Fight against illiteracy: an uphill task

By Nafisa Hoodbhoy and Zubeida Mustafa

“Bina parhayjo waqt gunwaya”, the powerful TV jingle, came to mind as we walked one after-‘ noon through a long dusty corridor of a government school in Korangi. We (were on a surprise visit to one of the Nai Roshni schools.

Going up a flight of stairs in the school building, we came upon a classroom without window panes. Seated on dusty wooden benches, with books open before them on rickety desks .were 24 boys in dishevelled shalwar-kameez and chappals. They listened intently as their young bearded teacher taught numerals on the blackboard with almost religious devotion.

This was a maths class in progress at the Nai Roshni school. After the teacher had finished he called upon one of the children to come and recite the tables. The boy did so with great zeal in a sing-song tone and the class repeated the lesson after him. Even when the child made a mistake the class did not falter. It was the teacher who would intervene. Obviously the emphasis was on the rote method so common in the schools here. Continue reading “Fight against illiteracy: an uphill task”

Budget and education:  Shortfall in outlay despite Iqra and other incomes                                                   

By Zubeida Mustafa

 WHILE the federal and provincial budgets announced in June have shown an increase in the allocations for the education sector as in previous years the government has failed to display the political will, social commitment and economic capacity to promote education sufficiently in a country where 74 per cent of the population is illiterate.The fact is that, increase in funds notwithstanding, Pakistan is still a long way from the goals the framers of the Sixth Five-Year Plan had laid down in 1983, which would have boosted literacy to 48 per cent and primary school enrolment ratio to 75 per cent. Continue reading “Budget and education:  Shortfall in outlay despite Iqra and other incomes                                                   “

Liaquat National Library Periodicals in need of preservation

By Zubeida Mustafa

AFTER what one hears of the poor reading habits of Pakistanis and their lack of interest in books, one would expect a library to be a deserted place. But a casual visit to the Liaquat Memorial Library on Stadium Road should be enough to convince anyone that there are quite a few people in the city who do like to read. It can, however, be presumed that people read only if they can get books, newspapers and magazines conveniently and free of cost. Continue reading “Liaquat National Library Periodicals in need of preservation”

Where does Pakistan Stand? World Bank study on school quality

By Zubeida Mustafa

ACCORDING to a recently jublished World Bank study, the slowdown in the :rash expansion of the school system in Third World countries, and the decline in the investment capital available to them, lave caused policymakers to turn their attention to the quality of education.

It is now being realised that low levels of student achievement are hampering economic development. Moreover, poor school quality means that in many cases education is not cost-efficient. Continue reading “Where does Pakistan Stand? World Bank study on school quality”

Where does Pakistan Stand ? World Bank study on school quality

By Zubeida Mustafa

ACCORDING to a recently jublished World Bank study, the slowdown in the :rash expansion of the school system in Third World countries, and the decline in the investment capital available to them, lave caused policymakers to turn their attention to the quality of education.

It is now being realised that low levels of student achievement are hampering economic development. Moreover, poor school quality means that in many cases education is not cost-efficient.

But where does Pakistan stand in this new debate on quality versus quantity in education? Pakistan’s education planners would do well to study Bruce Filler’s Raising School Quality in Developing Countries. The anomalies in Pakistan’s educational system would, however, baffle the experts.

In the first place, primary education here has not expanded as fast as in many other Third World countries. Even 40 years after independence, Pakistan’s literacy ratio is dismally low at 26 per cent and primary school enrolment rate is barely 50 per cent. The country has not reached the peak of expansion as many other developing states where literacy and enrolment rates are considerably higher. Secondly, the expenditure on education has registered a much faster growth over the years. Yet the quality of education has shown no perceptible improvement. This is all the more evident when the key indicators for school quality in Pakistan are compared with those in other countries. For instance, the percentage of pupils completing primary school is 50 in Pakistan. It is 60 in low-income countries, 75 in middle-income countries and 93 in industrialised states. In Pakistan the per primary pupil expenditure was about US$28 in 1980 when it was US$59 in low-income countries, US$195 in middle-income countries and US$2,2,297 in industrialised countries. Only in respect of pupil-teacher ratio, Pakistan’s record of 36 in 1980 was better than the 44 for low-income countries. It was 32 for middle-income countries and 18 for the industrialised states. What the World Bank study seeks to establish is that investment in education can, if scientifically channelled, raise the level of student achievement. It is time Pakistan conducted surveys to research the economic benefits of “school quality” not only for individuals but also for the nation’s output. Such a study would serve a useful purpose by identifying the areas which need greater investments if the quality of education is to be raised. Conversely, it could help highlight wasteful expenditure which has little impact on academic level. The latter cannot be overemphasised in view of the fact that Pakistan’s investment in primary education has grown phenomenally over the years but neither has school enrolment expanded proportionately nor has school quality been raised. Broadly speaking, school quality has been defined as (a) the level of material inputs allocated per pupil (resource concentration), and (b) the level of efficiency with which fixed amounts of material inputs are organised and managed to raise pupil achievement. If maximum economic returns are to be obtained for the investments in education it is important to address the question, which specific material inputs are related to student achievement.

Related elements

The World Bank paper reviews 72 studies conducted in developing countries over 15 years. The findings are significant. The elements which were not found to be consistently related to achievement were: the class size, the availability of laboratories and the salary levels of individual teachers. On the other hand, elements which were found to be directly related to the achievement of students were: *

  • Expenditure per pupil * Instructional material e.g. textbooks, radio, etc.
  • School library activity
  • Teacher training
  • Teacher’s social background
  • Length of instructional programme.

It clearly emerges from the surveys that the key elements in determining the quality of education are availability of textbooks, intensity of the use of libraries, level of teachers and the time devoted to instruction. One inherent weakness of these surveys is that they do not take into account curriculum content, quality of textbooks and other books available and the management of instruction.

Teacher characteristics

From some earlier studies it has, however, been established that some characteristics of teachers definitely enhance learning. These include their academic and intellectual proficiency, creativeness, motivation, in-service training, knowledge and teaching methods.

The World Bank study emphasies the need for cost-efficiency in schools. One way of achieving this, it says, is to invest in those material elements of school quality which are cost-effective. This requires choosing among various school inputs and practices. To decide which input is worth investing in, the magnitude of each intervention’s effect and its cost needs to be evaluated.

It is clear that no such exercise has been conducted in Pakistan and the investment made in various sub-sectors of education are obviously quite unplanned.

The education budget has grown but school quality or quantity has not been enhanced correspondingly. If education is to be made cost-effective greater efforts will have to be made in the direction pointed out in the World Bank Discussion Paper.

Source: Dawn 4 April 1987

Going to school in 1928

By Zubeida Mustafa

The elderly woman in the picture above is an. “unusual phenomenon” in Pakistan’s context — if one may describe her so. Devi — that is her name — is a widow who lives in Mithi (Tharparkar) with her sons and their families.

But the reason why I choose Devi to write about is that she is one of those few women of her generation living in rural Sind who have had formal schooling. For Devi was admitted to the Chelhar primary school in 1928 and seven years later she passed the “Vernacular Sindhi Final” — the middle school Continue reading “Going to school in 1928”

The social sector: What the budget was likely to achieve

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Federal Finance Minister has described Budget 1986-87 as being designed to provide relief to all sections of society in need of it.

Although there is greater emphasis on the social sectors and on welfare measures than before — their allocation having risen from 12 per cent of the budget in 1982-83 to 20 per cent in 1986-87 — the increase has been less than what was envisaged in the Sixth Plan. Continue reading “The social sector: What the budget was likely to achieve”

A new stirring in rural Sind

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE villages of Sind are experiencing a new awakening. The people — both men and women — in rural areas of the province are developing a keen awareness of their deprivation and backwardness. Gone are the centuries old fatalism, complacency and submissiveness of yore. The people now want a change and more significantly they are prepared to work for it on a selfhelp basis. Continue reading “A new stirring in rural Sind”

Women’s rights: Greater awareness than before

By Zubeida Mustafa

IS the International Women’s Day on March 8 to be dismissed as one of those occasions for the annual round of rituals and rhetorics which come to nought? The cynics are quick to point out that fiery speeches notwithstnding, the plight of women continues to be as dismal as ever.

True, the struggle for equality of status and the emancipation of women in Pakistan still has a long way to go. Women have not be accorded the basic rights or given the social recognition that are their due as human beings. They have not been integrated in the mainstream of national development. Hence Continue reading “Women’s rights: Greater awareness than before”

Empty corridors

By Zubeida Mustafa

Universities are the future of the nation. The gloom in the university today looks like a forecast for the future of the country.

 Nothing sums up more poignantly the state of affairs at the University of Karachi and its ominous implications for society as these words uttered despairingly by an eminent educationist.

What should be perturbing is that the death-like stillness which has pervaded the campus in the last few weeks since it was abruptly closed for an indefinite period in mid-January has become a normal pattern of university life in Karachi. The NED and the professional colleges have not escaped the malaise of frequent unscheduled closures either. Continue reading “Empty corridors”