School children in Pakistan spend a busy day. In the morning, they attend the school session officially, while after school hours they are busy with tuitions that have become a necessity to score well in exams. The days when I attended school about two decades ago, it was a matter of great shame if anyone was taking extra help by attending tuitions besides school. All bright students took pride in their results, as their performance was a result of their indigenous hard work and not engineered through tuition factories. What has happened in the last two decades that today it has become a fashion, as well as a necessity, to take tuition to secure first class grades in the exams? Did parents replace their efforts with tuition bills or did teachers commercialise the profession of teaching to exploit the most honourable profession of all times?

In all normal nations, children attend education during school hours with a small fraction seeking extra help in school guidance. The main reason is that teachers in schools follow a methodical objective curriculum and make sure that all the students are comfortable with the level of education. The weak students are identified by the school and extra effort is made by the teachers to bring them at par with the average level of the class. In our society, schools pay little attention to assist weak students and instead are identified by the teachers and recommended to take evening tuitions in order to improve their grades.

A majority of these school teachers indulge in giving tuitions at their residences or in evening academies and charge a hefty tuition fee for this service: Tuition fee per subject, per student, per month can be as high as Rs8,000 for two sessions of two hours each per week. Teachers are already paid by the school for the purpose of giving good education to these students, but there is no check by the school and such practices are not identified and discouraged.

Private schools are happy with the school fees they generate. It does not make any difference to the public schools, since teachers enrolled as employees will receive their monthly pays regardless of their performance. There are no quality standards and no accountability procedures in practice on regular basis. The curriculum is extremely outdated and is, more or less, the same as when my generation attended school and college; whereas, in the last two decades, the field of education has been revolutionised globally.

Education is the basic necessity of life, as it distinguishes the habitual traits of human beings and animals. Educate a monkey, a dog or a parrot and you can teach them the sophistication and obedience of humans. We are constantly being taught to be honest, speak the truth, pay taxes and so on, but we pay little heed.

Students are the future of this country, but what are we teaching them. Teachers who fail to do justice to their responsibility of giving a good education to their students in schools, but help students paying extra in evening tuitions to get good grades are one example of dishonesty. Not declaring this tuition income to evade taxes is another. How many of these evening tutors pay tax on this additional income? Has the Tax Department ever tapped this source of income to increase revenue collection? I doubt so. Thanks to the media revolution, affected parents and students today are not naive about these matters. They understand this exploitation and hold such teachers in little regard.

It is the prime responsibility of the Education Department to monitor the curriculum, standards and trends of the educational institutions, both public and private. Education inspectors should detect and countercheck with students and parents any problems, which they face and ensure that all schools, colleges and universities offer a fair opportunity and mode of education to the enrolled students. Any educational institutions, which fail to observe and implement these standards, must be unlisted and penalised.

It is unfortunate that since the inception of Pakistan, the attitude of successive governments towards education has been non-serious. There is no visible agenda or vision being pursued by our Federal and Provincial Education Ministries. Haphazard decisions and mushroom growth of substandard educational institutions and tuition academies has made it impossible to follow a specific line of action.

The tuition menace flourishes due to two reasons: An indifferent attitude of school administration and incompetence of teachers hired by schools. If the school administration is particular about the level of education being imparted to its students by employee teachers, it will ensure that a satisfactory level of instruction is carried out and students are satisfied with the teachers and the grades they achieve and do not feel the need to look elsewhere for further assistance. In case extra help is needed by any student, it must be identified and provided by the school staff on site to bring the student at par with the rest of the class. That is what a parent sends his child to school for! Paying a premium to private schools is to guarantee this service and not to transform innocent children into elite status snobs in an unhealthy school environment.

The reality, however, remains that a black economy to which the tuition mafia contributes regularly prospers unnoticed by any State agency. The Education Department sleeps over a measly annual education budget; tax collectors fail to increase revenue collection, as millions exchange hands under their nose and elected leaders fail to provide a vision and plan for the prosperity of the country. Students and parents continue to be the victims of this situation, as parents are ill-equipped and unable to keep pace with the changing mode of education to guide and monitor their children in an internet age. Thrusting of excessive amounts of information down the students’ throats by schools is barely called education.

    The writer is an ex-assistant commissioner Income Tax, IT and Change Management consultant and a Public Sector Management analyst.

    Email: drsaniachaudhry@gmail.com