Access to quality education is the right of every youth of Pakistan irrespective of his financial background. It is the duty of government to protect this right for both the prosperous and poor by ensuring the same standard of education throughout country. Unfortunately, one can observe a candid disparity in education — rich receiving education in high-standard institutions; while poor have no choice and only have to learned through government institutions and other low-standard public institutions.
Education teaches not to discriminate between rich and poor, then why, our education system is itself promoting the already existing economic discrimination in the society? This discrimination-ridden system, on one hand, produces paranoid mindset and a frustrated or alienated youth on the other hand.
Sub-standard government-schools actually gave an opportunity to the private schools to mushroom their growth across the country. With a poor physical infrastructure and traditional and somewhat obsolete teaching methodology, the government schools are unable to compete with the quality education institutions of 21st century.
In rural areas, there are many schools where students even lack proper sitting arrangements. The students do not have the concept of whiteboards and markers, as they have just seen blackboards and chalks. What to mention of a decent infrastructure and adequate facilities, majority of government schools still lacks proper drinking water arrangement for students. On the other hand, private schools provide standard facilities from air-conditioned class-rooms to all modern and high-tech tools of instruction. Certainly, they charge high fees from the students for all these facilities. Parents who cannot afford to pay high fee of private institutions are left with no option other than to send their children to low-cost public institutions. This educational disparity is not only eroding the ‘talent pool’ but also promoting class-consciousness in the society.
Beyond any shadow of doubt, private sector played a key role in raising the educational standards in Pakistan. Comparatively, the private schools are far better than government schools in infrastructure and educational standards. Some private institutions have really worked hard to raise the standard of education and undoubtedly their quality of system was recognized both nationally and internationally. As for instance, the management of Roots School System and Beacon House worked hard to introduce Pakistan to the international academic community. These institutions produced legends such as Danish Shabir, a Rootsian who scored 23 As’ in O’Level examination and included his name among the world’s record holders’. Many students from these quality institutions each year seek their academic career in foreign universities. Credit goes to Khadija Mushtak, CEO of Roots School System (Flagship and IVY campuses), who provided the talented students with a platform to explore career opportunities abroad.
On the other hand, the private sector also played a major role in commoditization of education. Many private institutions have made the education a commodity on sale. The recent significant increase in fees by the private institutions proves the rapid growth of commercialized trends in private schools. The fee increase forced parents to come on road and protest against commercialization of education. Providing quality education is a noble practice but making it a business is awful. Commercialization of education has deepened sense of deprivation and frustration among the poor and lower strata of society.
A common man cannot afford to pay even the fee for a semester being charged by the quality institutions offering professional degrees. In fact, getting a professional degree is becoming not only difficult but impossible for the middle class.
There should be a check on commercialization of education, as many business tycoons have come forth to heavily invest in the education sector and what allure them are the handsome profits. A cursory look at the campus building of a high-profile institution in private sector indicates a heavy investment in the project. But is the huge investment can ensure the standard of quality education?
It is another hard fact that it is only the private institutions where the students are getting a quality education and they have no match with sub standard educational institutions in public sector. In practical scheme of the things, the students who get education from institutions in public sector prove less competent, less confident and less efficient than those who have received their education from high profile English-medium institutions in the private sector. Universities in public sector have so far produced an army of jobless graduates and post graduates, most of them are incapable to compete in practical fields. They have only one distinction of having a bachelor or master degrees in various disciplines to accomplish the formality of the required job. Practically speaking, their degrees are worthless.
It is also a fact that most of the private institutions raise their standards by charging extraordinarily high fees from the students. The access to quality education has become the privilege to only those born with silver spoon in their mouth. The poor cannot even think of the education being received by the rich and affluent. In many Muslim countries like Pakistan, the religious seminaries have become the last and only choice for the majority of children to receive education, which is affordable for their poor parents. As a matter of fact commoditization of education has pushed the majority of population into religious seminaries. The majority of seminaries adopt syllabi emphasizing religion and religious values in a move to develop religious-minded personalities. These seminaries lack the modern technology and educational facilities, high-tech computing services and institutional infrastructure for science and technology education.
Since private schools have become academic destination for children of rich and aristocratic families, the government should improve the education standards and infrastructure in public schools to ensure an educational equity and a fair play in education sector. Our system of education reveals discrimination in crudest form. It has made the quality education a dream for poor sections of society. Quality education is the right of every citizen. It is not the privilege of high class. There is a scope for collaboration between the public and private sectors in education, targeting low-income households in Pakistan. The government should take steps to ensure educational system free from discriminatory practices for all the citizens, hopefully.