LAHORE - A discourse on the state of education in Pakistan was hosted by FC College on Thursday in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which announced the launch of its quarterly publication Development Advocate Pakistan.

The discourse titled, “Making Education work: The Governance Conundrum” featured Alif Ailaan Campaign Director Mosharraf Zaidi, LUMS Associate Professor Dr Faisal Bari and Lahore School of Economics Professor Dr Fareeha Zafar. The discussion brought up discrepancies between government and private schools as well as pointed out causes of decline of education.

“One of the primary issues is that teachers who are pivotal to education are no longer interested in teaching, as a result of which there has been a phenomenal growth of private Tuition centres,” regretted Mosharraf Zaidi.

Agreeing to the fact that this was at times because of low salary paid to the teachers, he pointed out why the teachers have been able to do so is because there is what he regretted absolutely no mechanism of checks within schools.

“They don’t have to answer to anyone regarding their timings because there is no such system. And that holds true of not just majority of government schools but most of the workplaces as well,” he said.

“Because of that the teachers are totally free to set up tuition centres where in return for a considerable fee, they try to make up for their lack of interest at school,” he stated.

On the question of private schools and heavy fee charges, he alluded to the principle of Darwinism, saying that since anyone with money would like to give best education to their children, they would naturally send them to the school that is best despite the cost. This has been exacerbated by abysmally poor standards at the government schools, which he added were victims of political patronisation.

“There are at present 700,000 public school teachers, who cannot be fired from jobs because they will take to the roads,” he said, adding, “You need to absorb them and mould them while making a concerted effort to minimise the effects of political patronage.”

Dr Faisal Bari said that primarily the problem stemmed from lack of respect given to the teachers’ community as professionals from the society and the government.

“Teachers do not get acceptance either from the state or society. There is no career path for them and hence it is but natural for them to feel apathetic and lose interest in teaching,” he said.

He said that although there had been talks of bringing in biometric system, thumb verification and cell phones to build up teacher participation and attendance, the need was to carry out reforms which could make the teachers impart education with absolute interest.

He asked why were the teachers not promoted to grade 22 for instance pointing this out as another factor in leaving a negative impact.

“We are not applying wage rules. Private schools are paying more salary to the teachers compared to the government-run schools,” he said, adding that when we talked of equilibrium, this factor had to be addressed.

Dr Freeha Zafar said that the role of donors was also crucial when it came to garnering resources.

She said that funding agencies and NGOs had been interacting with a lot of academicians. “They have been playing a role in bringing about reforms in the system”, although she dispelled fears that they had been trying to impose their own agenda.

On the issue of girls’ education, she said that the culture was also a hurdle towards allowing a girl to get education. “It is a cultural issue in Sindh, Balochistan and Fata where tribal leaders, elders and even senior government officials openly say they don’t need girls’ education,” she said.

According to the UNDP leaflet, “Making Education Work: The Governance Conundrum”, Pakistan ranks 177th globally so far as public sector spending on education is concerned. “Budgetry allocation for education was 1.9 per cent of GDP in 2013 while most of this was allocated to staff salaries. Gender gap exists at all levels across all provinces. 20,000,000 children are still out of school.

While Article 25-A of the 18th Amendment to the constitution calls for free and compulsory education, 34 per cent of parents of primary school children pay for education,” the UNDP leaflet says.