A child without education; is like a bird without wings, is a Tibetan proverb. Given the rush of the students in Quetta particularly at private education centers, as part time students, in the evenings, is wonderful. As the streets hum with these young scholars, to grow wings to fly confidently.
Definitely, the throng of the student’s augurs well for a safe future. However, the situation raises some soul searching questions. Mainly, it’s the thirst of knowledge or the thrust of the circumstances which has led to the young scholars to seek knowledge at Quetta.
The education system in Pakistan is generally divided in six levels; Pre-School, Primary, Middle, Higher Secondary, Intermediate and finally the University level. Most of the students’ land at Quetta for education fall in the category of Secondary School and Intermediate levels with the aim to get able to have admission in some professional institution ahead. Still, those who could not make it, carry out their studies in other subjects, but half heartedly.
The cut – throat competition is for being a professional, a doctor or an engineer, as every year the merit scales higher, the competition gets tougher, the work harder. Presently above 70% aggregate marks enable a student to get admission in the professional institution. Resultantly the efforts put in are improving the quality of education, amongst the limited number of students affording Quetta. Beyond Quetta the quality and the quantity of education remains poor to meet the bare minimum standards. Given the income levels in the province the majority is certainly doomed.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, in Pakistan reveals, ‘’of the fifth graders surveyed in rural areas, 48 percent can’t read a sentence in English and 44 percent are unable to read a story in Urdu, Sindhi or Pashtu from class 2 level textbook. Forty-seven percent of them cannot do two-digit division. While Sindh and Balochistan remain where they were two years earlier in terms of percentage of fifth grades unable to read a sentence in English from a 2 grade level textbook.’’
The deficiency of the schools, lesser enrolment, shortage of teaching staff, reading and writing material around the province, add into the myriad of the problems. The vacant positions of the teachers are around 17000 in the schools. According to the data, provided by Balochistan Education Information Management System, through Policy Planning Unit, there were 937905 children enrolled in the schools out of the estimated 2.600 million children’s in 2018. At the same time, there is a dropout rate of 25% up to the Higher Secondary level.
The other anomaly is the disproportionate number of schools, there are 11706 Primary Schools, 1419 Middle Schools and 1054 High Schools. In principle, there has to be one Middle School on each three Primary Schools, and one High School on each three Middle School. Amongst the Primary Schools 5200 are single teacher schools in a single room, for all the pre-school and primary class’s girls and boys. To clarify the matter these figures, exclude the Private Schools, Missionary Schools, Federal Government Schools and the Schools run by Pakistan Army, still the half of the school going children are out of the schools.
In the nine years of schooling, the students only attend 4.8 years of actual learning, half of the precious time wasted, even though a student remains present all the days of the year, the ASER report confirms. The casual behavior of both the teachers and taught, observed frequently harm the discipline and degenerates the atmosphere of learning. The facilities in the urban centers are the other reason, which have attracted, all along the country side pupil. The availability of light, the natural gas, and the bit of entertainment centers, and a semblance of civilization also keep the interests going on.
The middle class, accustomed to living the urban ways had also made it home at Quetta and they are keen to provide a good education to their children. Probably the Baloch has learnt, a bit late, the significance of the human as a resource. Investment in education brings a sure return due in numerous of ways. Compare to the past the socio cultural taboos have given way to modernism by allowing the girls to go for education out of the home and even their native city. The law and order situation inside the Balochistan has deteriorated over the years, forcing a big number of the population to settle down at Quetta, not only to save their skin, but to avail the opportunity to concentrate on the education of their children for a respectable position in society, as well.
In the Balochistan Government Budget FY 2018-19, Rs43.9 billion being 12.4 percent of the overall budget of Rs352.3 billion were allocated for education, including the amount under various programs. First, the Chief Minister’s Schools Infrastructure Improvement and Development Programme for 100 High Schools, vide PSDP No. 2417of Rs983 million. Second, the Chief Minister’s Schools Infrastructure Improvement and Development Programme for 200 Middle Schools,
vide PSDP No. 2419of Rs1500 million. Third, the Chief Minister’s Initiative for Provision of Buildings to 159 Shelter Less Government Primary Schools in Balochistan, vide PSDP No 2425of Rs1500 million. Fifth, the Chief Minister’s Programme for Provision of Drinking Water and Toilets in Schools, vide PSDP No. 2699 of Rs1000million. But still we are far away from the constitutional requirement of Article 25 A, which reads that, ‘’The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen in such a manner as may be determined by law.’’
The social scientists are of the view that the absence of schooling opportunities would cost heavy to the society in many ways, specifically in social and economic sectors. Given the commitment of the nations under the, Sustainable Development Goals 2030 of the United Nations, where quality education stands as one of the seventeen goals at serial No. 4 to be taken for not granted. More than double investment through a comprehensive policy project is needed beyond the enrolment to address the big concern called, a free and quality education for all.