Career Education Pak Affairs

Political Parties on Education in Pakistan: An Overview

Education has never been a top national priority and got the serious attention and adequate resources in Pakistan despite the fact it is the basic human right. Current economic survey 2009-10 revealed that literacy rate in the country has improved from previous 56% in 2008-09 to 57% in 2009-10%. However Primary school enrollments is less than 70% and among those 30% got dropped off before acquiring basic literacy skills (details by the UNESCO in its 2008 report). Pakistan stands at 163 of 180 countries in literacy ranking—these statistics show that Pakistan has terribly poor progress in Educational sector.

Several factors and complexities have led to current situation including national spending on education. In Budget 2010-2011 allocated for education sector is 31 Billion Rupees that is 2.6% of GDP. While like other political parties PPPP also pledged to allocate 5% of GDP in its electoral manifesto. Since Independence attempts have been made to relate the education system to the needs and inspirations of the country but statistics showed nothing was done in this regard.

It is inevitable for all political parties to issue its electoral manifesto that explains parties’ policy and positions on various issues including education as per Election Commission’s rules. Because In parliamentary systems of governance the main stream political parties influence policy making process whether in government or happen to sit in opposition in accordance with these manifestos. However critical analysis of these manifestos shows; these used to be abstract and remained quite on several issues including education. Weakness of the system or political parties will to ensure people of their interest instead of explaining official stand; political parties found to be less interested in their manifestos or publicizing it. This fact can be conformed from last election campaign in which Election manifestos were issued by the political parties just one week before the polling day.

Educational policies and plans have been of key importance for social researchers in Pakistan; fortunately lot of reviews and research studies have been conducted to analyze different angles of educational policies. Hence a lot of published material is present to give insight of these educational policies and their effective implementations.

First All Education Conference was held in 1947 to provide the basic guidelines for the future development of education in the country. Hitherto five educational policies have been framed (In 1959, 1970, 1979, 1992-2002, and 1998-2010,) yet. Each policy stressed on Islamic ideology and character building; the Universalization of primary education and promotion of literacy; science education; quality of education; and access to educational opportunities equally. Unfortunately the unsustainability of the National Educational Policies due to rapid regime change has effected the education system overall. Because every government indulged in setting up useless reform commissions, standing committees, and task forces; and sometimes they ended up with few useful recommendations but before implementations; either government changed its priorities or new government came to establish new reform programes.

Taking over power from the military Pakistan Peoples Party pledged to reform the education system. The 1973 constitution i.e. given by Pakistan peoples Party when it was in government earlier tells that the state shall:
(a) promote unity and observance of the Islamic moral standards;
(b) promote with special care the educational and economic interests of backward areas;
(c) remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period;
(d) make technical and professional education generally available and higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of merit;
(e) enable the people of different areas, through education, training, agriculture and industrial development , and other methods to participate fully in all form of national activities including employment in the services of Pakistan; and
(f) ensure full participation of women in all the spheres of national life.

Bhutto’s education policy, announced in 1972, shifted the goal of universal primary education to a more realistic target.

After the military rule Benazir Bhutto’s PPP government committed to raise the 30% literacy rate to 90.5% within five years and expansion in the infrastructure of vocational, scientific and higher technical and university education. It signed the Education for All (EFA) Policy but was dismissed by the military in 1990 before it could formulate a full education policy.

After that; government of Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim league (N) adopted an education policy in 1992, which set the target of universal primary education for 2002. It pledged to provide free and compulsory primary education, to eliminate dropouts, to fulfill basic learning needs, and to raise the adult literacy rate to 70% by 2002. In addition, the new policy identified measures to improve the quality of public instruction through changes in curricula, textbooks, teaching methods and evaluation techniques. The Sharif Government also launched a World Bank-funded Social Action Program (SAP) for social sector development. To be implemented jointly by provincial governments, with community-based involvement, and the participation of NGOs and the private sector, a primary goal was promotion of primary education. It focused female enrollment and improvements in the quality of primary education through measures including: an enhanced non-salary education budget; improved school facilities; adequate classroom materials; better quality textbooks; and improved teaching techniques. These ambitious goals were left unrealized when the Sharif Government was forced out by the military less than half way through its term.

Later Pakistan Peoples Party returned to power in the general elections of 1993. Although the government continued its predecessor’s education policy, little was achieved as Prime Minister Bhutto was again dismissed less than half way through her term by the Time president, acting at the military’s behest.

In February 1997, Sharif’s of Pakistan Muslim League returned with a new Education Policy 1998-2010, which emphasized: “Education is a basic human right. It is the commitment of the government to provide free secondary education to citizens” The new education policy provided time-bound targets for the promotion of education at the elementary, secondary and higher levels In October 1999. Unfortunately General Pervez Musharraf ousted Premier Nawaz Sharif and imposed military rule and generally rejected the policies of its civilian predecessors. Now Again the PPPP has taken power from the military gave a new educational policy with some alterations.

Ritualistically, every party has its manifesto issued at election time but these manifestos hide a number of contradictions or we ignore them deliberately, e.g.
1. while they consciously try to be “all things to all people“, they are also high nuance documents – nuances that only seasoned and native political analysts can adequately fathom.
2. while manifestos tend to address a long list of problems, they evade prioritizing them – as well as the pledged solutions. 3. while they promise an array of outputs, they rarely specify how resources, not only financial and economic but political, administrative, cultural and social are to be generated and allocated to mutually competing promises.
4. parties are rarely serious enough to sift through and solve even serious contradictions among pledges made in their manifestos.

It is a general observation that the majority of the literate population doesn’t check manifestos for their voting choice.Lack of awareness besides lesser publicity of manifestos are strong causes of this behavior. Political parties are seen to be less interested in their formulation of manifestos or its publicizing. The change in Educational system; it requires a level of political will and commitment that prioritizes education and makes the actual implementation possible that has been lacking since inception of the country.

About the author

Mujahid Hussain Shah

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