Quality reforms to empower public education


Aisha Sarwari |

Out of those Pakistanis who complete five years of primary school, only half are literate. Moreover, in rural areas just over two-fifths of grade 3 students, aged 8 or 9, understand arithmetic to subtract 25 from 54. It goes without saying that reforms in teaching and learning should be the foremost priority. It is important to understand the gravity of the situation in the education sector if development and prosperity is a national priority.

The dismal performance of beyond primary readiness scores in districts all over the country is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Our schools are failing at helping students transform into productive citizens. They are unable to help them achieve the bare minimum standards.  Most students that come out of the public education sector lack basic comprehension skills. They find it difficult to read, have no command over basic mathematical operations and analytical development seems too farfetched a goal.

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Education has the most important role to play in safeguarding our children’s future. We take our kids as little as three-year-olds and send them off to schools. We do this because we want them to be prepared for a long life ahead of them. Empowering children through education means that we should give them the right tools to survive in a world full of challenges. All children must be allowed a fair chance to learn and build their skill sets that are essential for being productive citizens all their lives.

Education reforms featuring these attributes are ambitious but doable.  By reforms, I do not mean just introducing elements of child rights and safety in the curriculum. It goes much further than that. Preparing for real-world issues requires that we introduce our children to project-based learning, build their capacities on social and emotional tools, and integrate technology into their daily learning activities so that their education is aligned with the needs of the day. Reforms in the assessment are direly needed to measure the full range of a student’s ability. Social and emotional development is equally important as academic achievement.

Alternate teaching methods like project-based learning are highly effective in developing and retaining useful knowledge of subjects.

Efforts done by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary education (E&SED) in reforming the education system in the province are extensive. The systematic approach to changing the education scenario is notable. Measures introduced in the education sector plan have played a vital part in improving the overall education scenario in the province.

Four major initiatives undertaken by E&SED are continuous updates in the curriculum, changes in teacher induction and training, mainstreaming maktab (religious) schools and independent monitoring of teachers performance and behavior. These initiatives promise education reforms in the true sense.

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Textbooks are being revised to include diverse learning material. Socially and technologically relevant content is being made a part of the official curriculum allowing students to learn things in an interdisciplinary fashion that reflects knowledge about modern society. Through illustrations, practical applications of grade level content are infused within the textbooks making school learning more life skills oriented.

Teachers are now inducted into a testing system allowing merit to prevail in the process. Furthermore, their induction process is not complete unless they go through at least 6 months of training mandated by the department. Teachers are now being equipped with essential pedagogical skills to end an everlasting culture of corporal punishment.

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They are prepared to deliver student-centered project-based learning so that children can learn core subject matter and basic skills by taking part in meaningful activities that examine real-world issues. Alternate teaching methods like project-based learning are highly effective in developing and retaining useful knowledge of subjects. If taught in isolation, developing competencies in these knowledge areas can be extremely troublesome and can be detrimental to student motivation.

Realizing that human factor will always be at the core of student development through education. Teachers, administrators and parents have critical roles to play in the transformation process of the children. Aligning them all through Parent Teacher Council allows them to effectively participate in nurturing children’s interests and contribute to the development of infrastructure.

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The decision to mainstream maktab schools calls an end to the days of a parallel and alienated education system that created misfits for the society. Registered with a central authority these maktab schools are now under the ambit of E&SED. The curriculum and actions by teachers in these schools are monitored just like other public schools in the province. Collection and analysis of data through independent monitoring has been the hallmark of these reforms. Indicators to measure behavior and performance of teachers now safeguards children from the use of force in schools.

Education is the first and foremost safeguard of Pakistan’s youth – a massive dividend. To ensure that we do not fail any child inducted into the public school system we all have to take a stand for education reforms.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of GVS.


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