Nadeem Bashir - As a developing country, Pakistan is slowly transforming from an agricultural to an industrial and service-based economy. The country exhausts a large portion of its budget on national security and interest payments on national loans, and consequently has very little left to invest on economic growth to provide basic needs i.e. health, education or any other social service.

According to the ‘Education for all 2015 National Review Report’, educational indicators of Pakistan are still dismally low, although steady progress has been noticed during the last few decades.

At present, about one third of primary school aged children are out of school, 42 percent of the population (age 10+) are illiterate. Wide discrepancies persist in education indicators pertaining to provinces/areas, location (urban vs. rural) and gender.

At the national level, about two third of women of age 15+ cannot read and write, and 35 percent of girls remain out of school. The Gender Parity Index in case of receiving the primary education is 0.82. It is estimated that over 6.7 million children are out of school, and the majority of them (62 percent) are girls.

Those who manage to enroll themselves in school dropout before finishing school, even if tuition is free. There are hidden costs like lunch expenses, textbooks, uniforms, transport and difficulty in getting to school etc. Since the quality of education is poor, many enthusiastic parents bear additional tutoring costs to enable their children to pass the examinations. Free education incentives from the state may be attractive but for the poor, it is difficult as children are also earning and contributing to the daily income of the family. Moreover, when education cannot produce adequate learning or basic literacy, parents are not interested in sending their children to school.

A typical school curriculum usually follows the traditional western model of education and may provide intellectual stimulation, but ironically has very little relevance to the social cultural understanding. If they continue their studies, learners face huge disappointment in rural and less developed regions of urban areas due to the non-availability of well-paid job opportunities. Due to their poor financial condition, they most likely end up working on low wages or compromise by doing odd jobs on a daily basis.

On the other side, only B.Ed. (Bachelor Degree in Education) level is enough to qualify for a majority of faculty positions in schools and colleges. Most females waiting to get married prefer to become school teachers and a large number of conservative husbands willingly accept teaching jobs for their wives as well. Many housewives also prefer opting for teaching positions when their children are grown up as they have spare time to generate extra income. Teachers at school and college level also adopt the practiceof giving after-school tuitions rather than justifying their fulltime position as academics.

Parents from the middle class seriously invest in education in the hope that their children will be in a position to support them financially in the later years of their lives. They keep them enrolled in short academic courses even if they have graduated with a degree or are waiting for a job opportunity. Young enthusiasts spend the most productive years of their lives mindlessly, chasing a dream. As a result, lots of private academies (private academic centres) offer all sorts of directionless basic level courses in every corner of the town. These academies also hire unemployed individuals on a low salary and charge high fees from the students. Most of these academies show unauthentic affiliations to well-known universities and parents waste a huge amount of their hard earned money on this.

The core purpose of education is to mobilise both personal and social management skills which are necessary for adequate functioning and for learners to steer their life with a positive attitude towards a promising future. What students need are life skills that enable them to improve their entrepreneurial skills, financial management and administrative capabilities. Specifically, they require psychosocial skills that empower individuals to survive, adjust and prosper in a competitive world.

To achieve this, three main areas need urgent consideration in the teaching methodology: Learning Skills aiming at Critical and Creative Thinking, Collaborating and Communicating; Literacy Skills focusing on Information, Media and Technology Literacy; Life Skills incorporating Initiative, Flexibility, Efficiency and Social and Cultural awareness.

The current model of education provides neither any financial literacy to manage small resources, nor the knowledge to create any opportunity to earn. A major shift is requiredfrom traditional learning outcomes to a more thoughtful active learning pedagogy for optimistic and positive impact with the main focus on self-efficacy of learners.

Conceptual knowledge through constructive approach should be incorporated in the methodology to hone critical thinking and enable leaners to identify problems, seek information and resources and devise strategies for solving those problems.

The accountability of teachers is a huge task. An assessment of their knowledge, training and relevant professional experience along with the practical implementation of a well thought out pedagogy will indicate if learners succeed and thrive in schools and head towards a college education or if they dropout from schools.

Offering education without any pedagogical infrastructure is hopeless. State education agencies and organisations that are responsible for providing education must move beyond traditional pedagogical approaches to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are relevant to the young minds, their socio-cultural values and more importantly to their own lives. This is one of greatest responsibilities of the state and a basic right of every citizen.