Islamabad - Dr Shahid Siddiqui’s books, research articles, newspaper columns, and services as a prolific academic and a dedicated professional, demonstrate his keen interest in the field of education in general and educational sector in Pakistan in particular.

His publications included ‘Rethinking Education in Pakistan: Perceptions, Practices, and Possibilities (2007)’, ‘Education, Inequalities, and Freedom: A Sociopolitical Critique’ (2010), ‘Language, Gender and Power: The Politics of Representation and Hegemony in South Asia (2014)’, ‘Education Policies in Pakistan: Policies, Projections, and Practices (2016)’ and an Urdu novel ‘Adhe Adhoore Khawab’ (2010).

Siddiqui’s works, including his novel, are predominantly centred on the subject of education, and are a testament to not only his insightful analysis of the academic paradigms in Pakistan, but also his profound concern for the improvement of the educational situation in the country, and his firm faith in the transformative potential of education for constructive and lasting social change.

Dr Shahid Siddiqui’s most recent publication ‘Education Policies in Pakistan: Policies, Projections, and Practices’ published by Oxford University Press, is a meticulously researched work on the educational policies presented by different governments of Pakistan, from 1947 till 2009, outlining diverse aspects of these policies along with an in-depth analysis and critique of these aspects and the flaws and failings in their implementation.

The book provides an exhaustive study of the subject, as it not only appraises the socio-political context and the vision and ideology of educational policies, but also comprehensively scrutinizes varied themes and topics of the policy documents such as literacy, universal primary education, higher education, female education, language issues, technical and vocational education, special education, religious education and madrasahs, curriculum and textbooks, and teacher and teacher education.

Henceforth, it serves as a remarkably significant contribution in the field of research on educational policies of Pakistan and a valuable resource and reference book for the researchers, research scholars, educationists, educational critics, academics, educational policy makers and curriculum planners in Pakistan.

Dr Siddiqui’s book is divided into 14 sections and each section is focused on one of the afore-mentioned topics, beginning with an introductory chapter on the process of educational policies and a concluding chapter about the challenges in their implementation delineating various doable and realistic recommendations. The first two sections of the book focus on the rationale and process involved in the policy-making along with systematically charted information regarding the socio-political context of these educational policies, since the inception of Pakistan in 1947 to the most recent policy document propounded by the government of Pakistan Peoples’ Party in 2009. Siddiqui frequently theorizes his work and refers to many renowned theorists in the book. For instance, in the third section of the book, he refers to one of the most influential educationists of this century, Michael Apple who describes the political and ideological configurations of the educational enterprise.

Siddiqui records that “It is important to recognize the relationship of ideology and education and the vital role ideology plays in the conceptualization and execution of education.”

The detailed analysis provided in this section testifies the fact that dominant ideologies prevalent during different regimes shaped the educational policies of those eras, be it Zia’s motto of Islamisation or the enlightened moderation mantra advocated by Gen. Musharraf. The next three sections critically evaluate the Pakistani policy documents from the perspectives of literacy, universal primary education and higher education.

The analysis illustrated the fact that the educational policies laid significant emphasis on the aspect of literacy but failed to achieve the targets “as they were unrealistic, non-participatory, inconsistent, culturally alienated and lacked sustained political and financial support”. Similar conclusions are drawn as far as the primary and higher education initiatives are concerned since majority of the objectives largely remain unachieved.

One chapter exclusively focuses on “Female Education” and gives an extensive analysis of the multi-faceted challenges resulting in the continuing gender gap in the educational sector of Pakistan. Siddiqui documents economic, social, cultural and religious factors that hinder female education and demands for women “access, quality and visibility in the workforce, with respect to initiatives proposed by the educational policies”. The pressing issue of “the state language of the country” finds sufficient space in the book along with a critical evaluation of the various mediums of instructions in the schools and the role of local and indigenous languages in this regard showing a wide disparity between the claims and the practices.

In the final section, Dr Siddiqui painstakingly lists the challenges in the implementation of educational policies in Pakistan such as the problems with the political will, lack of ownership, hazards of imported packages and reforms, dearth of financial, physical and human resources, unrealistic targets, lack of consistency, and the need for monitoring and accountability along with various valuable recommendations to overcome these anomalies in order to have more sustainable outcomes and achievable targets.

Dr Siddiqui deserves appreciation for conducting such a comprehensive survey of Pakistan’s education policies which had largely been an un-researched subject, and for giving valuable insights and practical recommendations to reform the educational paradigms in Pakistan, which could certainly pave way to realize the ‘dream of quality education for all’ to which this very book is dedicated.

–The reviewer is currently teaching in the Department of English, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan.