Famous for the mountains, greenery, springs and wilderness nature, Gilgit-Baltistan & Chitral (GBC) share boundless ties and togetherness. This includes their simplicity, hospitality and unconditional patriotism for Pakistan. In addition to cultural social, linguistic and historical similarities, educational resemblances are worth mentioning. This menu presents our understanding, hopes and aspirations of education in GBC. Proceeding before to the education scenario, we give a quick geographical and cultural flavor of both the regions.
GBC are the northernmost part of Pakistan, where, GB connects with Azad Kashmir to the south, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the north, Xinjang region of China to the east and north east, and Jamu & Kashmir to the southeast. GB is highly mountainous covering an area of over 72,971 km² with 2 million population and Gilgit is its capital (UNDP, 2017). Similarly, Chitral being largest province in KPK spreads over an area of 14,850 km². Chitral neighbors GB in the east, Kunar, Badaghshan and Nuristan in north and west, and Dir Swat in the south (Pakistan Bureau of statistic, 2017). Chitral shares much of its history and culture with district Ghizar of GB because in the past both regions have been ruled over by independent monarchical state Raja. Later on Chitral earned the status of semi- autonomous princely state within the Indian Empire through negotiation with the Raja. Chitral retained this status even after its accession to Pakistan in 1947, only being made an administrative district of Pakistan in 1969. Geographical connections accelerate mobility thus cultural ties became possible in GBC (Marsden, 2009).
Shandur pass not only removed boundaries but also served to foster the unique cultural, social and religious bounding including Khowar language, dress, music, wedding, food etc of GBC. The education systems discussed below is portrayal of how GBC is educationally connected, what similarities and difference one can observe and what are the alternatives to raise the quality in their education system which ultimately further strengthened their strong cultural bondages and improve their quality of life?
A cursory outlook shows much similar education system in GBC. For instance, According to KP Education Index (2016) Chitral ranks high literacy (77.42%) in KPK. Various education service providers have their existence in GBC such as public sector, private education services, local community service, Army Schools and madaris education. Heavy mandate of education in GBC rests with the government education service owning 608 primary, 83 Middle, 75 High and 9 Higher Secondary Schools. Moreover, 1386 primary, 603 Middle, 1116 high and197 higher secondary School teachers serve in public sector in chitral (District Education Report KPK, 2017-18; Department of elementary education KPK, 2017-18) while GB government takes leading position in providing education with 2220 primary, 2203 middle and 136 high/higher secondary schools. There are 6970 teachers (212 higher secondary, 335 High, 2220 Middle and 2220 primary) 4515 male and 2415 female teachers serve in public sector. Qualification wise there are 471 Matric, 1307 FA/FSc, 3435 BA/BSc, 1660 MA/MSc, 13MPhil in public sector (Alif Alan, 2016).
Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan also has a mandate in both the regions with 45 schools (22 primary, 11 middle, 10 high and 2 higher secondary) with approximately 8000 students and 350 teachers in chitral while GB having 27 primary, 29 middle, high and 4 higher secondary schools. Beside its regular schools AKESP also run a number community schools in GBC (AKESP, E-Newsletter, 2016). Other than these two systems, a number of private and Madaris schools also operate in GBC. For instance, USWA Foundation with14 schools and 1700+ students across GB and Army Public schools also contribute to education at large. Hasigawa, Ilysian Al-Mustafa public school, Central Asia Institute to name a few also provide education in GB.
These educational systems have their own programmes unique from each others. Some follow Punjab textbook and some oxford. Government schools are considered outposts of access while the private institutions claim quality. A closure look on examination results and other indicators in term of quality, infrastructure, syllabus and other co-curricular activities, the AKES, P and Army system becomes unique in both the region. The enrollment ratios in these schools are higher than any school in GBC. To further capitalize this scene how do they co-operate with each other is unclear.
GB government has launched providing free books to the students and biometrics for the teachers, however, the quality of the books are questionable. Similarly, the KPK government has improved infrastructure, career path for teachers, effective monitoring and biometrics in some schools. To ensure quality and efficiency KPK government has introduced district monitoring office which ensures that the targets made are achieved and teachers are punctual. Other positives about government are that in recent past teachers in both the regions have been inducted through NTS. Despite many good initiatives, there are serious issues of accountability, evaluation, professional development and infrastructure in GBC. Similarly, most of the private schools are not economical for low income population and does not fulfill (except few) the high expectations of high income population. Thus remain in the middle. In such situations Madaris become the only option left for parents to educate their children for free; however, these schools are seen suspicion by the elites. What we get out of this education system is the class system in the society which leads to many issues. Good or bad education is not the issue of the day but how effectively, the system can work together for a better society is a central question.
What we conclude is that organizations public or other operate on certain principles in democratic society. These principles are performance, accountability, ownership and working ethics. Schools, who wish to achieve their goals and aspirations, are required to follow these simple rules. Now point to ponder is that education providers in GBC need to seriously engage in to assessing their capacities of delivery and see where do they stand and what they need to do to be growing schools bringing changes in the lives of the students and communities.