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**Urgent Appeal for Reform in Pakistan’s Education Crisis**


Mar 22, 2024 03:42 PM IST

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This piece has been composed by Soumya Awasthi, a specialist at the Centre on Armed Groups in Geneva.

Pakistan, a country grappling with a multitude of challenges including political instability, economic volatility, and escalating terrorism, is now confronted with the critical issue of subpar education standards. President Arif Alvi has raised the alarm by officially declaring an “Education Emergency” in the nation, underscoring the imperative need for comprehensive reform. On World Education Day in January 2024, he advocated for the enrollment of approximately 26 million out-of-school children in Pakistan, shedding light on the significant shortfall of around 50,000 educational institutions exacerbated by inadequate funding.

Education. (Representative file photo)Education. (Representative file photo)

In alignment with President Alvi’s concerns, caretaker minister for federal education and professional training, Madad Ali Sindhi, highlighted the profound impacts of inadequate education. He emphasized its role as a fundamental cause of societal underdevelopment, attributing it to heightened levels of poverty, crime, violence, and terrorism.

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Pakistan’s current landscape is marred by a myriad of obstacles, encompassing poverty, insecurity, sectarianism, and terrorism, all stemming from a lack of tolerance, public awareness, and widespread illiteracy perpetuated by an ineffective education system. Unfortunately, the pivotal role of education has been long disregarded in Pakistan, evident in the meager budget allocated to the sector since its inception. This negligence has compromised educational quality, stalling the nation’s economic, political, and social advancement despite the adoption of numerous educational policies over the years.

The hurdles plaguing Pakistan’s education system are multifaceted, ranging from inadequate budget provisions and policy implementation shortcomings to a flawed examination system, insufficient physical infrastructure, and substandard teacher proficiency. Furthermore, the absence of uniformity within the education system has resulted in the coexistence of multiple educational frameworks, intensifying societal divisions along political, social, and economic lines. This fragmented structure has fueled recent upsurges in terrorism and sectarian divides, posing a significant threat to national unity.

The deficiency of contemporary education in Pakistan has facilitated the proliferation of outdated Islamic teachings within the madrassas. As traditional religious institutions gain prominence amidst political and economic turmoil, the absence of a modern curriculum in madrassas has perpetuated antiquated interpretations of Islamic teachings, nurturing an environment conducive to the propagation of conservative ideologies. The curriculum often lacks a comprehensive approach, neglecting subjects that foster critical thinking and a global perspective, thereby creating a void exploited by conservative factions advocating narrow interpretations of Islam.

Moreover, the absence of regulation and oversight in madrassas provides a breeding ground for extremist ideologies to flourish, fostering intolerance and radicalization within these institutions.

In addition to the lack of uniformity, Pakistan’s education system suffers from aimlessness and inadequacy, impeding the nation’s progress on political and social fronts. Prioritizing general education over skill development results in a shortage of a skilled workforce, exacerbating unemployment. Furthermore, the system’s disregard for science and technology stifles critical thinking and creativity among students.

The archaic curriculum exacerbates these challenges, relying on memorization rather than holistic individual growth. Neglecting psychological, philosophical, and sociological foundations hinders practical work, research, and scientific knowledge. Additionally, inadequate teacher training and ineffective school management contribute to alarming dropout rates, further compounded by external political interference and bureaucratic manipulations.

Despite the formulation of numerous educational policies over time, the lack of political will to implement them effectively has resulted in corruption, inadequate funds, and inconsistent planning. Addressing these multifaceted challenges is crucial for meaningful reform in Pakistan’s education system, necessitating a comprehensive approach involving curriculum restructuring, enhanced teacher training, resource allocation, and transparent policy execution. Through concerted efforts, Pakistan can pave the way towards a robust and efficient education system, imperative for its socio-economic development and national cohesion.

To delve deeper into the issue, it is imperative to explore the ramifications of inadequate education beyond academics. The dearth of modern education impedes intellectual development and perpetuates social and economic inequalities. A striking consequence is the proliferation of madrassas, particularly in underserved and marginalized communities. These institutions, often the sole source of education for many children, prioritize religious studies over contemporary subjects like science, mathematics, and social sciences. Consequently, graduates from madrassas lack the skills necessary to navigate the complexities of modern society, hindering their employability and civic engagement.

Furthermore, the absence of exposure to diverse viewpoints and critical thinking in madrassas contributes to a narrow worldview among students, fostering intolerance and reinforcing conservative ideologies. This insular education system not only obstructs social integration but also perpetuates societal rifts, fueling sectarian tensions and extremism.

A poignant illustration of the consequences of inadequate education is the prevalence of blasphemy-related offenses in Pakistan. Incidents of blasphemy, often arising from misunderstandings or false allegations, have led to severe human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and mob violence. The lack of critical thinking abilities and rational discourse among perpetrators of such crimes underscores the urgent necessity for education reform in Pakistan. A modern education system emphasizing critical thinking, empathy, and respect for diverse perspectives is essential for nurturing a more inclusive and tolerant society.

Given these challenges, it is evident that addressing the education emergency in Pakistan demands a holistic approach extending beyond mere policy adjustments. Investment in infrastructure, teacher training, and curriculum enhancement is vital, alongside addressing socio-economic barriers to education such as poverty and gender disparities. Only through concerted efforts to enhance access to quality education for all can Pakistan aspire to surmount its challenges and realize its full potential as a dynamic and prosperous nation.

Navigating the intricate terrain of Pakistan’s education system reveals that the challenges are diverse and deeply ingrained. The impediments to quality education are manifold, from inadequate funding and obsolete curricula to social disparities and extremism. Nonetheless, within these challenges lies an opportunity for transformation and advancement. By prioritizing investments in infrastructure, curriculum development, and teacher training, Pakistan can establish the groundwork for a more inclusive and equitable education system. Furthermore, addressing socio-economic hurdles to education, such as poverty and gender inequality, is essential to ensure universal access to quality education. As Pakistan confronts the formidable task of educational reform, it must seize this moment to unlock the full potential of its youth and pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous future.

This article is authored by Soumya Awasthi, expert, Centre on Armed Groups, Geneva.

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/// Pakistan’s education crisis: Call for urgent reform