Education Trap By Nazir A. Jogezai

Education Trap By Nazir A. Jogezai

An education system is the product of a distinctive set of historical, political, social, cultural and economic features, and schools coexist with these. Education entails all the experiences individuals observe or are a part of in society; schooling, on the other hand, is a designed set of processes and experiences for different age groups to attain specific learning standards.

The objective of learning stems from the relevance, interests and curiosity of learners, which are compromised in polarised societies. Power centres influence school-level learning experiences to maintain class segregation. Public and elite private schools present stark differences in resources, curricula, learning environments, and pedagogy. There are distinct aims for each: to produce future leaders for the latter and obedient citizens for the former. Likewise, religious education contributes to their representation in the power structure.

One may argue that the Single National Curriculum and a rebranded Pakistan National Curriculum are remedies to class-based education, but they, in fact, fuel it further. They cannot be equally implemented across the country with well-equipped schools on the one hand, and those with one room on the other. The curriculum needs to be responsive to diversity, and the country must have a variety of curricula along with certain core areas, as seen in successful education systems elsewhere in the world.

Learning is closely linked to social status and power.

In a stratified education system, devised along vested interests, we must determine whether or not the policy of enrolling every child in public schools is a mirage.

The lack of access that justifies the construction of new buildings and campuses to increase capacity and employment opportunities is detrimental to quality. In the calculation of the ruling elite, brick-and-mortar projects, that are visible, will win them plaudits. The recent approval of a law to build a number of new universities is a relevant example. This occurs at a time when universities’ research capability and knowledge capital are in question, the faculty of existing institutions are denied salaries, and scandals of mismanaged universities are surfacing one after the other. Redundant curricula, outdated pedagogy, and an environment where students cannot participate meaningfully are the hallmark.

We need to think more about how to facilitate learning in schools. We have narrowed down learning to earning, and high expectations from schooling include economic well-being as a return on investment from parents. Despite education traditionally being described in spiritual terms, it has turned out to be more material in practice and closely linked to social status and power.

It is obvious that the recent spike in living costs will result in higher dropout rates. Our traditional response would be alternative learning pathways and tuition options to speed up the graduation process. The current price hike is dragging the middle class into poverty and parents may be unable to afford even alternative pathways for their offspring. They would rather engage them in businesses to earn a living because a job after graduation is not guaranteed.

Responsible for poor education is also the teachers’ incapability, as we attract less qualified individuals to the profession. We also find a great deal of professional stratification, where teaching is not seen as a worthy career. Teachers hardly feel comfortable introducing themselves as such, whereas professionals in other sectors with the same or even lower rank have personalised vehicle number plates and roam around with security protocol. The system mostly favours graduates of English-medium institutions.

Education for social development must be about quality. It must be equitable. It should not be a tool for oppression and dominance by the elite. It is about strengthening the broader social system and opening up avenues for learning and making choices to empower everyone. It is not about making the masses obedient creatures, serving the interests of the elite. We should not forget that most of our population comprises the youth, who are vulnerable to knowledge deficit because of an impoverished system of education. That is even more serious than a sovereign default, as without an educated youth, there is no way of escaping our grim condition.

The writer is an educationist.

Education Trap By Nazir A. Jogezai

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2023

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