Sonia Arshad |
Educational development and progress owe a good deal to sound policies formulated by the policymakers while staying close to reality. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, faulty policies without any due consideration of ground realities and their blind implementation are damaging the basic infrastructure of the education system. Due to consequent deterioration of public institutions, people are becoming more inclined to the private sector.
Keeping in view the prevailing circumstances, the most recent forcible drive of increased enrollment by HEDP in public sector colleges looks quite odd and does not seem likely to bear any fruit. Why? The burden of increasing the enrollment in colleges has been shifted to the principals and teachers and therefore, the whole scenario poses a serious question – On what grounds is the HEDP issuing such prompt commands without the provision of better facilities and productive incentives for both the students and the faculty? This is a crucial time to brood over those factors which are lacking in public sector colleges and due to the malformation of such chief ingredients, the entire system is at stake.
Now, in such circumstances, the question arises: How is it possible to attract the maximum number of students towards public sector colleges and what strategies should be adopted to achieve this target? This is a question to which the HEDP itself is unable to give a productive answer to. Many facts need to be considered in this regard. This is a high time to unravel the unsaid aspects that the HEDP should address before cherishing the magical illusion of increased enrollment.
Increased enrollment cannot and should not be a single-sided target given to principal and teachers, rather it can be increased without any trouble by means of the mutual cooperation of authorities and the stakeholders.
In fact, public sector educational institutions have always remained one of the most neglected entities, which led to the ultimate downfall of education as well as values. Today, public sector colleges are found in every nook and corner but they are deprived of the very basic facilities like water, Furniture, established laboratories, standardized books and above all, the teaching staff. Even the newly established colleges are no exceptions which are constructed without any broader vision and at the end, just prove to be deserted buildings with many loopholes.
Moreover, the colleges are also lacking in chief financial concerns which pose serious threats to the smooth functioning and management of college affairs. Hence, the number of college buildings are increasing day by day but unfortunately, scarcity of resources and disruptive strategic planning have become the chief reasons for the decrease in college enrollment. Further to this, institutions deficient in teaching staff add fuel to the fire as during the phase of unavailability of teaching staff, the colleges are run by College Teaching Interns (CTIs) whose appointments are made in last week of October whereas the session starts in August.
During this peak time, the colleges remain deserted and hence, college administration become utterly helpless to hire private teachers due to the shortage of funds, which ultimately prove to be a big halt for the public sector institutions. In such scenarios, it becomes an uphill task to convince the parents and students altogether to be a part of any government college. As it has been frequently observed, during the campaign for enrollment, most of the parents show a keen interest in asking questions regarding availability of teaching staff as well as academic and extracurricular activities.
In the prevailing circumstances, how and why are teachers expected to win the trust of the people who are already well informed of the circumstances of the educational system nowadays? On the other hand, the private sector has attracted a vast majority of people by becoming self- sufficient in all basic facilities and by productively adding to the chief interest of the students as well as the teachers regarding exposure, incentives, awards, scholarships, co-curricular, etc. The success of any institution goes hand in hand with timely policies and proper planning but regrettably, in the HEDP neither policies are formulated timely nor are they well planned.
This is a crucial time to brood over those factors which are lacking in public sector colleges and due to the malformation of such chief ingredients, the entire system is at stake.
Micromanagement and extreme centralization in policy making have resulted in stagnation of the system. Academic activities are never planned according to the existing needs of the students or even the colleges as a whole.
Therefore, policies formulated in closed rooms eventually prove to be highly ineffective as they are framed in a utopian environment without a deeper understanding of the chief considerations and ground realities. Also, without getting feedback from the chief stakeholders involved, such critical situation marks the indifference and detachment of bureaucracy to face the formidable challenges encountered by the educational institutions. This contradiction between preaching and practice – between crudely ‘thoughtless’ policies formulated in Lahore and existing circumstances in educational institutions – has made things bad to worse.
Colleges are bound to follow the lines drawn by those who have no know-how of the system. From academic calendar to monthly tests, each and everything is pre-decided, no matter whether existing circumstances can afford them or not. However, the private sector enjoys liberty in such matters. They are free to make their own plans while staying in touch with the ground realities. Where in a private sector a teacher’s only focus is the education of the students, the teachers working in the government sector are busy in responding to official emails, preparing fake reports and doing further unnecessary paperwork as per directions.
In this regard, a major objection raised by the parents in some areas is that in government institutions, teachers are always busy in maintaining so many registers, raising certain questions in the minds of parents regarding the availability of teachers during the college hours. Hence, a teacher has to face two challenges simultaneously; one is the blind compliance to the directions of authorities and the other one is to face the criticism and harsh words of parents. Amidst all the destruction and devastation caused by poor planning, how are institutions are expected to attract students towards government colleges?
Today, public sector colleges are found in every nook and corner but they are deprived of the very basic facilities like water, Furniture, established laboratories, standardized books and above all, the teaching staff.
The sad plight is that even an effective campaign cannot be launched without financial resources, strong administrative machinery and manpower. Colleges have never been given any budgetary allocations or positive gains for the purpose of marketing and advertising. Press, media, pamphlets and banners, all can only be managed when colleges have sufficient budget for the purpose.
The prevalent situation is that the teachers are managing much on their own and even then, they have to face discouraging responses from school authorities who are reluctant to allow any such campaign in the premises of their schools while on the other side, college teachers are bound to give a pictorial proof of the campaign along with the names of teachers they meet during visits.
In regard to this, lecturers have been reduced to the marketing staff, who are supposed to be ready for preparing publicity and marketing materials. Instead of effective teaching, they are indulged in a mess of useless tasks which have no practical utility for education in the long run.
The same lines were followed in the school sector and there, destruction is beyond shadow of a doubt. In this context, it can be sensibly predicted that such colleges will meet the same fate owing to the collapse of the basic infrastructure and values. Hence, it is the dire need of the hour for the HEDP to realize its own faults and revisit its own impractical policies. Our dying educational system can regain its life only if some substantially sound steps are taken.
With this in mind, colleges must be given proper facilities and autonomy in the financial and academic spheres. Instead of following dictatorial trends, those having an insight of education system must be involved in policy planning, so that right thing can come at right time.
It is in the hands of our authorities to make our institutions more active, attractive and full of life, otherwise, all of us are eyewitnesses of the tragic end of the school side. Increased enrollment cannot and should not be a single-sided target given to principal and teachers, rather it can be increased without any trouble by means of the mutual cooperation of authorities and the stakeholders.
Sonia Arshad is an Executive Member of Teachers Voice for Professionalism and she has been teaching Political Science.