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Pakistan: Education can be a strategic investment

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Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq |

Education is fundamental to development and growth. Access to education, which is a basic human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, is also a strategic development investment. The human mind makes possible all other development achievements, from health advances and agricultural innovation to infrastructure construction and private sector growth.

Read more: Quality reforms to empower public education

For Pakistan to reap these benefits fully—both by learning from the stock of global ideas and through innovation—it needs to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.

Equal treatment in education for girls and boys is a human right, and it is also a mean of unlocking gains in other areas. Expanding and improving education is the key to adapting to change and confronting the challenges faced today. Simply put, investments in quality education lead to more rapid and sustainable economic growth and development.

Read more: The quality gap in Pakistan’s education system

Educated individuals are more employable, able to earn higher wages, cope better with economic shocks, and raise healthier children. But although Pakistan has made extensive strides over the past few years towards the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education and gender equity, an abundance of evidence shows that many children and youth in the country leave school without having learned much at all.

The overarching goal should not just be schooling, but learning. The driver of development is, however, ultimately what individuals learn, both in and out of school, from pre-school through the labor market. For this, it is imperative that we support and promote country-level reforms of the education system and invest in building a global knowledge base powerful enough to guide those reforms.

Education is a challenge for Pakistan with a global dimension.

By one estimate, more than 200 million children under 5 years of age in developing countries fail to reach their potential in cognitive development. Pakistan is crippled by an education emergency that threatens tens of millions of children. Atleast 7 million children in Pakistan are not in primary school that amounts to as many people as living in the city of Lahore.

One in ten of the world’s primary age children who are not in school live in Pakistan; placing Pakistan second in the global ranking of our-of-school children. The economic impact of this education emergency is as expensive as a flood every year as failure to provide education is the most dangerous self-inflicted disaster. Thus education is a challenge for Pakistan with a global dimension. We therefore have a duty to respond to this manmade urgency with equal force and urgency. The solution to all lies in the 8 Education Approaches which stands for:

  • Enhancing Reading Ability
  • Expanding Critical Thinking
  • Enriching Numeracy Skills
  • Ensuring Improved Assessments
  • Empowering Teachers
  • Exploring beyond the curriculum learning opportunities
  • Engaging Community
  • Enabling Sustainability

As the 8 E’s Approach denotes, a well stocked Learning Resource Centre can best support the curriculum and reading program in schools. Students must learn on The Reading Wheel, The Reading Tree and The Reading Caterpillar, a scheme that encourages reading books from different genres and develops comprehension skills with relevant follow-up work.

Read more: Education: A privilege of the rich

The students must have a comprehensive availability of core booklist plus the study support and additional reading material. As Literacy is the amalgamation of reading and writing, the early grade students are exposed more. Critical thinking is the ability to read, learn and comprehend. It is one of education’s most central goals and one of its most valued outcomes. Fundamentally, critical thinking is just exercising the general forms of thought most conducive to sorting the true from the false – or, more bluntly, “the art of being right.”

These skills include the ability to evaluate and interpret experiments, draw conclusions from data, make predictions, and identify assumptions. For enhancing this skill teachers ought to be trained to make the pupil Identify, Define,  Enumerate, Analyze, List, and Self-Correct themselves through different activities. Successful learning depends on having problem solving skills and thinking logically as well as the ability to read and write.

Read more: Higher purposes of university education

Young children come to pre-school and kindergarten with a great deal of intuitive understanding and knowledge about numbers as they know there age and other common information which they use every day during the daily course of affairs. Still at the other end many children do not make smooth progress toward accomplishment of the standards, and many show significant gaps in their conceptual understanding and skill development.

Effective assessment is equally vital if we are to improve learning and teaching in the classrooms of the future. It promotes learning and helps our children achieve their full potential in every way. The need is to ensure that information about how a pupil is progressing should be clear, succinct and readily understood by everyone. It is crucial that we not only simplify the system, but also reduce the burden for teachers and ensure that what is produced is more useful for parents. The importance of teacher training cannot be underestimated.

To be successful there is a need for effective stakeholder management. Such initiative needs to establish effective links with national bodies.

The better a teacher is trained, the better he or she can educate tomorrow’s generation of Pakistanis. Teachers are considered the lynchpin for quality and implementation of reforms in the classroom. In fact majority of the projects and programs implemented over the years have unfortunately directed their energies at addressing their problems rather than correcting the root causes but this is a Problem that cannot be simply solved through provision of hours and hours of pre service and in service teacher training off the shelf.

Along with this the supplementation of existing curriculum through Workbooks and Reinforcement activities topped with supplementary and additional reading resources which will foster creativity, experiential problem solving & critical thinking, shifting focus from memorization to inquiry based learning and develop better assessment mechanisms is imperative.

Read more: To improve education in Pakistan we need 2-Way communication

A wide-range of different skills sets is required for successful education delivery. This includes expertise in education and learning, program management, community involvement, stakeholder engagement, and communication. The successful delivery of capacity building of Local Education Authority program from the pre-procurement phase through procurement and into operation requires a long-term commitment from the local authority. To be successful there is a need for effective stakeholder management. Such initiative needs to establish effective links with national bodies; co-ordinate other services and corporate departments within the local authority, and build and sustain effective relations with schools and their stakeholders. Our endeavor as a nation should be to liberate the students from the tyranny of the present education system of rote learning of the irrelevant and heavy content without focus of reading instruction. Quality focused tools and techniques should be used for student’s utmost learning and development needs.

A complete implementation and adoption of this approach will not only lead to a literate society but will result in creativity and innovativeness. It will aid in personality development of the nation, enhance and improve understanding, create a learning environment, improved teacher quality, rational thinking, communication and basic etiquettes, critical thinking. It will result in increased self assessment and awareness, confidence building, lifelong learning, community empowerment, female empowerment, language, grammar, learning and analytical skills and most of all better people.

Read more: Higher Education Vision 2025

Education is the single most common denominator that can lead to enhanced socio economic productivity, quality of life and empowerment of all. Enrollment rates remain low and efficient and equitable access to education is proving to be elusive to majority of the people in Pakistan. With a properly coordinated and well synergized cooperation between the government and private education sector, miracles can be done to promote quality education in Pakistan with access, equity, quality and achievement. 

Future of Pakistan in the 21st century lies in the quality of education which empowers our people with the skills to become creative and innovative. It enables our children with the art of critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, communication, collaboration and teamwork, citizenship and local and global, personal and social responsibility.

Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq is a leading academic reformist and a national educational change sponsor, currently working as the Founder & CEO of Pakistan’s leading education development and social sector Not for Profit organization – Change in Education www.change.org.pk. The writer can be reached out through faisal.mushtaq@change.org.pk.


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