Wilson Center’s Asia Program recently published a study and research on the weaknesses of Pakistani education system. The report is researched and written by Wilson Center global fellow Nadia Naviwala after visiting many schools across Pakistan. She interviewed the education experts, government officials and teachers across the country. The report Titled “Why can’t Pakistani children read?” highlights the weaknesses of the Pakistani educational system and the reasons why schools are unable to impart skills necessary for reading and learning.
This report tells us many things and facts that we already know. But there are some facts in the report that we don’t really know in detail. Most of us know that our education system is not working and failing to bring the desired results. There are 23 million out of school children in Pakistan. Pakistan has the second highest number of out of school children in the world. It shows that our education system is in shambles.
The report points out that the increased allocation and spending on the education alone is not going to address the problems of education system. The modern teaching methods, scientific and modern syllabus and emphasis on scientific research and critical thinking is needed to improve the quality of our education system.
The report shed light on the education standard of public schools. This report points out that there are millions studying in the public schools who find it difficult to learn reading. The education system and teaching methods are flawed and outdated. The education system needs overhauling and reforms. This was the key finding of a new report published by the Wilson Center’s Asia Programme.
The report also addresses the misconception of our policy makers regarding the English medium schools. The report points out those books in English are not enough for children to learn English as most teachers could not speak English. The children find it hard to learn English. The English medium of education is creating more problems for the children. English is the main reason for the high number of drop outs children from primary and middle schools. The teachers are not trained enough to teach English.
According to the report, despite being enrolled in schools, only less than half of third graders in Pakistan can read a sentence in Urdu or local languages primarily because of the use of foreign languages in education. As a result, students fail to comprehend their lessons, leading to a massive drop-out ratio.
Nadia Naviwala cited the example of a girls’ community school in the outskirts of Peshawar that she visited where only one student out of a total of 120 could read. “[The kid who could read] came from a private school and he too reads stutteringly,” Naviwala said. “These kids speak Pashto and are not Urdu speakers. When they come to school, they learn to read and write in Urdu and English – which they don’t understand. Once they get to grade one, they have books in four languages – Urdu, English, Arabic and Pashto.”
The style of teaching is also quite problematic as teachers merely make children repeat certain words to memorise them instead of telling them how to join letters together to form a word and read it. Therefore, schools are unable to impart the skills necessary for reading and learning.
The report also found that the pattern of illiteracy across schools in Pakistan was consistent. Even in places where governance was strong and the local government had introduced new educational reforms, together with better infrastructure and facilities, most children were still unable to read. Those who could read a little were unable to comprehend what they were reading.
The report also talks about English-medium schools and how the introduction of English is considered a way to move forward in terms of literacy in Pakistan. The term “English medium” refers to the language of the textbook, but not instruction. Neither the majority of teachers nor students in Pakistan speak English.
A survey by the British Council found that 94 per cent of teachers at English-medium private schools in Punjab did not speak English,” the report said. “English-medium in these schools refers only to the language of the textbooks, and when handed books in a foreign language, teachers and student recite and copy text without comprehension, in the same way, that many Pakistanis learn to read Arabic in order to recite the Quran.”
The report concludes with the following suggestion to improve the education system. The elite and political leadership is not seems serious to reform and modernise education system. Pakistan needs to make education priority to lift millions of Pakistanis out of poverty. “This is the only way to shatter Pakistan’s fossilised, white elephantine education system and replace it with a new and reformed model for education – one that finally enables children to read and learn, teachers to teach, and Pakistan to become a better educated and more prosperous place.”
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