A five-tier strategy

Universal primary education in Pakistan is contingent on several factors such as the existence of cost-effective schools, better curricula, and awareness among parents in rural areas about the importance of education. However, the single most important factor in getting children to complete primary school would be an improvement in the structure of Pakistan's school system. Five institutional reforms can help improve Pakistan's educational structure. First, is decentralization of decision-making, which improves education administration. Presently, Pakistan educational system is highly centralized even though it is widely understood that basic education is better provided in a system that is administered at the district and village level. Decentralization means the government must develop partnerships with communities, NGOs, and the private sector to delegate responsibility. The second step necessary for improving the system is greater autonomy for the schools. Currently, school principals have a limited decision-making capacity. In addition, schools do not have control over issues like curriculum, teacher appointment, discipline, and evaluation. Principals, not upper-level bureaucrats, have to be given powers because they are in a better position to make these decisions since they deal with the daily realities of school life. A third important reform is providing better support and supervision & coordination of the school system at the district and provincial level. By making the district the key level for planning and management, state-level and central education bodies can focus more on policymaking, resource management and regulation. A fourth necessary reform is to encourage decision-making based on educational, not political, considerations. At present, politicians hand out teaching jobs as patronage. The final necessary reform is to expand the information and research base of education in Pakistan. -SADIA MALIK, Sargodha, April 20.

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