ISLAMABAD - The National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan (NCHRP) in its report has observed that funds of Indian Origin and other foreign sources are being invested in some of the private education institutions in Pakistan and these institutions are working against ideology of Pakistan by promoting western culture.
The NCHRP report ‘Private Educational Institutions: Alleged Exorbitant Profiteering and Low Quality of Services’ submitted in the Supreme Court wherein it is observed that curricula in these schools have replaced ideology of Pakistan and details about leaders of Pakistan movement with irrelevant topics, distorted facts about religious and political history and even showing Kashmir as part of India.
The NCHRP also made observations on the lack of discipline resulting in immoral unethical behaviours of students.
“Poor discipline, promotion of ill-disciplined life style, culture and social events promoting western norms (fashion shows, concerts, bon fires, Halloween parties) that are not in line with our cultural and social values. It is leading young children and youth to unethical/immoral and harmful activities thus badly affecting the society at large,” the report observed, adding that private schools are just promoting fun filled environment and in the name of modernism and progressive life style these schools have crushed and trodden the social and cultural values of youth and society.
Says curricula in these schools has replaced leaders of Pakistan Movement with irrelevant topics
The report is submitted by NCHRP’s Chairman Justice (Retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan in the case pertaining to alleged exorbitant, unjustified and unreasonable fees deducted by private schools. It stated that the Private Equity funds of Indian Origin and other foreign sources have been making direct investments in private educational institutions and trusts established by their owners without prior approval of the government. It recommended that a policy decision should be taken by federal government on declaration/ reporting and tracking of foreign investments and donations in private education sector of Pakistan by foreign sponsors, given the sensitivities around the purpose of such investments and national security.
It is further recommended that existing government policy on declaration and reporting of foreign funding to religious madrasahs’ to be extended to cover private schools for the sake of uniformity.
“Private educational institute are free to decide curricula/ text books to be taught without requiring any approval from registration authorities,” the report observed. Only in federal capital, the private schools have flourished as corner shops in the name of education over the past decades in line with the trend seen across the country.
From the available statistics of Schools (Public and Private), number of public schools remained stagnant around 400 whereas private educational ‘corner shops’ have swelled to 1224 in the last 10 years that are noncompliant to the minimum infrastructure requirements laid down by the regulatory authorities.
It is further observed that non-qualified, inexperienced, non-subject specialist individuals are hired as teachers on verbal commitment without proper contract specifying terms and condition of employment in line with labor laws.
“With the exception of few with strong family, political or Government reference, the hired staff in general are treated and paid as daily wagers for working days only. Majority of teachers are hired for nine months and have not paid salaries for summer/ winter vacations even though parents/ students are made to pay full fee well in advance including charges for the summer/ winter vacations.” The report maintained that some leading private schools successfully sought huge favors from Government in the form of amenity plots either free or at subsidized rates while some of private schools have colluded with other non-governmental welfare organizations‘ to use amenity plots on their names.
“Despite of seeking concessions from Government in the form of Amenity plots and operating in houses in residential areas in gross violation of municipal/Government bye laws, these schools have failed in fulfilling their responsibilities as outlined in Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2012 that limits the Private educational institutes to provide free education to at least 10% of their students on merit and need based scholarships.”
Few leading private schools with countrywide branches are operating as a cartel and offering O and A Levels from Cambridge and IB scheme of degrees from International boards irrespective of their registration with Educational authorities of Pakistan.
“These schemes of degrees are not offered by public sector schools/ educational institutes thus giving Private educational institutes the chance to create their monopoly and charge the self-determined monthly tuition fee beyond Rs. 40,000 / excluding other charges.” The report further stated that all A-Levels graduating students except for few seeking admission abroad have to re-take FSc Syllabus for appearing in entry test for admission in Pakistani universities.
“This most of the time require extra couching from teachers specialized in FSc syllabus thus placing additional financial burden on parents with a loss of a crucial year in taking FSc syllabus by candidate and making him do extra efforts.”
It added that private investors in education sector have increased their influence on key stakeholders in government, in political and policy decisions making on educational sector to protect and promote their commercial interests.
“They have made the existing legislation ineffective and redundant to maintain their monopoly in education sector and continue to make windfall profits.”
In the absence of bench mark accounting standards for financial recording, reporting, disclosure and assumptions, the finances of private educational institutes lack credibility, transparency and prepared on the basis to understate revenue with over statement of expenses to hide their windfall profit margins.
Use of different accounting, disclosure assumptions and practices helps them manipulate the factual financials and cheat financial/regulatory/tax authorities. NCHRP recommended improved accountability of the financial resources used by the educational institutions.
Regarding cartelization, the report stated that the private schools using their market dominance, forcing degree awarding boards (Cambridge) and service providers (British Council) to act against their global policies in extending favors of discounts meant for candidates to Private Schools, discriminated fee structure, examination venues, that get maximum profits to private educational institutes.
The report stated that due to negligence and ignorance on the part of State functionaries have led to undermine the fundamental rights of the millions of the students.
NCHRP strongly recommended that Article 25-A of the Constitution should be implemented in true letter and spirit and parents should be involved in policy making on education with respect to curriculum, discipline, and administration with a view to making schools more effective.
It is further recommended that important policy decisions, especially fee determination are made after seeking views from all stake holders in a public hearing, as done by other regulatory authorities like NEPRA, OGRA etc. It further recommended the appointment of educationists in Education Authority.