The Sindh budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 witnessed an increase in education Rs 208.23 billion allocated for education sector showing an increase of 14.67 percent from the outgoing fiscal year. Since the incumbent ruling party in Sindh took the reins of power, budgetary allocations kept increasing compared with the corresponding previous fiscal year, while the education standards remained stagnant, or rather deteriorated for instance estimated 6 million children of school-going age children are out of school in Sindh.
Despite billions of rupees being spent every year on education by the PPPP-led provincial government in addition to the international donors in last 11 years, the ground reality remains depressing and contrary to the claims by made the Sindh government. The ruling elites of Sindh translate increased literacy a danger to their power structure which is essentially based on dynastic politics. Increased literacy will equip the citizenry with more enlightenment, critical thinking tools and informed decision-making thus that is considered a threat to the very dynastic political structure of Sindh. They are afraid of such a social change which may render them powerless. To have a clear understanding of the gravity of the problem, it is imperative to dissect long 11 years of PPP with regard to education sector.
The budget documents reveal that rehabilitation and expansion of 4560 Schools will be maintained through 57 ongoing schemes with allocation of Rs8.69billion.
The budgetary allocations for education sector excluding the new schemes have been kept to Rs 24.4 billion:
that includes Rs 3.2 billon kept for Board and Universities
Rs 958.5 million for STEVTA
Rs 200 million for Special education,
Rs 5 billion for college education
Rs 15 billion for school education.
It is very unfortunate that the Sindh government vociferously cry for shortage of funds resultantly they could not improve the standards of education sector including improved literacy rate, provision of quality education, teachers' training, etc. above all, they have failed to stop the deadly practice of unfair means or cheating in exams which is endangering the future of the younger generations. However, fact is the government could not utilize the allocated budget under the head of the Special Education, STEVTA and Universities and Boards, etc. During the last eight months of current fiscal year 2018-19, under these heads, allocations remained zero utilized.
For College Education an allocation of Rs.5000.000 million has been allocated for fiscal year 2018-19 for 48 on-going schemes with different interventions. The schemes include 11 new degree colleges would be established in districts Hyderabad, Korangi, Malir, Karachi West, Umerkot, Sukkur, Jamshoro, Shikarpur, Jacobabad one in each and two in Sanghar. Law College at Sukkur and five IBA Community Colleges will be established at Naushero-Feroze, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Dadu and Umerkot. Unfortunately, meagre 16% allocated budget is utilized during the last eight months of current fiscal year.
In his budget speech, the Chief Minister of Sindh said Rs.9.598 billion under the head of the Sindh Education Foundation was allocated for the financial year 2018-19 as against Rs.8.085 billion during FY 2017-18.
The Foundation intended to expand 2400 schools and reach around 650,000 students but they are still on 550,000 students compared to Punjab where 3.0Million students are enrolled in Public Private Partnership Program. SEF received large number of applications for the Adoption Program but failed to execute because the Secretary Education and Literacy Department Qazi Shahid could not convene the Board Meeting in a timely manner to approve the Adoption cases and related decision-making. The meeting could not take place since November 2018. and recent request for meeting is in pending since 26th March for which response is still awaited. With this pace one can imagine the interest level of Sindh Government and School Education department to address the challenges related to 6.0Million out of School children in the Province.
The total number of Schools in Sindh are bifurcated into two sets; first being 42,383 primary/elementary and middle schools and second set being 2,010 secondary and higher secondary schools. It is evident that that we have 95% Schools addressing till grade 8th and only 5% FOR Secondary and Higher Secondary level. With this situation dropout after Primary (Grade 5) is unavoidable.
Curriculum that is in the currently being followed is of 2007, last time it was revised in 2012 for which the books have not yet been printed, and it is now 6 years outdated syllabus children are thrust upon. ICT curriculum is of 19th Century. The Early Childhood Curriculum (ECE) was launched in a five-star hotel, sadly, it will takes years to get the books printed and get teachers trained in order to make the viable curriculum for the classrooms. Till 10th Grade the medium of Education is either Sindhi or Urdu, But the College or Higher Secondary Education in Sindh is completely in English. This sudden change of Medium to such higher grade creates trouble for the children because the science subjects in English are altogether a new world.
The IBA Sukkur SAT is also suspended as it was showing negative outcomes related to the quality as the SAT used to happen at grade 5 and 8th. The results of Math and English were below 30%. Instead of improving the quality of teaching and testing mechanism, unfortunately, the Assessment process was suspended.
World is changing and moving towards enquiry-based learning that has genuine value and relevance for them and their communities. Real-world experiences along with engagement and collaboration offer opportunities for learners to construct and organize knowledge; conduct research, enquiry, writing and analysis; and communicate effectively to audiences. Textbooks with errors and poorly scripted cannot inspire young learners instead they end up actually to the ages-old rote learning method, this is certainly contrary to the spirit of modern times.
There is no accountability of teachers’ performance beyond attendance that too is taken once in a month where RSU (Reform Support Unit) person visits and checks attendance through biometric device. This RSU project remains partly dysfunctional due to lack of funds as the foreign funding has been stopped. The vested interests (which includes teacher mafias) caused irreparable damage to our entire education system in the province. For instance, the failure of the biometrics system for ensuring teachers’ attendance and punctuality. Evidently, because teachers are polling agents and PPPP cannot afford to annoy their facilitator - the politicized segment of teacher.
Total teachers’ headcount is 150,787 as per the data revealed by Education profile of 2016-17 shockingly out of which subject specialists are merely 703.
Regarding Administration and Management: Currently two Directorates are operating, third one is being planned to be setup for ECE. That means each Govt School building and operations managed by three different directorates. The consolidation policy of Sindh is a failure, because it simply took 3-4 Schools and moved into one building yet operating as separate setups and have no plan to consolidate resources. Most of the Schools do not have Head Masters. Most of the Subject Specialists those are hired through NTS or promoted on higher grades are no more part of teaching staff rather they are placed in administrative roles.
Therefore, the challenges are immense, though following steps are inevitable for improving the educational system of Sindh province:
1. Public Private Partnership Program must be initiated along with KPIs to increase enrollment alongwith the measure to make existing Public Schools fully functional. Private Schools network can be taken onboard through legislation to run second shifts for Secondary Schools Grade 6-10 and Government should facilitate per child subsidy to the Private School network, currently the percentage is limited to only 10% which is also not practically enforce. The large networks should be included for Urban areas and individuals should be selected for rural areas. The process should be announced and published once in a year to streamline the academic year and ensure increased enrollment. This will also address the challenge of insufficient infrastructure and the urgent need of Schools to cater out of school children.
2. Curriculum board to be formed and it should be open and transparent process like that of KPK.
3. Medium of Education to be aligned between Matric and College education so students from government schools can compete with the students of Private School particularly for admissions in Professional Colleges.
4. Performance of Teachers and Head of School should be linked with the result of the School unit.
5. Hiring of Teachers to be carried out through NTS while ensuring merit.
6. The teachers as well as the headmasters should be posted in their respective areas.
7. College Merger process should be carried out as per the High Court judgment.
8. Directorate restructuring and consolidation policy implementation should be of Staff, resources and Funds and one School building should be managed by one head instead of four different heads.
9. New testing mechanism to be introduced at 5th and 8th Grades to assess the Quality of Learning.
10. For examination boards, it is important to constitute a commission for managing, overseeing and recommending all the measures related to examinations from primary to the intermediate education. It will help in improving the education standards in the province and prohibiting the unfair means in the examinations. For this purpose, I have submitted the Sindh Examination Commission Bill, 2018 for addressing the above-mentioned problems at the Sindh Assembly and request the Sindh government to support that bill on an urgent basis. The Government may also consider the AKU Board for handling the examination related affairs. Otherwise, I am afraid our education system will further deteriorate. Because the Sindh Government seems incapable or lacks resolve to embark on reforming educational system.
The donor agencies such as USAid, EU, UNESCO and Gates Foundation to convince it to work in liaison with Federal Government for funded Projects instead of direct engagement at the Province level. I am a witness to how foreign funding is actually being wasted or the dependency is so high that once the donor agency exit the entire program collapse once such example Is the RSU Monitoring Project.
Sindh lags behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal #4 and fulfilling the obligation of free education upto ages of 5-16 under article 25-A. The reasons for lack of quality education are due to lack of trained teachers, poor conditions of schools and equity issues related to opportunities provided to rural and even urban children. For quality education investment is needed in scholarships, teacher training, school infrastructure and improvement of water and electricity access to schools. Sindh needs will and resolve at the policy making and implementation front. 6 million Children are out of School, however, the pace with which the Sindh Government is working in the name reforms, we can only pray for the miracles to change the fate of the children of Sindh. But as I always believe, change in inevitable in Sindh. The province has immense potential for development keeping in view the large chunk of population which consists of youth. Therefore, it is high time to materialize this potential into a blessing without further delay.