`Political will required to improve education standards in the country`
KARACHI: Speakers at a consultation held on Monday invited civil society, especially parents, to play an effective role in the improvement of education standards of publicsector schools. `Right to Education (Article 25-A): Effective Policy Framework for Inclusive Development, was organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) in collaboration with Unicef.[TOP]
Dr Jaffar Ahmed, Director of Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, presided over the meeting and in his speech spoke about the many distortions in the education system and policies in Pakistan, according to a Piler press release.
`We think setting up new universities is a big step, but in a country where hundreds of primary schools are closing down, what is the purpose of opening up such a large number of higher education universities,` he asked.
There are many new universities where only 300-350 stu-dents are enrolled, where as in Karachi several government colleges have over 9,000 students at a time.
`We are increasing the number of universities just to get more money from the World Bank,` he said.
Dr Jaffar also expressed concern over the deteriorating standard of education in the country. The situation of higher educational institutions is even worse, according to him.
For him, political will is required to improve education standards in the country.
Mr Aziz Kabani, Deputy Managing Director of Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), said that due to the absence of a social protection structure in Pakistan, education has become a burden for the poor.
Neo-liberal policies and weaknesses of state institutions to provide education to its citizens are the main reasons behind the flourishing of private schools and as a result, education has become a commodity for private schools.Sindh E ducation Foundation (SEF) is presently running 2,065 schools in the province in the private sector where students are not charged any fees.
These are government schools run by the private sector.
`We want to minimise state control over schools,` said Mr Kabani.
`We are planning to open up 650 new schools, where about 100,000 new students would be enrolled in SEF schools,` he added.
Mr Kabani claimed that SEF schools are quite cost ef fective.
In a government school, the provincial government spends R s2,000 per child every month, where as in an SEF school the expense is Rs897.
Sarwat Gul Soomro from the Sindh government`s Reforms Support Unit (RSU), Department of Education, said that annual census conducted by the department show that there are 46,039 schools with 144,170 teachers and 4,044,476 children enrolled in the province.
She said the government hasformed school management committees in 31,500 government schools, which are also provided money for repairs, maintenance and other expenses. Through National Testing Service (NTS) examination, the provincial government has recruited about 15,700 teachers and about 4,700 junior teachers have been trained. School specific budgets have been released for the provision of basic facilities.
RSU has initiated a complaint handling mechanism where any citizen can send an SMS by typing `Ilmi` and sending it to 8398 about any complaint against a teacher or school building, and action will be taken to redress the problem. Every day dozens of such complaints are resolved.
Senior journalist Zubeida Mustafa, Farhat Fatima of Piler, Saleem Baloch from Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and Dr Riaz Shailch of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) were also present at the consultation.