Why Sindh needs to overhaul its education system

No matter what initiatives and measures are taken, no education reform is likely to succeed without the active participation and ownership of professional trained teachers

On March 22, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah introduced the plan to overhaul the public education system through unprecedented measures aimed at reforming the system. According to the envisioned plan, the Sindh government will work to improve teaching skills, make education totally free, develop a high quality curriculum and offer stipends to girl students. The plan is commendable but to achieve its productive results there is need of effective mechanism for its implementation and some concrete and dedicated initiatives to resolve all of the problems faced by the system.

For the smooth functioning of any organization, human resources play one of the significant roles, and in case of their shortage, the organization will not function properly. According to Sindh Education Department’s estimates, around 3,000 posts of teachers become vacant every year due to retirement of teachers, but regrettably, recruitments of teachers are made after a yawning gap of four to five years. Meanwhile, the Education Department suffers shortage of teachers, which affects academic performance of children very badly. The state of affairs requires the introduction of the rational teacher recruitment policy in order to harvest the constructive results of the envisioned scheme.  The Sindh government following the Punjab government’s teacher recruitment policy should make recruitments of teachers every year purely on merit through NTS and other Testing services of good repute.  

Professional development of teachers is a pre-requisite for providing quality education to the children and it has positive impact on learning achievement of the students. Whether in schools, colleges or universities, teachers, who work as catalysts of change, play an essential role in promoting quality education. No matter what initiatives and measures are taken, no education reform is likely to succeed without the active participation and ownership of professional trained teachers. Therefore, for their professional development, teachers should have access to trainings constantly in locally and nationally designed Professional Development Programmes. Furthermore, clearly defined and more practical strategies aimed at preparing students for an emerging knowledge-based and technology-driven economy should be put into place to identify, attract, train and retain good teachers. 

The fact is that curriculum is the backbone of education system. But in Sindh’s public sector schools and colleges, out of date curriculum that was developed around three decades ago, is being taught.  And because of the rapid changes, inventions and discoveries in all natural and social sciences, it has become impracticable and obsolete. Therefore, there is a need to develop the practicable and workable curriculum with the help of leading and liberal minded educationists, literary figures and scholars that can meet the requirements of modern needs. It should be made sure that if we get a success in developing such new curriculum, we will be able to make our students capable of competing in national and international competitions. 

Prof Syed Asghar Ali Shah, the Technical Director in Harvard University United States of America, originally from Shikarpur Sindh, told me, “I am immensely shocked after knowing it that the outdated curriculum is being taught in government schools in Sindh. Recently, I visited a high school in Shikarpur where I had studied during 1980s. Having seen Sindh Text Book Board printed course books of different subjects, I found that with minor changes the same contents, which I as a student had read at that time, were present in these books. This is one of the significant factors that educational development has not taken place in Sindh.  On the other hand,  in USA, to keep students updated about the latest inventions and discoveries occurring in all natural and social sciences with fast pace, curriculums of schools, colleges and universities have been revised after every two to three years. As a result, how much development the US has made in education is not hidden from anyone.”

Furthermore, currently, the education system in Sindh has been facing other enormous problems which include: low literacy rate, high drop-out ratio, lack of quality education, a large number of closed schools, lack of basic facilities in schools—drinking water, toilets, classrooms and boundary walls etc.—and lack of girls schools in a large number of remote villages.  Moreover, because of the lack of transparency and honesty in transfers and postings of teachers, there are many schools that have a large number of enrolled students, but are facing a shortage of teachers. There are schools on the other end of the spectrum too — ones with small enrollment of students and huge force of teachers.

There is need to evolve policy of decentralization of authority and tightened monitoring and effective implementation systems. The tehsil and district education managers and school monitoring officials at Union Council (UC) should be given more powers to manage human and financial resources of schools in their jurisdiction. They are to be empowered to make need based transfers and postings of teachers and to prepare budgets of schools after they are provided with capacity building trainings, time and again. There should be complete implementation on reports prepared and submitted by these officials regarding shortage of teachers and lack of schools’ infrastructure facilities such as electricity, toilets, boundary walls, drinking water, class-rooms and buildings. When these grass-root officials are made fully capable of making decisions and carrying out overall activities of public sector schools, then it necessitates that they should be held responsible to ensure the required enrollment of children and provision of quality education. They may be accountable for all the issues faced by schools in their dominion.  

The fact is that resolution of all these problems is a sine qua non of revamping education system as envisioned in the plan. And honestly speaking, to resolve all these problems, committed efforts and huge annual school specific budget allocations will be required.

Shaikh Abdul Rasheed is a social activist and researcher. Follow him on Twitter

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