Based on demographic profiling, Pakistan has a population of 196 million people with a median age of 21 years for both male and female. Based on literacy which is defined as those who have attained the age of 15 and can read and write is estimated at 58 percent with male literacy at 70 percent and female literacy rate being 46 percent. Pakistan comprises of a young population which brings an additional challenge for the country to provide avenues where this talent is trained and educated within the required skill set enough for them to earn a livelihood. The biggest challenge faced by Pakistan in terms of providing these skills and catering to the employment demand.
With each passing generation estimated at every 22 years, the literacy rate in Pakistan has grown by 10 percent. English is fast spreading in Pakistan, with 18 million Pakistanis estimated to have command over the English language, which makes Pakistan the 9th largest English speaking nation in the world. Despite these statistics, Pakistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. One of the reasons for high literacy is the lack of focus by government towards providing quality education and vocational training for improving such skills. Pakistan only spends 2.1 percent of its GDP on education whereas neighboring countries e.g. India spends 4.1 percent with a literacy rate of 74 percent and Sri Lanka spends 5.5 percent of its budget on GDP with a literacy rate of 96 percent. It is evident that more the government spends on quality education and training, the higher the literacy stands and will leads to economic development. Pakistan needs to allocate minimum 4 percent of GDP towards education.
The lack of focus on education by current and previous governments has resulted in widespread unemployment, brain drain and increase in the level of crime year on year. Since employment opportunities are further squeezed due to downturn in the economy and recessionary gap, younger generation seeks employment opportunities elsewhere by moving abroad. The time when Muslims were in civil war, kings and rulers were enjoying frivolous lifestyle, universities were being setup in USA and UK and Phd was offered since early 1800’s.
Making IT a priority
Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has time and again highlighted that success of Pakistan and solution to all problems resides in education. Successful economies have high focus on education. Taking US as an example, minorities go to private schools since government schools and colleges offer a standard at par with any other private school or college. Education can resolve law and order situation, promote honesty, truthfulness, which leads to economic development as seen in more advance economies. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government has made education their priority for the welfare of the state. Investment has been done to revamp worn out schools and colleges. To promote transparency, MIS related to expenditures, development, plans are updated online and available for download. One of the development plan include the Tameer-e-School initiative where the KPK government is rebuilding schools across the state. Teachers regularly come to school. Action has been taken against 605 errant/absent teachers while 62 were fired. A survey lead by the reputed newspaper of Pakistan has shown that education in KPK has shown improvement of 70 percent more than other provinces.
Another example of focus on education is the Teacher Education Strategy for 2013-2018, once again made available online. There are 10 reforms by the KPK government to improve on education. To improve educational standing of teachers, it would be mandatory to have a two year degree in education or Bachelors in education. These programs are being introduced in various universities. This would improve teaching practices. To further upgrade teaching methodology, primary teaching certificate, certificate in teaching and diploma in education will assist in improvement of skill set. Teaching facilities are being upgraded taking Western schools as a model to secure that teachers can use their knowledge and skills to its maximum potential. Schools are being equipped with computer lab, science laboratories and teaching aids. The government is also working on a projection based on student population and teaching demand to make plans and bridge the gap. The government will create and allow new recruitments in teaching only on the basis of this demand and supply projections, something which has never been done by any of the provinces. The government will prefer those who have acquired education in teaching for all teaching roles. Teachers are being provided in house trainings with advance plan to include peer-to-peer learning’s, outsourced trainings and opportunity to get trained abroad either physically or through online portal. There are plans to exchange programs and facilitate in finding scholarships for teachers for advance learning’s.
Forming of quality assurance unit
The government will establish Quality Assurance Unit which would ensure coordination between schools, colleges and universities to monitor teaching methodology and standards. This unit will also ensure that research based teaching is promoted. A teacher education management information system will be set-up where teachers will be able to review data, teaching instructions and provide various different teaching suggestions, online trainings and inform teachers of new developments. The KPK government will have a performance based evaluation process to promote and provide increments to teachers. There will be a defined cadre, which will be based on performance, education, adherence to rules, policies etc. The KPK government has also allocated funds based on immediate need or for an expense, which was not previously identified and requires expenditure. The contingency plan will ensure that initiatives are not put on hold due to budgetary constraints. The KPK government is aiming to have uniform education standards from curriculum to facilities. The government is also working on a teaching licensing and certification.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s vision for teacher education states “achieving excellence in elementary and secondary teacher education by producing sound and value-oriented teachers for quality education in the province.”
Through these steps, it is expected that KPK will set an example for education in Pakistan and the welfare of the province will likely follow. If the government is successful, there is no question that KPK government will receive another term in office.