the province functional.

Make sure the phase-wise provision of missing facilities is done in all schools, particularly in girl’s schools through out the province.

Our evaluation and examination system is very substandard and is unable to measure the qualities of a student. The Balochistan Assessment and Examination Commission (BAEC) should be provided with a separate building manned by regular, professional, qualified, and relevant staff.

Policy Planning and Implementation Unite (PPIU) must be provided with necessary IT equipments, funds and relevant professional manpower, and their inputs must be made part of future policies and strategies.

The directorate of the school’s education being mainly tactical, it must be provided with adequate resources and manned with well-qualified and professionally trained staff, particularly the director of education, who should be posted purely on merit.

Last but not least, declaring an education emergency throughout the province for a period of at least five years to shoulder the responsibilities of education devolved under the 18th amendments in the 1973 constitution and meet the end of constitutional obligation, Article 25 (A), providing free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years, including SDG 4, Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

We must recall the sayings of South Africa’s great leader, the late Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” and young noble laureate Malala, “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”

We can eradicate illiteracy, reduce poverty, and achieve the dream of peace and security, economic prosperity, political stability, and social harmony in the province once all the stakeholders, particularly the government, politicians, and the public, put their minds together to change the sayings of those two leading figures into practise in the province.

Sher Khan Bazai, Former Secretary of Education, Balochistan. The writer is retired from civil service. He can be reached at [email protected]

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