The 'Non-standards' of Standard Education

Submitted by Shams Uddin on Mon, 2009-07-06 18:52.
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Batua Educational Magazine, Chitral  (Issue 01)

This Quarterly Magazine Highlights Issues Related to Education in the Hindukush Region


The 'Non-standards' of Standard Education 

In a scenario when population is growing and resources are depleting, clashes of communal interests are intensified and diversified creating a range of social, economic and law and order issues, it becomes pertinent to divert fuller attention to ‘standard’, I say again ‘standard’ education with special welfarist consideration for the children of the poorest of the poor, who form a majority in a less developed region like Chitral. If we believe in structuring an ideal society characterized by what we term tolerance, freedom of thinking and opinion, professional excellence, a sense of civic responsibilities, gender equity/women economic empowerment and an all encompassing development for the broader community, then the children of the poor families should be the prioritly no 1, without which it looks like a wishful thinking to wean them away from the present day quagmire resulting in numerous social evils. The only effective remedy here, then, is a well-articulated and highly systematized education with a passion for volunteerism that ‘must’ produce measurable impacts contributing to the development of the target communities—the students and their parents. Certainly it will take a long time, but that does not mean its impacts will not be measurable in the beginning stages. Only we have to have a very keen eye sight to monitor records and use them as future guidelines.

The question whether or not the present system of education is poor-friendly? Definitely not! The education system in the government sector is open for students from both poor and rich families, but technically it is a centre of learning only for the students with poor family background. Wealthy families always select private schools for their children. Here the curriculum is not in line with the needs of the ever changing world and hence students are less likely to groom up and prepare for the challenges ahead of them. Till class 9th and 10th, Urdu is the only medium of teaching, whilst students have to write the metric examination in English language. This is a paradoxical notion of education that makes students totally confused and amounts to destroying their educational career. From class 10th onward, they have to focus on English language requiring them additional time, efforts and energies.

With the local private [non-government] schools, there are also potential problems: First, the fee structure of the private schools is beyond the financial capacity of the poor families and hence, they are less likely to be admitted in these institutions, which otherwise would have heralded an era of change in their life.

Second, the text books are quite expensive and students from poor families could hardly afford buying them, whilst private schools—only IBCSK exempted—do not have any system of charity in place for the welfare of the poor students e.g. by providing them free text books and so on. This causes greater frustration amongst the less and non-income earning families and their children.

Third, the system of examination is faulty, that is to say, no proper criteria and professional system is in place to analyze and categorize students according to their real worth. Bogus marks are awarded in order to maintain the so-called 'dignity' and ‘reputation’ of the schools. The trend to detaining students is very less lest their parents would get them withdrawn. This means students’ worth is neither measured nor sincere and serious efforts are made to make it an integral part of the educational system in most of the private schools. The only consideration is doing lucrative business through education. The difficult nature of text books poses serious challenges to the less efficient teachers in these schools, who are less likely to come up to the expectations of their students. In some cases teachers are dumbfounded when students prove more efficient than teachers! But teachers, particularly in private schools have their own problems. They are the most neglected segment of the society who join the profession of teaching in private schools after they fail in their efforts to find jobs somewhere else. It is quite an unfortunate phenomenon when professional education and its relation with community development is viewed in the kaleidoscope of modern age!

Fourth, to attract more students to private schools, you have to have a strong clanship in the Hindukush region notwithstanding however weak your school might be in terms of standard and professional excellence. Never mind your fellow clan members will come to rescue you by sending their children and relatives to your schools, not to the one of your contestant! It is worth noting that clanship and interest groups based on petty tribal affiliations seems to have a decisive role in all matters of life including education within private institutions.

It must be noted that with every passing year, the practical management and control of 'standard education' becomes all the more difficult, which in turn is possible only when focus is diverted to build the capacity of teachers both by government and private sectors besides giving them [the teachers] financial incentives in respect of satisfactory salaries. Otherwise it would be a nonsense assumption to superficially urge on the need of standard service marked by voluntarism amongst teachers who are on the verge of being 'pauper'. The reality is that a teacher who is gripped in the vicious cycle of poverty can hardly subscribe to the idea of hard work in his profession, nor can he be charged with a passion of genuine volunteerism, in absence of which the system of education will not have the desired impacts of poverty reduction and the social change that we so desperately need.

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