By Asfiya Ahmed
From times immemorial, man has been inquisitive and curious. This curiosity has led man to seek answers and in doing so the world has become a better place to live. What drives this innate quench for knowledge is god’s gift of education.
Like many social norms, education is directly affected by the way we live. It is unswervingly a by-product of our social issues and is a fundamental problem for our future. Our society is deeply divided on social and financial status and presents very little opportunities of growth to the subjected class; in our case the middle and lower-middle classes of society. The growth of a person in this society is hampered by the unequal distribution of wealth, which is the principal aspect for the limited availability of growth prospects.
In this study, the focus shall be on the different and unequal standards of private and public sector institutions in Pakistan. The imbalanced quality of education in both systems and the resulting social stature of the students results in a very biased society. As these children have two very different sets of opportunities, the resulting social divide grows with each generation.
Pakistan does not have a stable education system. As with all social amenities and services, this area is also very weak and underdeveloped in Pakistan. According the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the state to provide education to every Pakistani citizen. But with a history of misplaced priorities, the education sector has always been neglected.
Public schools are run by the government. The system is based on both Urdu and English as a medium of instruction for students. The buildings, playgrounds, facilities, books and other amenities are the responsibility of the government. The fees is minimal for pupils, and education is free for the poor.
Private schools are established, run and managed by civilian owners. These schools have emerged a premier business in the last few decades. In the past, there were very few private institutions and the standard was always better than public schools. But with the passage of time and widening social chasm, these schools have emerged as a major social structure.
In this study, the schools would be evaluated on the following parameters:
While the infrastructure exists well for public schools, neglect and disdain by the concerned authorities have left them to be destroyed. Every public school has a dedicated building, classrooms, libraries and labs. But they have been in a state of despair for ages. Obsolete lab equipment and ruined sports equipment is everywhere. Playgrounds are void of grass and fields are unkempt.
On the other hand, private schools have well equipped labs, well-stocked libraries and quality sports facilities. The high number of staff and well-paid instructors means that all facilities receive proper attention. Since the beginning of this business boom, many schools have sprung up in residential areas and buildings. This usually means that the purpose-built quality of public schools cannot be matched, but this is catered for in rented and outsourced sports and outdoor activities.
Although public schools field their students in many co-curricular activities, the level of these activities and the quality is better in private schools. They provide ample opportunities to the budding children to polish their skills and present themselves in various activities. This a vital factor, as it not only boosts the required confidence in a child, but also drives them to be more active in their life with purpose and aim.
The financial aspect of the educational divide is a key factor. It is the driving force behind the inequality in Pakistan’s education system. While the fees in public schools are negligible, private schools have huge fees. The high fees and associated charges make these institutions out of reach of the common man. This attribute also makes them elite and a social symbol.
As a crude example, the tuition and allied charges of a public school are less than Rs 400. Even at this low rate, this education is out of reach of many Pakistanis.
On the other hand, the private institutions charge about five to six times that amount, with additional charges for various amenities. This is further made complex by the payment for months in summer and winter vacations.
Due to the lack of educational reforms and the lose grip of law on influential Pakistanis, this factor has always been a sore point. In their defense, private school owners say that the expenses are high in line with the quality of services provided. But in the opinion of many Pakistanis, they are making huge profits in the name of serving education.
In public schools, the enrollment rate is usually very high. This creates a problem for schools in terms of available space and the already dreadful status of resources further aggravates the situation. The teachers argue that this restricts their ability to focus on an individual student and properly mentor. In many cases, up to 150 students have been enrolled in a single class. Without proper furniture and other facilities, these students are cramped up in small, confined spaces. This leaves very little room for learning and does not create a favorable and conducive environment for a cognitive approach.
Private schools, on the other hand, have a restriction on admissions and acceptance of students. With strict tests and stringent regulations, these schools prevent overcrowding classes. This gives teachers and students a better environment to teach and learn. The resulting curve is adaptable to all kinds of students and all levels of skill.
This area is of particular importance when it comes to the quality of education being imparted. Qualified and professional teachers have proven to be the source of quality education for ages.
Public school teachers are employed by the government of Pakistan and enjoy the same perks and privileges as any government servant. This in theory is a very important aspect, as it empowers and facilitates a teacher. But unfortunately, this not true in reality. In the past years, with the demise of public education, the qualifications have also dwindled. All qualified professionals now seek higher salaries in public schools or other avenues with better financial prospects.
Private schools have a reputation to keep and they do so by being very choosy on teachers and instructors. Reputed teachers are valued. This gives the schools edge in terms of results, educational quality and instructional cognition. Private schools have more qualified and professional teachers, who are paid handsomely to continue providing the same level of services.
Standard of Books:
This aspect remains pretty fair in both systems. Perhaps it is one of the only similarity between these two opposite poles of our educational spectrum. In this discussion, if we do not compare the Cambridge exams, both systems have almost the same books.
For matriculation, both schools usually use the same textbooks. There may be a difference in instructional technique, but the books are the same.
However, it’s a totally different scenario in the case of the Cambridge exam system. This system uses foreign books. These books are not only more comprehensive; they include a student in the learning process. They involve the student in the subject by making learning fun and interesting. The prices of these books are accordingly very high.
Summing it up, Pakistan’s biggest dilemma is its divided educational system. The stark contrast between public and private schools; English and Urdu medium system is a reflection of the ever-expanding chasm between the haves and have-nots. Our decaying educational structure is affecting our social structure and this is the biggest challenge for years to come. Our future generations would not be able to reap benefits of our modestly rich educational heritage if going to school continues to be a social problem. Education should be free of social pressures, ethos and classes. It is a basic human right and should be treated as such. If we don’t start thinking today, our generations to come would be animals with degrees!
The contributor is enrolled in the MBA programme at IoBM, Karachi.