Akhter Hameed Khan Resource Center arranged a Public Forum on “Irrelevance of education in Pakistan” on July 11, 2009 at Education College University, Lahore . This forum was organized in collaboration with Punjab Rural Support Programme with the aim to initiate discussion on the failure of present education system in meeting challenges posed by the current time thereby providing a platform to academia, civil society, educationists and public opinion makers to deliberate upon the issue.
Mr. Tariq Sultan, Chairman Punjab Rural Support Programme chaired the session. Mr. Sultan is Ex-Secretary Finance & Education Punjab and has also served as Chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission, Planning & Development Board Punjab, Agriculture Development Bank and Bank of Punjab. The panelists included Dr. Jamil Najam and Mr. Mian Amanullah. The forum started with the recitation of Holy Quran by Qari Mohammad Azam Alvi. Then Mr. Fayyaz Baqir, Director Akhter
Hameed Khan Resource Center (AHKRC) was invited to introduce AHKRC and its work. Mr. Baqir discussed the life history of Dr. Akhter Hameed Khan as a scholar, social scientist and his remarkable endeavors in lightening up the fates of underprivileged. “Akhter Hameed Khan considered that learning should focus on self knowledge, serving the people and testing and evolving one’s understanding of social reality”, he said.
Mr. Tariq Sultan then addressed the gathering and talked about his 42 years of experience as a teacher, administrator and in managing the recruitment of public service commission “Our education system has not been able to produce people who can serve the needs of present time. In the 21st century, demand and supply patterns
are changing rapidly. The world is changing at such a pace that if we don’t change then we will be left behind”. He mentioned that in Punjab dropout rates is 35-40% and the schools are unable to retain the students. Despite heavy investments in elementary schools results are not being obtained which clearly indicates malice in the system.
He stressed upon the evolution of uniform system of education. The present system is highly stratified as a consequence pass outs have unequal opportunities in the job market. Private sector wants the cream; best of the best which generally comes out of the top institutions (primarily private sector) hence the poor students coming out of the public institutions are usually left behind. Unfortunately the public sector institutions haven’t come up with effective strategies to tackle the issue. Education is the only mean through which vertical mobility takes place. He also mentioned the case of madarasa students and the lack of optimal job opportunities for the pass outs. Finally he highlighted the need to develop competencies of the student so as to enable them to understand and rationalize their environment, which is the only way to address this challenge and bring change in the society.
Mr. Amanullah, a school teacher who received Presidential award for Pride of Performance and “Izaz-e-Fazeelat” in view of his exceptional contributions in the field of education, was then invited to share his views and experience. Mr. Amanullah was of the view that education system can be made effective if national objectives are clear. In addition, factors such as absence of sincere political leadership have long remained a reason of failure of this system and also the fact that the content of education is obsolete and irrelevant to our development objectives. Role of teachers in building character of students and building the nation is lacking. And lastly due to brain drain, valuable human capital is not retained within the country.
Dr. Jamil Najam is an Honorary Operations Manager-Society for Talent and awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by the President of Pakistan. He discussed the mission statement of National Curriculum in detail and pointed out gaps in the policies formulated by the government and its implementation: as the goals set in the nicely drafted policies are not being achieved in the practical life. “Even if we assume that the contents of curriculum are well designed then we need to assess where the fault lies and why are we unable to achieve the objectives laid down in the policies. We need to ascertain whether the text books are aligned with the content of curriculum, teachers are aware of education’s objectives, the book content supports the competencies prescribed in the curriculum, and teachers endorse the curriculum and are well trained.
He presented a framework of an integrated education policy with focus on quality in which the student outcomes are established not just upon academic achievement but also on development of competencies such as social skills, values, participation and economic success. He recommended that a thorough appraisal of teacher’s aptitude is required specifically at the time of teachers’ selection/hiring and generally after the completion of various professional development opportunities. Managers of learning must not be confused with administrative managers. To manage learning process and relevant resources requires exclusively acquired professional expertise. As the practice goes, the existing managers of learning lack such skills & knowledge. And this is the reason why despite utmost efforts things are not coming up in education system.
The forum was then opened for question and answer session. Dr. Rizwana Khalil, District Education Officer commented that policies should be formulated in the light of ground realities. Mr. Faiz Shah said that teaching should be made a career option for those who are interested in education. He put emphasis in providing respect and recognition to the teachers. He also said that the resources allocated for education should be utilized effectively. One of the students raised a question about the importance of imparting education in national language. Mr. Amanullah favored the idea as according to him national language offers benefit of nurturing national thinking and vision. While answering a query regarding class difference in education he replied that the national curriculum needs to be improved and should be universally implemented.
The Forum received a great response from the students who actively participated in the discussion. More than 300 students were present at the occasion who favored the idea of holding such discussion forums on a regular basis.