More money is good but Sindh needs to focus on quality of education, say experts , The News International, June 2, 2018
Educationists have expressed satisfaction over the increased education budget of Sindh for the fiscal year 2018-19, but they still have reservations about the quality of education in the province.
In the Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017 documented by Alif Ailaan, a campaign that seeks to put education at the front and centre of public discourse in Pakistan, Sindh ranked seventh. The ranking included scores on learning outcomes, retention and gender parity.
“The provincial government has taken some valuable steps for education in which the hike in the yearly education budget is commendable,” says Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi Chief Executive Officer Baela Raza Jamil.
She also lauds the government for introducing the Free and Compulsory Education Act 2013, saying the act gives children aged 5 to 16 the right to education, a right already defined in the Constitution of Pakistan under Article 25A. But, she believes, the quality of education in Sindh has always left much to be desired.
Also, education budget increases are traditionally not meant for quality education. “The budget speaks itself when we spend it,” Jamil says, adding that the government has not allocated funds for improving the quality of education. “The innovated schemes have no funds allocation in the budget 2018-19.” However, Sindh is the only province that has worked more than other provinces on early childhood education. The areas that deserve more allocations have been ignored by the government.
Ninety-one per cent of the schools in the province are primary and the government intends to provide them with basic facilities, but there is no clear program that shows as to how many schools will be upgraded to middle or higher level.
Jamil points out that the budget 2018-19 is also silent on Sustainable Development Goal 4, whereas other provincial governments have included SDG4 in their budgets.
“Sindh’s education budget for the year 2018-2019 has increased by 13.5 per cent from the previous year. The increased budget allocation is a positive step towards improving the state of education in the province if the budget is effectively utilised,” Alif Ailaan commented.
Alif Ailaan’s head of political and policy engagement, Salman Naveed Khan, says policy decisions need to be followed up consistently to ensure that the welfare of Sindh’s students is kept above all else.
“We have seen the CM’s role in pushing through a project for the improvement of high-priority 4,560 government schools, approval of recruitment of maths and science teachers in middle and high schools, but little evidence to support that these decisions have been implemented.”
The Sindh government, particularly the chief minister, has demonstrated its commitment towards an increased allocation for education year on year, Khan says, adding that the allocation for innovative approaches in service of improved learning outcomes is encouraging, but the education department needs to ensure that the political commitment is translated into dramatically improved utilisation.
He says the Sindh Education Foundation’s work is an example of how results can be achieved in the education domain. Similar controls need to be established particularly at the divisional and district levels to ensure that funds allocated are utilised timely, and decisions made in the children’s best interest.
The Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan Advisory Board Member Kashif Anwar Mumtaz says the association has started a campaign for free education to the out-of-school children. It is also aimed at putting pressure on the provincial government to provide sufficient funding to the education department for the enrollment of all out-of- school children.
Although the government has been increasing the budget, where it is spending those allocations no one knows, says Mumtaz. He is of the view that the government should also make tangible measures to minimise the distrust of common people about state-run schools rather than increasing the budget blindly.
Pakistan Education Task Force Co-Chairperson and prominent educationist Shahnaz Wazir Ali says the Sindh government has presented a number of programs and projects to bring about positive changes in the education system.
She says the government has allocated huge budgets for education in the past five years, but merely increasing the budget and allocations are not enough, as both reforms and funding are the key factors that uplift education. It was however important that the government wanted betterment in the education system, she says.
She believes the government schools need well-trained and more qualified teachers, who should also have in-service and pre-service training opportunities, especially in knowledge about information technology and computers, so that they could teach in a more effective way like the teachers of advanced countries. Keeping in view such mandatory steps, she says, the PPP government has also specified funds for teachers training programs. “We couldn’t thrash any system at once, but slowly and gradually reforms make a system better.”