Reforming the Pakistani education system

News Analysis

The Minister for Federal Education and Professional training, Shafqat Mahmood has stated that he plans to introduce a national curriculum in Pakistan that could be used for national certification that students could use to apply to universities.  

The Daily Times reported that the education minister, in his comments to the National Assembly Standing Committee on education, said “as current education system has many other flaws, those which direly need to be mended, due to which the said plan would be practiced on the next level, but it will be done ultimately.”

The education minister added that there were three different kinds of education that prevailed in the country. Saying, “education in our public sector institutions, in elite private schools and in the madrassas, all three are totally different from one another.”

Minister Mahmood tweeted saying that the Daily Times had wrongly reported the plan to abolish O and A-level education.

Is this the right move?

Pakistan’s education system has always been heavily flawed with the disparity between the different styles of education that prevail all over the country and the lack of overall quality in the system. Referring to the point raised by both minister Mahmood and the Daily Times, O and A-level education is outdated for Pakistan. Only a few countries around the world, namely Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Singapore (excluding the UK), still abide by this flawed system of education which if anything encourages rote learning instead of practical knowledge about the subject.

The only plus side we can still see about the implementation of this British system of education is that it is widely accepted and referred to in the international education system, other than this, it is irrelevant. India came to the realization that a foreign-based education system could not be implemented in its own country and so it relied on its own education system and completely disregarded the outdated O/A level education style.

The International Baccalaureate, or IB system, has gained substantial traction in Pakistan and though it is not Pakistan’s own education system, it encourages research, applied learning, use of practical knowledge and most importantly discourages rote learning and cramming; the two worst ways to approach education.

But let’s step aside from the bubble that is the O and A level education and look at the education in Pakistan on a wider scale. There is a general misconception that Pakistan is in a dire need for schools and institutions, what Pakistan actually needs is ‘quality’ of education. There are over 150,000 schools in Pakistan and amongst them, there are only a few that provide good quality education.

Here, the problem that have we have identified is that there is a systematic and institutional issue with the education system of Pakistan because it lacks the necessary elements to encourage child development and growth, and yes, the way to break away from this systemic flaw would be to create a quality-prioritized learning system that can be implemented across the country, from elite schools all the way down to the madrassas.

What will a united curriculum encourage? It will ensure that the disparity between the educational practices is reduced, that children in both public and private schools will be able to learn much of the same things, and optimistically reduce the class distinction bias of learning that exists in the country.

It is good to hear that a discussion on the reformation of the education system has begun but its implementation cannot come without its own issues. First and foremost, identifying the relevant education system to replace the old system must take its time and until then the reliance on these foreign education systems has to be dealt with. Secondly, Pakistan has its own education system in place, the Matriculation and FSc system but again it lacks the proper qualitative measures which are required for the system to be unifiable in its implementation across the country and considered by the international education community. 

To set up a brand new education system which will be able to encapsulate the priorities of learning is nothing short of difficult and will take at least 10-15 years to implement properly. However, it is a task that is not impossible. Countries like the US and the UK, whose education system we adopt without giving a second thought have taken decades in the reformation of their education systems.

The reformation has to begin at the smallest level, i.e. the primary learning stage. Measuring the success under this level could only result in the implementation of the same system in the secondary and higher education landscape. Also the problem cannot be attributed to the lack of education quality in one system. Focus from politicians and proper implementation of policy initiatives will cause a trickle-down effect which will strengthen the structure of the proposed educational agenda.

In the end, what the minister of education wants to do is add value to the education system by, (1) abolishing the foreign-based education systems, (2) reducing Pakistani dependency on these foreign education systems and (3) introduce a new structure of education that will solely be responsible for the bettering the education system in Pakistan.

The value of education can be improved through a number of ways, some ways of doing so are:

  • Providing a unified curriculum.
  • Reduce dependency on outdated examination and curriculum approaches.
  • Establish and allocate funds towards the development of a new education system.
  • Provide teacher training across the board.

In conclusion, we should actively pursue this initiative and support the creation of our own education system. The mere fact that the education minister has come out and said this is a great start and will place things in motion. Only time will tell whether or not the efforts have proven to be beneficial.

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