Revamping Education: Reflecting on Policies, Championing Action

On April 19, 2010, the Constitution Act, commonly known as the Eighteenth Amendment, was authorized by President Asif Ali Zardari. The following day, it came into effect, marking a pivotal moment in Pakistan's constitutional history and reaffirming its commitment to democracy.

The 18th amendment brought about a monumental change with the introduction of Article 25-A, which championed a child's "right to education." It set a precedent for the State's responsibility to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and sixteen years. The law underscored the State's commitment to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to receive an education, laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and equitable society.

Its inclusion under Article 25, which addresses the equality of citizens, was a deliberate and meaningful decision. By placing the right to education within the context of equality, the lawmakers sought to emphasize that access to education should be universal and non-discriminatory. This constitutional provision was a resounding declaration that education is a fundamental human right and should not be contingent on one's socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, or any other factor.

The implementation of this article took into consideration the principle of provincial autonomy, respecting the diverse needs and aspirations of different regions within Pakistan. As a result, the amendment empowered each territory to create its own laws and policies to ensure the education of their children. This decentralized approach acknowledged the unique cultural, economic, and infrastructural challenges faced by various provinces and allowed for tailored solutions to meet their specific educational requirements.

Despite having been a decade since the enactment of Article 25-A of the Constitution, the envisioned right to education for all children in Pakistan remains an elusive aspiration. Regrettably, the quality of education has actually been in a decline recently.

Amidst the global landscape, where several countries have successfully established commendable public sector-driven education systems, one may question why Pakistan is yet to attain similar standards. This predicament is not exclusive to developed nations alone; many developing states have been steadfastly making strides towards providing quality education for all children. Over the past couple of decades, several countries in this category, such as Vietnam and Brazil, have remarkably improved education's caliber by primarily relying on the public sector.

The noteworthy achievements of developing countries in enhancing education through the public sector dispel the notion that mass privatization is the only path to educational progress. Unlike these nations, which have been tirelessly endeavoring to ensure all children's access to education and fostering an environment for meaningful learning experiences, they have not forsaken public education systems. The focus has been on implementing further reforms and bolstering existing public education structures, not dismantling them. Yet Pakistan’s journey to develop a proper educational system remains on a standstill. Why?

The prevailing issues of poverty, inadequate facilities, and social challenges create formidable barriers that hinder many children, particularly those from low-income households, from attending school in Pakistan. In rural areas, numerous schools grapple with the absence of basic amenities like safe drinking water, electricity, and proper sanitation facilities. The lack of essential infrastructure and resources within these schools significantly impedes instructors from delivering quality education to their students.

Among the multifaceted challenges, teacher shortages and gender inequality emerge as major concerns. In Pakistan, girls face particular disadvantages, experiencing significantly lower enrollment rates and higher dropout rates compared to boys. This imbalance is influenced by various factors, including cultural norms that favor boys' education, early marriages, and childbearing, as well as the absence of safe and secure schools for females.

The geographical proximity to schools and concerns regarding safety compound the barriers to education for girls. The 2022 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) highlighted the gender disparity in enrolled students in government and private schools. It revealed that 64 percent of enrolled students in government schools were boys, while only 36 percent were girls. Similarly, in private schools, 63 percent of enrolled children were boys, and only 37 percent were girls.

The exorbitant price paid by poverty-stricken children hailing from middle and lower-middle-class families in Pakistan is nothing short of staggering.

In their quest for academic advancement, numerous young minds are forced to drop out of school, while their parents grapple with the daunting challenge of meeting the ever-mounting expenses associated with education. A fundamental requirement to integrate the entire population into the nation's social and economic fabric, the pursuit of education is becoming an unattainable daydream for many mothers and fathers.

As the costs of basic necessities like essential food items, healthcare, fuel, and utility services soar relentlessly, the hope of adorning children with the grace of education slips away for many families. The private education sector, with its escalating expenses, remains beyond the reach of a vast majority, leaving them with no choice but to turn to public sector institutions. However, this avenue is also rapidly closing due to the impact of rising inflation. To exacerbate the situation, poor governance, corruption, and a lack of purposeful approach in government-run schools dampen parents' enthusiasm for enrolling their children in these institutions, most of which are woefully inadequate.

Adding to the complexity, both urban and rural areas present distinctive social and economic challenges that hinder educational progress. Rural regions, in particular, face more severe conditions compared to their urban counterparts.

The current evaluation system for students in Pakistan relies heavily on annual exams and semester-wise assessments. However, there is a growing demand for a more comprehensive approach that combines quantitative and qualitative exams to better gauge students' performance. Scholars, like Rehman (2011), advocate for introducing a diverse range of reliable assessments, including case studies, research papers, MCQs, comprehensive subjective questions, and analytical questions. This multifaceted evaluation system aims to assess students' conceptual understanding, especially in higher classes, fostering critical thinking and analytical skills.

Despite these suggestions, the examination system in Pakistan has been criticized for its flaws and shortcomings. It predominantly tests students' memory, promoting rote memorization and cramming over genuine learning. The prevalent use of unfair means, such as bribery, cheating, and impersonation, further undermines the integrity of the system. As it stands, the current examination approach fails to measure students' true strengths, achievements, and performance at all educational levels, leaving a void in critical thinking and intellectual development.

In the realm of medical education, the modular examination system has garnered scrutiny. This system, characterized by a single paper for three subjects, has resulted in students prioritizing easy subjects for examination preparation while neglecting vital subjects like Anatomy, a foundational pillar of medical studies. Consequently, students lacking proper understanding and knowledge in crucial subjects may graduate as doctors ill-equipped to serve humanity effectively.

Moreover, educational institutions in Pakistan have also become breeding grounds for political interference. Student groups aligned with political parties wield significant influence, affecting exam processes, admissions, and grading. These groups exert control by providing lists of students to teachers for favorable treatment during exams or by resorting to unfair means, such as cheating with the complicity of invigilators. Honest teachers who resist these practices may face threats or harm from politically motivated students.

Regrettably, some teachers are also involved in malpractices, leaking exam papers, providing answers, or colluding with students to cheat. This further exacerbates the erosion of the education system's credibility and fairness, as exemplified by the biased grading practices based on party affiliations.

Numerous studies have brought to light the significant role of trade liberalization in exacerbating food prices and elevating global poverty. In the case of Pakistan, over the past half-century, food prices have soared to unprecedented levels, leading the nation into a severe food crisis. The unpredictability of price changes, resulting from liberalized trade, has had a profound impact on the cost of food in the country, affecting both rural and urban areas and exacerbating poverty.

Agriculture, being a key contributor to Pakistan's economy, faces challenges as the population grows rapidly, leading to resource scarcity, particularly for cereal crops. This situation has notably driven up poverty rates in urban areas. The escalation of international food prices and their subsequent impact on household expenses, based on consumer consumption, further compounds the challenges faced by households striving to maintain their livelihoods.

Trade policies play a significant role in this scenario, with bans and quota restrictions on imports negatively affecting Pakistan's economy and contributing to a high poverty rate. The consequences of these trade policies are particularly pronounced in urban areas, as evidenced by an increase in poverty among urban families, whereas rural families seem to have been relatively less impacted.

Regrettably, Pakistan has been grappling with a myriad of challenges in social, economic, and political spheres for an extended period. Issues like communal distrust, economic stagnation, political instability, moral decay, and reliance on foreign aid demand urgent attention and resolution. Indeed, the key to surmounting these crises lies in prioritizing and revitalizing our education sector.

However, Pakistan's lackluster interest in uplifting the education system has led the nation astray from the path of progress and development. Consequently, a thorough examination of the obstacles plaguing the educational sector is indispensable.

The very roots of Pakistan's present impediments can be traced back to its failure to accord the education sector the importance it deserves. Elevating the quality of schooling and higher education is the pivotal step towards shaping our destiny. Without significant advancements in our education system, the aspiration of transforming Pakistan into a self-reliant, progressive, and technologically advanced nation will remain an elusive dream.

The government's unwavering commitment to providing free, compulsory, and high-quality education to all Pakistani children is of paramount importance. Here, the Education Parliamentarians' Caucus Pakistan plays a pivotal role in driving this endeavor. To bring about a transformative change, our educational system necessitates comprehensive reforms encompassing infrastructural upgrades and curriculum modernization. The National Education Policy must cater to the demands of the contemporary age, fostering a future-ready learning environment. Raising awareness and advocating for universal education for all children is an urgent call that requires the concerted efforts of parents, teachers, and community leaders alike.

Investing in teacher training programs and offering enhanced incentives for educators can substantially elevate education quality and student achievement. Moreover, the proliferation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to enhancing education presents a promising avenue. The efforts of NGOs such as The Citizens Foundation and Zindagi Trust, striving to provide high-quality education in underserved regions, offering scholarships to students from low-income families, and improving teacher training and support, are commendable steps towards empowering the nation's educational landscape.

Thirteen years have elapsed since the inception of the Right to Education, yet the current state of learning demands our utmost attention. The time has come for introspection, to recognize the alarming decline in educational standards, and to embark on a journey of evidence-based innovations that can swiftly pave the way for accelerated, top-notch education, transforming our vision into tangible reality. Emphatically advocating for the preservation and celebration of Article 25-A, the right to education enshrined in our Constitution, is the paramount imperative of the hour. Pakistan must break free from its standstill and embrace a future of progress and prosperity for its people.

The author is a freelance writer and blogger based in Lahore. He can be reached at

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