Education sector and commitment gaps
IN the wake of Pakistan’s dismemberment in December 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was called to head the martial law administration, restore confidence, and lead the injured nation back to civilian and parliamentary rule.
With a mandate for his party in the 1970 election, Bhutto drove the Islamabad administration to prepare sweeping policy reforms designed to appeal to the lower and middle classes and to consolidate a popular base.
Among the first such measures was the new education policy, announced by Bhutto (then president) on March 12, 1972. The education proposals were nationalist in content, developmental in design and radical in spirit.
Infused with ambitious egalitarian rhetoric, they promised to bring about a wholesale restructuring of values, local participation in educational affairs, equal access to education, and eradication of illiteracy.
However laudable, these objectives were more visionary than realistic under Pakistan’s social and economic conditions.
The question is, what is the damage control strategy by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani once the mistake is realised?
Although the subsequent PPP governments in the 1980s and 1990s silently accepted the policy to denationalise educational institutions by the military regime of Gen Zia, the silent endorsement of policy did not change anything for the better.
Education is quintessentially significant for individual, social and national development that should facilitate all individuals to reach their maximum human potential.
The system should produce responsible, enlightened citizens to integrate Pakistan in the global framework of human-centered economic development.
The nationalisation policy caused further fall in standards in colleges and schools across the country. Today, Pakistan’s education system is among the most deficient and backward in Asia, reflecting the traditional determination of the feudal ruling elite to preserve its hegemony.
Thus, the commitment gap is all too visible in successive governments’ neglect of public sector schools which serviced middle and lower income groups.
These groups were eventually denied the justice to acquire a meaningful education for social and economic mobility up the ladder of success.
In today’s Pakistan, the divide between the rich and the poor is so great that it negates the concept of the welfare state that the founding fathers had envisioned.