WEB DESK: Wind of change regarding education has started blowing in Sindh after long time. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah presided his first-ever meeting to announce an ‘Education Emergency’ in Sindh.
It was decided to bifurcate Education & Literacy department into two departments – School education and College education. Some other decisions were also made regarding monitoring and administration at local levels.
Yet decisions do not demonstrate the spirit of ‘Education Emergency’ nor do they reflect a befitting vision. ‘Education Emergency’ as it appears revolved only around a few administrative decisions. No doubt, monitoring and enforcement of education are imperatives, for without monitoring and enforcement required results could not be achieved but there is much more to do. No targets were set for revival of dysfunctional system and putting it on high trajectory. ‘Education Emergency’ is a comprehensive concept whereas decisions made by CM and his team lack comprehensiveness and are limited in nature and effect.
Undoubtedly, ‘Education Emergency’ must entail all relevant aspects of education particularly in view of global standards and requirements. Education in Sindh cannot afford any piecemeal policy method which is best tool of inefficient idiots and crooks. As is clear from the results of poorly practised biometric enforcement policy; except development of data bank, no significant positive results have been achieved rather it has resulted into intimidation and humiliation of teachers, into bribes with impunity and money-making tools for enforces of biometric system and into closure of hundreds of schools resulting into disfranchisement of children of their right to education in an already alarmingly pathetic condition of public education system.
Such policy tools that are not well-thought out and well-orchestrated are mainly used for fanfare and drama that always result into disaster and into more harm than good. While such drama was in full swing, more than 50% of schools even in Saddar town Karachi around the main seat of government what to talk of Ibrahim Hyderi remained dysfunctional.
Only Boys College in Ibrahim Hyderi constructed a few years ago never opened for a single day resulting in discontinuation of education of local boys after matriculation. What life they must be living in that most backward area of Karachi with that poorest quality matric degree is not difficult to discern. Monitoring through public representatives is a welcome decision but it requires serious sanction of PPP leadership and inculcation of elected representatives that it was not only their prime responsibility towards their electors but also extremely crucial for survival and resurrection of their party that has receded from a status of Pakistan level party to almost a rural Sindh party position.
Monitoring and administering schools and colleges through local civil bureaucracy are also good decisions; though, it must be kept in mind that bureaucracy has no love lost for people whom they are required to serve rather due to a colonial mindset of bureaucracy and its degradation over last many decades it loves to rule the people and enjoy the power and other ‘perks’. So, they must be tutored to espouse people-centered spirit, and must be repeatedly lectured and monitored for assigned tasks and targets.
Having said that it would be pertinent to bring back the subject of ‘Education Emergency’. Education always requires a holistic approach rather than atomised one. It must be remembered that first National Education Conference was convened in 1947 which focused on both primary as well as adult education. Targets were also set.
The Quaid-e-Azam also sent his message and then there is long list of such conferences and plans. All governments ‘underscored’ the cruciality and importance of education for growth, development and future of Pakistan. In 2009 with funding of DFID, Pakistan Education Task Force (PETF) was found and an education emergency was also declared in 2011but where the positive result is?
World has treaded on path of internet, globalisation of KRID (knowledge, research, innovation and development), broad band, softwares making learning very easy and smart gizmos, yet we in Sindh have marched backward. Education budget has multiplied many times more than the allocation 10 years ago; however, in relative terms education in Sindh has deteriorated 10 times more than what it was 10 years back.
Question is education for whom? For all or for only those who are enrolled or who can be enrolled as a result of motivational and enforcement campaigns. If for all then what does all means? All those who are also in and out of schools now and all those who were out of schools last year, during last 5 years, during last 10-20 years and who are left with no or little education and are bound to earn their living as an animal-like human being having mainly one power, ie, muscle power.
But what about girls and women? Do they matter? Are they indispensable for transformation of society from backward to prosperous one? As mentioned above, it must be noted that policy makers for last 69 years have been aware of importance of education but they always lacked proper vision and will to execute their policy papers. Education is important and girls’ education is still more important are not new revelations.
Another question is what type of education? Education that increases literacy rate? Or education which equips students or would be students to compete in globalise world? And, by the way, what literacy rate means? Just ability to read and write! Ability to write and read was helpful in 1980s’ and before but now when we are living in high-tech and hyper-connected world which is transforming itself at an exponential rate, we require minimum standard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). When kids are coding and grown up children are developing apps what we would require? Increase in literacy rate?
World has gone global in real sense. Countries have only legal borders, they do not have physical borders which can prevent cross-border exchange of ideas, tools and technology. People from one country supply all kinds of services including educational, financial and software services to other people across the globe. Job market is open to global applicants. So, what will happen to our children and adults if they are not equipped with education and skill of global standards? Who will fill vacuum?
A supplementary question is that do we require education of global standards just for jobs? No, we require most modern and state-of-the-art education to transform not only our lives but also our economy and society. Neither economy nor society will be sustainable and prosperous without world-matching education and skills.
World has entered into 4th industrial revolution and post-digital age powered by ‘sci-tech human power complex’ and characterised, inter alia, by artificial (smart) intelligence, iRobot, internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, 3D printers and smart phones. It means that each sector of economy from agriculture to manufacturing to services will progressively be governed by state-of-the-art technology. World and business have already gone global. New foreign and domestic investors will increasingly use automation and robots. This unprecedented and exponential expansion of sci-tech though posing a threat also offers an enormous opportunity to benefit from the windfall of such developments.
Mercifully, windfall of sci-tech is now knocking at our door. Hence, it is not only easy but 100% possible to turnaround education system and provide standard education to all in minimum time of 2 years or so. Word ‘All’ means children in schools, colleges and universities; and children out of schools and adults who were left behind to languish in degraded environment of poverty and backwardness due to lack of developed brain-power and lack of adequate skill.
Definitely, we need a new curriculum, adequate infrastructure and paraphernalia, trained teachers (teachers could easily be trained with new tools), new examination system and above all use of technology from podcasts, webinars, apps, simulations, animations, course-based visuals from class 1 to university level, off-line videos, YouTube and online MOOC (massive open online courses). Education of world standard now in addition to buildings could also be given beyond buildings, 24/7, self-paced and off-line with inexpensive tools at 10% cost of capital expenditure on building buildings.
It must also be understood that old system of degree education of 14-16 to 18 years is increasingly getting obsolete. We cannot hold back young persons to enter into job market till age of 20, 24 or 26 years. It is counterproductive and harmful for economy as well as society; hence there is a concept of 13 years of education starting at age of 4. So, if ‘Education Emergency’ does not invoke new concepts and new strategies, it will not result into desired results. Governments are mandated to achieve optimum results, if they fail, they betray the honour and responsibility bestowed on them by their electors.
People now want results; they are asking when public schools will be restored, upgraded and elevated to the standard that children of politicians and bureaucrats will get admission in those schools? Unquestionably, this is basic yardstick of common people to measure the genuineness of the tall talk of the politicians and bureaucrats.
Around two weeks have passed by after declaration of so-called ‘education emergency’ but even inadequate and minimum measures announced by the government are yet to be translated into action. Hence, government must demonstrate its resolve into action without wasting a single day, failing which people will be more frustrated and will stop believing it treating its announcements and promises as a new rhetoric of the government and genuinely so.
Source: Business Recorder