In a recently published guest post on Haq's Musings, the author and Teach For India Fellow Rakesh Mani talks about his experience of volunteering with India's primary and secondary schools during the last six months.
Mani argues that "there has to be something wrong with Indian society for it to allow its children to be among the most deprived and malnourished in the world".
Mani laments the fact that "young kids are forced to submit to rote learning" and "they lose the critical consciousness they will need to intervene and transform their country in the years to come."
The author questions the wisdom of focusing exclusively on producing more scientists, doctors and engineers at the expense of focus on primary and secondary education in India, and asks "how can we sustain these specialized programs without building sturdy foundations at school? Or rather, what quality of engineers and scientists must we be producing at these institutes of excellence? Excluding the IITs, what percentage of Indian graduates are able to compete effectively in the global economy?"
This article focuses on the state of India's children, and raises fundamental questions about society's values. However, I find Mr. Mani's thoughts to be equally, if not more, applicable to Pakistan as well.
Under former President Musharraf, Pakistan followed India's lead by focusing on tertiary education with the higher education budget rising 10-15 fold in a short period of time.
Unfortunately, there was no commensurate increase or focus on primary or secondary education, where the rates of return are known to be higher. As a result of the long neglect, Pakistan's primary and secondary public education is in shambles with insufficient funds, rampant corruption and ghost schools that exist only on paper with fictitious staff drawing salaries and perks.
Ranked at 141 on a list of 177 countries, Pakistan's human development ranking remains very low. Particularly alarming is the low primary school enrollment for girls which stands at about 30% in rural areas, where the majority of Pakistanis live. In fact, the South Asia average of primary school enrollment is pulled down by Pakistan, the only country in all of Asia and the Pacific with the lowest primary enrollment rate of 68 per cent in 2005. This is 12 percentage points lower than that of Maldives, which, at 80 per cent, has the second lowest rate in Asia and the Pacific. Low primary enrollment rate and poor health of children in Pakistan raise serious concerns about the future of the nation in terms of the continuing impact of low human development on its economic, social and political well-being.
This lack of focus on access and quality of children's education has resulted in the proliferation of madrassahs, some of which are highly radicalized, that fill the vacuum by offering a one-stop shop for poor children needing food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and basic education. Parents simply drop their children off at these madrassas, and essentially let these institutions raise their children, and brainwash the children in some cases.
As Pakistan now fights an existential battle against extremely violent radicals, many from the radical madrassas, the nation is now paying a heavy price for years of neglect.
Upon the urging of saner elements in Pakistan, and pressure from the alarmed world, a new education policy has recently been announced that will more than double education spending in Pakistan from about 3% of the GDP to 7%. If it is done correctly, instills proper values, and with transparency, then there can be hope for light at end of the tunnel for Pakistan's younger generation.
As a volunteer for "Teach For India", Mr. Mani is inspiring others by personal example. Teach For India is a nationwide movement of outstanding college graduates and young professionals who will commit two-years to teach full-time in under resourced schools and who will become lifelong leaders working from within various sectors toward the pursuit of equity in education.
While there is no Pakistani equivalent of "Teach For India", there are a number of organizations such Human Development Foundation (HDF), Development in Literacy (DIL), Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute, and The Citizens Foundation which are focusing on improving primary education and promoting literacy in Pakistan.
Here's a video report about Pakistan's decrepit public education:
Here is a video about global child slavery:
Teaching Facts Versus Reasoning
Regional Facts: South and Southwest Asia
Education, Society and Development
Pakistan's Children's Plight
South Asia Slipping in Human Development
Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?
Food Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan
Can Slumdog's Success Improve Children's Lives?
Persistent Hunger in South Asia
Quality of Education in India and Pakistan
Pakistan's Education System and Links to Extremism
Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital
As far as I can see the type of education across South Asia is really urban oriented. In the farming and rural areas instead of concentrating on literacy and rural, agricultural and farming skills, the same education is imparted as that in the urban areas. The educational boards and councils are not divided on a rural/urban basis, and the curriculum is the same for everyone. Once educated, rural folk tend to forsake traditional farming and rural employment and tend to move to the cities for work or stay idle at home. Without a separate educational curriculum for the rural areas there is virtually no R&D to promote and enhance the rural culture.
Here's a report in today's NY Times about deep discontent among Pakistani youth:
LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan will face a “demographic disaster” if it does not address the needs of its young generation, the largest in the country’s history, whose views reflect a deep disillusionment with government and democracy, according to a report released here on Saturday.
The report, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Nielsen research company, drew a picture of a deeply frustrated young generation that feels abandoned by its government and despondent about its future.
An overwhelming majority of young Pakistanis say their country is headed in the wrong direction, the report said, and only 1 in 10 has confidence in the government. Most see themselves as Muslim first and Pakistani second, and they are now entering a work force in which the lion’s share cannot find jobs, a potentially volatile situation if the government cannot address its concerns.
“This is a real wake-up call for the international community,” said David Steven, a fellow at the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, who was an adviser on the report. “You could get rapid social and economic change. But the other route will lead to a nightmare that would unfold over 20 to 30 years.”
The report provides an unsettling portrait of a difficult time for Pakistan, a 62-year-old nuclear-armed country that is fighting an insurgency in its western mountains and struggling to provide for its rapidly expanding population. The population has risen by almost half in just 20 years, a pace that is double the world average, according to the report................
The findings were sobering for Pakistani officials. Faisal Subzwari, minister of youth affairs for Sindh Province, who attended the presentation of the report in Lahore, said: “These are the facts. They might be cruel, but we have to admit them.”
But young Pakistanis have demonstrated their appetite for collective action, with thousands of people taking to the streets last spring as part of a movement of lawyers, who were demanding the reinstatement of the chief justice, and Mr. Steven argued that the country’s future would depend on how that energy was channeled. “Can Pakistan harness this energy, or will it continue to fight against it?” he said.
Here's a BBC report about "ghost worker" costing $43m a year in Delhi city government:
The government of the Indian capital, Delhi, has been paying salaries to 22,853 civic workers who do not exist.
Salaries for the missing Municipal Corporation of Delhi workers add up to nearly $43m a year, City Mayor Kanwar Sain said in a statement.
The "gap" was discovered after the authorities introduced a biometric system of recording attendance.
Correspondents say it shows some civic officials created a list of "ghost workers" to siphon off state funds.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) employs more than 100,000 cleaners, gardeners, teachers and other workers.
City officials became aware there were thousands of "ghost workers" after introducing the biometric system in August last year.
Mr Sain said the civic agency has 104,241 "genuine" employees - while the records show the numbers at 127,094.
A press release issued by Mayor Sain's office said: "There is a gap of 22,853 employees in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi between the data given by drawing and disbursing officers, the head of the department and the number of employees enrolled for biometric attendance."
An "in-depth vigilance inquiry will be conducted into the matter to ascertain the facts," he said.
"Strict disciplinary action will be taken against officials who cooked the books," the mayor said.
It was long suspected that the city was being defrauded by "ghost workers", but the authorities had always denied the charge.
Here is a Washington Post story about education deficits in Pakistan:
"If the people get education, the elite would be threatened," said Khadim Hussain, coordinator of the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy and a professor at Islamabad's Bahria University. "If they make education available, the security establishment's ideology may be at risk."
That ideology, Hussain said, involves the belief that non-Muslim nations are out to destroy Pakistan and that the army is the only protection Pakistanis have from certain annihilation. Those notions are emphasized at every level in the schools, with students focused on memorizing the names of Pakistan's military heroes and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, but not learning the basics of algebra or biology, he said.
The nature of the education system is reflected in popular attitudes toward the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups that in recent months have carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Pakistan, many of them targeting civilians.
Although the groups in many cases have publicly asserted responsibility for the attacks, a large percentage of the population here refuses to believe that Muslims could be responsible for such horrific crimes, choosing to believe that India, Israel or the United States is behind the violence. When Hussain challenges graduate-level students for proof, they accuse him of being part of the plot, he said.
Top government officials have little incentive to change that, experts here say. Although the vast majority of Pakistanis must choose between the public schools or madrassas for their children, Pakistan's well-to-do can send their kids to private schools, many of which are considered world-class.
Javed Ashraf Qazi, a former Pakistani education minister, said the United States has not helped by frittering away much of its assistance budget on poorly defined programs, such as conflict-resolution training, which he said leave no enduring impact. What Pakistan really needs, he said, is a network of vocational training institutes that can prepare students for the workplace.
"What would help is something that is lasting," he said. "The U.S. is spending more money, but spending it in a way that it does not leave any impact."
But Pervez Hoodbhoy, a noted nuclear physicist at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University and a longtime proponent of education reform, said Pakistan needs something more fundamental.
"I don't think it's a matter of money. The more you throw at the system, the faster it leaks out," he said. "There has to be a desire to improve. The U.S. can't create that desire. When Pakistanis feel they need a different kind of education system, that's when it will improve."
According to UNICEF, scientific evidence available today tells us that in India alone more than 1 million child lives could be saved from scaling up known and proven cost effective interventions. With over 240 million children under the age of five, India contributes 25 percent of the world’s child deaths. It is evident that a major turnaround in India will ensure a significant impact globally!
The Education For All-Global Monitoring Report, released recently, says that out of the total 759 million illiterate adults in the world, India still has the highest number. “Over half of the illiterate adults live in just four countries: Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan,” the report said, adding the progress has been “painfully slow” and threatens to obstruct the Millennium Development Goals.
Here's a recent AP report about child labor in Pakitan:
ISLAMABAD - Abbas Sajeet is 11 years old, but he doesn't go to school. Instead, he earns 2,500 rupees ($30) a month as an auto mechanic in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
The money goes straight into the meager coffers of his seven-member family.
"Every day from the car garage, I see children walking to their schools," he says. "I wish I could go to school with them, finish high school and study engineering. After that, I would have a good job with a lot of money, and give it to my mother."
At least 10 million children are believed to be working in Pakistan at a variety of jobs, including some of the hardest and most poorly-paid.
Some clean upper-class homes and help baby-sit. Others craft bricks, weave carpets or work in mines. In some cases, families give their children as employees to landlords to pay off debts. That system, known as bonded labor, is likened by human rights activists to slavery.
The children who work often lose their chance to attend school and are vulnerable to abusive employers. Still, those are considered acceptable risks for the many poor families who need every member to pitch in for food, shelter and clothing.
The South Asian nation has come under international pressure to reduce child labor, but there is little regulation of the practice, despite laws protecting children from exploitation in the workplace.
Here is a Times of India report about Transparency International Survey:
Around seven lakh BPL households in India paid bribe in the last one year to avail services related to school education of their children - the total amount paid as bribe being estimated to be around Rs 12 crore. Another nine lakh BPL households used contacts to get their child admitted or promoted in school. However, another five lakh BPL households weren't that lucky - their children couldn't avail such services because they were either too poor to pay bribe or had absolutely no contact or influence to use as an advantage.
The survey - that covered 22,728 randomly selected BPL households across 31 states and union territories - said a majority of those who paid bribe did so for getting their children admitted in the school or for getting promotion of their children from one class to another. Issuing school-leaving certificate was another lucrative business for corrupt schools authorities. However, the amount bribed was highest when it came for allotment of hostel. In comparison, a higher proportion of urban BPL households (40%) paid bribe for new admission and issuance of certificate as against rural areas (33%).
On the other hand, a higher proportion of rural BPL households (32%) paid bribe for promotion of their children from one class to another as against urban households (28%). The same is the case in applying for scholarship where 12% rural BPL families paid bribe compared to 3% urban BPL households. Of those who paid bribe, 86% paid it directly to officials of the school while 12% paid it through middlemen.
According to the report, on an average, a BPL household had to pay Rs 171 as bribe in the last one year related to school education of their children. While looking at states with moderate or high corruption in the school education sector, the level of corruption in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and Goa was found to be “alarming”.
Here's a BBC report about Brookings finding that madrassas are not a major threat in Pakistan:
Islamic schools - or madrassas - in Pakistan are not stoking militancy or extremism, a report by a leading US think-tank has concluded.
The Brookings Institution report says that while religious schools are often cited as a cause of extremism, they "appear not to be a major risk factor".
The report says that fewer than 10% of Pakistani students attended madrassas.
It says that the real cause of militancy in the country is the poor public education system.
Report co-author Rebecca Winthrop, a Brookings fellow, said that number of militant madrassas was not increasing.
She said that most Pakistani parents preferred not to send their children to school at all rather than to enrol them in madrassas.
"We do need to take the militant madrassa issue very seriously," she said at the launch of the report.
"We should really leave the question of the role of Islam in the Pakistan education system to the Pakistanis to debate. This is not something that I think is fruitful if outsiders - us here in the US - start weighing in on."
The study found that the most urgent priority was to increase the supply of schools in Pakistan, where a literacy rate of 56% is among the lowest outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers said that low enrolment rates were "a risk factor for violence" and that demand for education inside Pakistan "far exceeded the government's ability to provide it".
Furthermore, Pakistan's public school system was "highly corrupt" with teaching positions handed out in return for political favours and teachers paid regardless or whether they turned up for work or not.
"The way the education system is set up is contributing to support militancy," said Ms Winthrop.
"Historically education in Pakistan has been used as a tool by successive regimes in pursuing narrow political ends."
She said that the curriculum and teaching methods in public schools promoted the dissemination of intolerant views and did not prepare students in their search for employment.
The report said that this turn frustrated youngsters and increased the pool of militant recruits.
"The almost exclusive focus on madrassas as a security challenge - which is especially prevalent in the west - needs to be corrected," the report said.
Here's a story about the promise of Danish Schools, a series of boarding schools being set up in Pakistani Punjab by the provincial govt of chief minister Sahbaz Sharif for the poor as an alteranative to the madrassa system:
Outside the window, a Pakistani flag flutters, inside, a teacher asks a group of 6th-grader girls and boys, “Who can make a food chain?” A girl comes up to the board and uses a pen as a mouse to click and drag an animated plant to the first box, a worm to the second and a bird to the third. “Excellent,” Says the teacher. She goes and sits down with a smile on her face.
This is not an ordinary board, it’s a smart board, the first of its kind in Pakistan, and this is no ordinary school. Inaugurated January 18th, The Danish School System at Rahim Yar Khan stands in stark contrast to the rural terrain of this Southern Punjab city. Children enrolled in this school have to fit a certain criteria, not just that they have to pass an entry test, but they have to either have a missing parent, or both parents, they have to have an illiterate parent and they must have a monthly income of less than USD 100 - they must belong in short to the forgotten class of Pakistan’s poor and minorities.
This is affirmative action, giving the underprivileged a chance to have a level playing field. But how real is it? For one, it has the clear support of the government of Punjab which has faced severe criticism from all quarters about the surge of 25 billion rupees invested in a series of these purpose-built campuses for both girls and boys all over Punjab. These critics claim that money could have been better spent elsewhere on better alternatives like building roads or canals.
The Danish Schools stands as an alternative to madrassa education because the school provides free lodging and boarding to all its students. It not only gives students a rounded education in the sciences and the arts but also provides social and extracurricular exposure. An on call psychologist also monitors each of the student’s behavior and has counseling sessions with the children and their parent or gurdian for a smooth transition into boarding life.
Despite the challenges, there is a certain spark and energy in the entire Danish school core committee headed by LUMS Provost, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, and the teachers and students. At the inaugural ceremony, one child danced on Shakira’s Waka Waka, another child, Aasia Allah-Wasiah told a 500 odd gathering the story of her life, how she became an orphan and how Danish school was her only hope for a future.
Not all parents were this easily convinced of Danish School’s objectives. One asked the girls’ school principle, “Why would you give me back my child after giving her clothes and shoes and spending so much on her? I know this is a conspiracy to buy our children from us.”
Other parents objected to there being non-Muslim students eating in the same utensils. The management responded by saying “we all eat in the same plates as any Hindu or Christian boy because this school is for everyone equally.” Needless to say that Rahim Yar Khan, despite scattered industrial units is largely agrarian and the people are deeply influenced by the exclusivist brand of Wahabism.
With a meager amount of the GDP being spent on education, it is a positive sign to have politicians finally focus on this sector to secure their vote bank. With time the criticism towards these initiatives, such as the importance of Danish schools adopting the O-Levels system, may fine tune the programs into being more effective for the people. And especially those people who don’t have a voice.
Here's a NY Times story on how Azim Premji's foundation is helping improve primary education in India:
PANTNAGAR, India — The Nagla elementary school in this north Indian town looks like many other rundown government schools. Sweater-clad children sit on burlap sheets laid in rows on cold concrete floors. Lunch is prepared out back on a fire of burning twigs and branches.
But the classrooms of Nagla are a laboratory for an educational approach unusual for an Indian public school. Rather than being drilled and tested on reproducing passages from textbooks, students write their own stories. And they pursue independent projects — as when fifth-grade students recently interviewed organizers of religious festivals and then made written and oral presentations.
That might seem commonplace in American or European schools. But such activities are revolutionary in India, where public school students have long been drilled on memorizing facts and regurgitating them in stressful year-end exams that many children fail.
Outside of India, many may consider the country a wellspring of highly educated professionals, thanks to the many doctors and engineers who have moved to the West. And the legions of bright, English-speaking call-center employees may seem to represent, to many Western consumers, the cheerful voice of modern India.
But within India, there is widespread recognition that the country has not invested enough in education, especially at the primary and secondary levels.
In the last five years, government spending on education has risen sharply — to $83 billion last year, up from less than half that level before. Schools now offer free lunches, which has helped raise enrollments to more than 90 percent of children.
But most Indian schools still perform poorly. Barely half of fifth-grade students can read simple texts in their language of study, according to a survey of 13,000 rural schools by Pratham, a nonprofit education group. And only about one-third of fifth graders can perform simple division problems in arithmetic. Most students drop out before they reach the 10th grade.
Narayana Murthy, a friend of Mr. Premji and chairman of Infosys, a company that competes with Wipro, said he admired the Premji Foundation’s work but worried it would be undermined by the way India administers its schools.
“While I salute Azim for what he is doing,” Mr. Murthy said, “in order to reap the dividends of that munificence and good work, we have to improve our governance.”
Mr. Premji says his foundation would be willing to work with private schools. But he argues that government schools need help more because they are often the last or only resort for India’s poorest and least educated families.
Mr. Premji, whose bright white hair distinguishes him in a crowd, comes from a relatively privileged background. He studied at a Jesuit school, St. Mary’s, in Mumbai and earned an electrical engineering degree at Stanford.
At 21, when his father died, Mr. Premji took over his family’s cooking oil business, then known as Western Indian Vegetable Product. He steered the company into information technology and Wipro — whose services include writing software and managing computer systems — now employs more than 100,000 people. He remains Wipro’s largest shareholder.
After visitors left a classroom at Nagla school, an instructor began leading more than 50 fifth-grade students in a purely rote English lesson, instructing the students to repeat simple phrases: Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Good night. The children loudly chanted them back in unison.
Underfunding is pervasive in the district. But so are glimmers of the educational benefits that might come through efforts like the Premji Foundation’s.
Pakistan could replace India as the biggest recipient of British bilateral aid, according to the Guardian newspaper:
Britain is to stop sending direct aid to Burundi and Niger, two of the world's poorest countries, the government announced as it unveiled plans to rebalance the £8.4bn international development budget.
The two African nations, which are ranked second and fourth respectively in a World Bank list of the world's poorest states, are among 16 countries that will no longer receive bilateral aid from Britain by 2016. Direct aid will also be halted to Lesotho which is ranked 28th on the World Bank list.
Burundi, a landlocked country in the unstable Great Lakes region of Africa, is still suffering from the consequences of the Hutu-Tutsi massacres in the 1990s when 200,000 of its citizens died. Niger, a landlocked country in west Africa, depends on foreign aid for half of the government's budget.
The cuts were outlined to MPs by Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, as he unveiled the conclusions of two reviews into Britain's bilateral and multilateral aid programmes. Cutting aid to the 16 countries would allow Britain to concentrate its resources on 27 countries which include Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Africa.
Ethiopia will become the biggest recipient of bilateral aid over the next two years. Pakistan could become the biggest recipient of British aid within three years, with a major focus on education, British officials in Islamabad said, but only if the government reduces chronic corruption.
Just 56% of Pakistani children between five and nine years' old attend primary school, a rate that British officials want to boost to the world average of 87%. But the school system is chronically dysfunctional due to political interference, "ghost schools" and unqualified teachers. "It's an education emergency," said one official.
As well as reducing graft, British officials want to see Pakistan increase its tax collection, currrently at a disastrously low rate of nine per cent of GDP with many parliamentarians paying little tax. The Pakistani government has vowed to improve education spending from two per cent GDP to seven per cent.
British officials said they recognised that British aid was a "drop in the bucket" in a country of 180 million people, but hoped that a targeted aid programme could "catalyse change" in critical areas like education.
Direct financial transfers to the Pakistani exchequer, which amounted to £120 million over four years under the last aid programme, are likely to be scrapped, officials said.
For those unfamiliar with Azim Premji's efforts to improve primary education in India, here's an excerpt from a recent NY Times piece titled "Skipping Rote Memorization in Indian Schools":
.. the classrooms of Nagla are a laboratory for an educational approach unusual for an Indian public school. Rather than being drilled and tested on reproducing passages from textbooks, students write their own stories. And they pursue independent projects — as when fifth-grade students recently interviewed organizers of religious festivals and then made written and oral presentations.
That might seem commonplace in American or European schools. But such activities are revolutionary in India, where public school students have long been drilled on memorizing facts and regurgitating them in stressful year-end exams that many children fail.
Nagla and 1,500 other schools in this Indian state, Uttarakhand, are part of a five-year-old project to improve Indian primary education that is being paid for by one of the country’s richest men, Azim H. Premji, chairman of the information technology giant Wipro. Education experts at his Azim Premji Foundation are helping to train new teachers and guide current teachers in overhauling the way students are taught and tested at government schools.
Here is a sobering assessment of the education crisis in Pakistan, as reported by the BBC:
The Pakistani government says the country is in the midst of an educational emergency with disastrous human and economic consequences.
A report by a government commission found that half of all Pakistani school children cannot read a sentence.
The commission found funding for schools has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the national airline gets in subsidies.
It describes the education crisis as a self-inflicted disaster.
The report says 25 million children in Pakistan do not get primary education, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution.
Three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson.
The report says that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.
"Millions of children are out of school, there is a crumbling infrastructure and education budgets are constantly shrinking but... the situation can be improved in a matter of years if there is a political will for change," the report says.
It says that at the current rate of progress Punjab province will provide all children with their constitutional right to education by 2041 while Balochistan province - the worst affected area - will not reach this goal until 2100.
The report says that only 6% of children in the country get their education in religious schools or madrassas.
The commission found that:
* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan who still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity
The report said that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.
The findings also affect population growth - because educated women have smaller families with children who are healthier and more inclined to use their own education to nurture the next generation.
The report concludes that if the government doubled its present spending on education, significant progress could be made in just two years.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, now on a visit to Pakistan, has offered about $1 billion in aid for education, according to Financial Times:
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David Cameron offered Pakistan’s leaders up to £650m ($1,055m) of aid for schools and heaped praise on their “huge fight” against terrorism in a diplomatic gamble to end years of mutual mistrust with a gesture of goodwill.
During a confidence-building visit to Islamabad with an entourage of his most senior security advisers, Mr Cameron jettisoned the usual list of UK demands and instead gave Pakistan the benefit of the doubt over Afghanistan and its support for militant groups.
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Such optimism over Islamabad’s intentions marks a big break in British diplomacy, making a stark contrast with Mr Cameron’s description of Pakistan “looking both ways” on terrorism, a remark that triggered a serious diplomatic incident last year.
Rather than regarding Pakistan as a country that “can do more”, particularly on curbing Taliban activities, the British assumption is now that Islamabad’s security agencies have limited control over militant groups they once helped to create.
The big test for Mr Cameron is whether his expression of trust can generate better results than the more transactional approach adopted in the past. British officials say they are already seeing tangible improvements in intelligence co-operation and a greater willingness to discuss a political peace deal in Afghanistan.
Mr Cameron sought to demonstrate the breadth of the new partnership by offering funds for up to 4m school places by 2015. “I struggle to find a country that’s more in our interest to progress and succeed than Pakistan,” Mr Cameron said after a meeting with Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister.
“If Pakistan succeeds then we will have a good story ... if it fails we will have all the problems of migration and extremism, all the problems.”
The package of up to £650m, which more than doubles previous education funding, forms part of an aid programme that is set to become Britain’s biggest.
The centrepiece of Mr Cameron’s visit was a security round-table with Pakistan’s civilian leadership and General Ashfaq Kayani, its military chief. Sir John Sawers, head of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, and General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, also attended, in their second visit to Islamabad in less than a month.
Mr Gilani later brushed aside questions over Pakistan’s willingness to combat terrorism. “We’ve the ability and we have the resolve and we are fighting and we’ve paid a very heavy price for that,” he said, citing the 30,000 casualties in Pakistan’s effort to quell an internal insurgency.
One senior Pakistani government official speaking after Mr Cameron’s meetings said closer security ties would take some more time to develop. “Clearly, the UK wants Pakistan to extend help to combat militant plots on British soil,” he said. “But the UK will also need to be much more forthcoming on helping Pakistan to go after members of its own militant groups from places like Baluchistan who have taken refuge in Britain.”
Here's a Wall Street Journal story titled "India Graduates Millions, But Too Few Are Fit to Hire":
BANGALORE, India—Call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd. is desperate to find new recruits who can answer questions by phone and email. It wants to hire 3,000 people this year. Yet in this country of 1.2 billion people, that is beginning to look like an impossible goal.
So few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants.
India projects an image of a nation churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are well educated, a looming threat to the better-paid middle-class workers of the West. Their abilities in math have been cited by President Barack Obama as a reason why the U.S. is facing competitive challenges.
Yet 24/7 Customer's experience tells a very different story. Its increasing difficulty finding competent employees in India has forced the company to expand its search to the Philippines and Nicaragua. Most of its 8,000 employees are now based outside of India.
In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore.
"With India's population size, it should be so much easier to find employees," says S. Nagarajan, founder of the company. "Instead, we're scouring every nook and cranny."
India's economic expansion was supposed to create opportunities for millions to rise out of poverty, get an education and land good jobs. But as India liberalized its economy starting in 1991 after decades of socialism, it failed to reform its heavily regulated education system.
Business executives say schools are hampered by overbearing bureaucracy and a focus on rote learning rather than critical thinking and comprehension. Government keeps tuition low, which makes schools accessible to more students, but also keeps teacher salaries and budgets low. What's more, say educators and business leaders, the curriculum in most places is outdated and disconnected from the real world.
"If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys," says Vijay Thadani, chief executive of New Delhi-based NIIT Ltd. India, a recruitment firm that also runs job-training programs for college graduates lacking the skills to land good jobs.
Muddying the picture is that on the surface, India appears to have met the demand for more educated workers with a quantum leap in graduates. Engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students, nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade group.
But 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India's high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centers, according to results from assessment tests administered by the group.
Another survey, conducted annually by Pratham, a nongovernmental organization that aims to improve education for the poor, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools across India. It found that about half of the country's fifth graders can't read at a second-grade level.
The quality of primary and secondary education is clearly important in preparing students for higher education, and there has lately been a lot of hand wringing on about declining test scores in the US, particularly with respect to minority kids in schools.
Here are some of my thoughts on it:
1. With a PISA reading score of 500, US kids outperformed those in Germany( 497), France (496) and UK (494).
2. Based on PISA reading scores as analyzed by Steve Sailer, US Asians (score 541) are just below Shanghai students (556), US whites (525) outperform all of their peers in Europe except the Finns, and US Hispanics (466) and US Blacks (441) significantly outperform kids in dozens of countries spread across Asia, Latin America and Middle East.
For example, US Hispanics did better than Turks, Russians, Serbians, and all of Latin America.
In fact US Hispanics outperformed all BRIC nations with the exception of China.
And US Blacks did better than Bulgaria, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Jordan, Indonesia, Argentina, etc.
3. The only data available for India is 2003 TIMMS on which they ranked 46 on a list of 51 countries. Their score was 392 versus avg of 467. They performed very poorly. It was contained in a report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".
I think Pakistani kids would probably also perform poorly on PISA and TIMMS if these tests administered there.
Here's an assessment of Pakistan's education crisis by Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Inst:
For the millions of people who read and were inspired by Greg Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, Sunday’s revelations by CBS News’ 60 Minutes that much of his story was at best vastly exaggerated and at worst fabricated, came as deep disappointment. ......
As I travel around Pakistan this week and look at education issues across the country, including in the Federally Administered Northern Areas where Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea was set, I am struck by the bitter-sweet effect of these revelations. On the one hand, Mortenson’s book hid one of the country’s biggest educational success stories and promulgated a model of education assistance that has been proven time and again to be ineffective. On the other hand, his story captured the hearts of millions, bringing needed attention to the very real educational needs of Pakistan’s children and articulating the very important role good quality education can play in reducing conflict risk.
Contrary to the Three Cups of Tea portrayal of Gilgit-Bultistan as a place with little educational opportunity, it is one of the regions in Pakistan that has demonstrated true educational transformation over the last 50 years. In 1946, just prior to partition from India, there were an estimated six primary schools and one middle school for the entire region. Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions. Girls are often noted to be outperforming boys and staying in school longer. It is true that community leadership and civil society organizations have played a major role in this transformation; it just was not Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. When I asked the governor of Gilgit-Bultistan, Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah, how this education transformation came about, he was quick to point to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a network of private, international, nondenominational development organizations, an assertion with which other education experts concur. Led by His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the concerted focus on improving education, and especially girls’ education, started in 1946 and has continued, led by community members, for decades. Initially starting in the Ismaili communities in Gilgit-Bultistan, the work spread quickly to other non-Ismaili communities in the region, when the clear economic and health benefits of educating girls were seen by neighboring communities. Many civil society organizations, government interventions and public-private partnerships have developed over time, helping to increase levels of human capital and capacity through heavy investment in education, particularly of girls. According to Mehnaz Aziz, member of the national Pakistan Education Task Force, if the rest of Pakistan could only follow in the footsteps of the people of Gilgit-Bultistan, the status of education in Pakistan would be greatly improved.
... Increasing access to quality education is likely to reduce Pakistan’s risk of conflict as cross-country estimates show that increasing educational attainment is strongly correlated with conflict risk reduction. Last month, a national campaign – Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – was launched to spur country-wide dialogue on the need to prioritize educational investment and progress.
It is unfortunate that the 60 Minutes expose has called into question the accuracy of Greg Mortenson’s books. Without defending Mortenson or whether the facts in his memoirs are accurate, I can say truthfully that there is indeed a very serious education crisis in Pakistan. The international community should not lose sight of this and the real needs of the Pakistani children and youth seeking to improve their lives.
UN World Food Program's initiative to provide free food and cooking oil to school children is persuading poor families to send their daughters to school in Pakistan, according to a news report:
The program has already noted success in a 62% increase in girls' attendance in the last decade.
"This is really a big help. In these times when things are so expensive, receiving [cooking] oil free of charge is a real bonus," Fareeda Bibi mentioned while placing the four-litre fortified oil tin by her tiny stove.
A tin of oil costs Rs 450 [US$5.5], and Fareeda needs at least three a month to cook for her family of eight.
"My husband earns Rs 5,000 [$61] a month as a carpenter, so our budget is tight. Over Rs 1,000 [$12.2] goes towards utility bills; we spend nearly 2,500 [$30.5] on food and then there are new shoes to be bought for the children or medical bills to pay for my parents-in-law. Every little bit that comes in free in such hard times is a bonus."
Fareeda's daughter Shama receives the oil at her school in Dera Ghazi Khan District in Pakistan's Punjab Province every month as part of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) operation run in conjunction with the government.
"The incentive is mainly to increase enrolment and keep the girls in school. The assistance is only given in girls' primary schools in Punjab. However, in NWFP [North West Frontier Province], Balochistan and Sindh, we have included boys as well," said Amjad Jamal, a WFP spokesman.
The programme had increased girls' enrolment by 25% and attendance by 62%
since 1998, said Marcelo Spinahering of WFP Pakistan. "Children are given high energy biscuits for onsite feeding in certain parts of the country. For the most part they receive take-home rations of four litres of fortified edible oil on a monthly basis and 50kg of wheat on a quarterly basis," he added.
Fareeda said the school feeding programme had also played a part in persuading male members of her family to allow Shama to go to school, just like her two brothers.
"When they say there is no need to educate girls because they will never need to earn a living, I point out the oil we receive helps us run the house, and then they fall silent," Fareeda said, adding: "Of course it is very important to us that our daughter is being educated. I am not literate and this handicaps me."
Noor Bibi, the mother of another young schoolgirl said: "Even though we pay no fees at government schools, my husband says we spend too much on uniforms and books." The oil bonus helps 'balance' this, and she hopes to double the gains in a few years time when her two-year-old daughter is enrolled.
Fozia Hina, deputy district officer for Dera Ghazi Khan sub-district, said: "In areas such as ours, which is largely underdeveloped, parents do not like sending girls out of the house, even to school. Traditionally girls do not leave the home of their parents or husbands. Since the [cooking] oil incentive began several years ago more parents are eager to enrol kids. Mothers are keen to enrol even four-year-old girls."...
Here are some excerpts from an opinion piece by Rakesh Mani published in the Wall Street Journal:
Much has been spoken and written of India’s “demographic dividend.” With almost 40% of the population – around 500 million people – under the age of 15, it is estimated that around 25% of the global workforce will be Indian by 2030. What this means is that the quality of education that young Indian children are receiving today is going to impact us all in the near future.
1. Commit to spending more on education. Way back in 1968, the Kothari Commission recommended that India spend 6% of its Gross Domestic Product on education. However, in the 43 years since, India’s total educational outlays have never exceeded 4.3% of its GDP in any given year. Setting aside more funds for education is a critical first step that will demonstrate the government’s commitment to educational reform.
2. Fix primary education first. There are two major tasks here: raising enrollment to 100% in urban as well as rural areas; and then minimizing drop-outs. Both need to work in tandem to be meaningful. In Mumbai, for instance, enrollment rates are very high – above 95% — but only a fraction of these students actually finish school due to absurdly high drop-out rates. In addition, eliminating gender gaps at this early stage must be a priority. Shockingly, in some rural areas, thousands of young girls do not attend school because there are no separate toilets for them. Other girls do not attend because the walk to school – often in a neighboring village – is unsafe.
3. Yes, the answer is building more schools with better infrastructure. But even as the government and private institutions are building more schools, the quality of instruction is falling sharply. Teacher training needs a great deal of work and effort. Here, it is heartening to see the number of NGOs that are rushing to fill this gap but most of these efforts are still confined to urban areas, and especially large metropolitan cities. We need high-quality instruction to produce high-quality students capable of playing active roles in a rapidly growing country.
4. Prioritize schooling over higher education. In the early 50s, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, decided to build out India’s higher education platform to compete technologically in the Cold War era. Under his direction, institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology were expanded and the country focused on producing more engineers and scientists. But the expansion of higher education was accompanied by a neglect of school education. This continues today, with new engineering colleges mushrooming every day. Schools are often viewed as little more than a means to gain access to a solid engineering program. This remarkable trend has had far-reaching effects.
Make no mistake: we are in the midst of a severe education crisis. And it is for this reason that we need to be talking about the subject more and encouraging debate. Because let us be sure that, without a significant change in mindset, education reform is a non-starter and the “demographic dividend” will just remain a fancy term confined to political journals.
Here's an excerpt from a Financial Times story on Indian education crisis:
A report on the state of Indian education, the largest study of the country’s rural children, makes for grim reading.
India’s schools are in bad shape, and not getting any better. Maths ability is declining, and reading is way below where it should be.
The Annual Status of Education Report 2010, prepared by Pratham, an education non-governmental organisation supported by many of India’s top companies, has a blunt message. School enrolment is up but quality is unacceptably low. Inadequate state provision is fuelling the expansion of private education, which India’s largely poor people can ill-afford.
Here are some of the report’s key findings:
1. 96.5 per cent of children in the 6 to 14 age group in rural India are enrolled in school. While 71.1 per cent of these children are enrolled in government schools, 24.3 per cent are enrolled in private schools.
2. India’s southern states in particular are moving strongly towards more private sector education provision. The percentage of children in private school increased from 29.7 per cent to 36.1 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, from 19.7 per cent to 25 per cent in Tamil Nadu and from 51.5 per cent to 54.2 per cent in Kerala
3. There has been a decrease in children’s ability to do simple mathematics. The proportion of Standard 1 children who could recognise numbers from 1-9 has declined.
4. After five years of schooling, close to half of children are below a level expected after just two years of formal education. Half of these children cannot read. Only one child in five can recognise numbers up to 100.
5. Toilets were useable in only half the 13,000 schools surveyed. Teacher attendance was 63 per cent, lower than pupil attendance.
Kapil Sibal, the new education minister, has breathed some life into a portfolio left moribund by his elderly predecessor Arjun Singh. But lately, Mr Sibal, a lawyer, has been seconded into the telecommunications ministry to clean up a mess surrounding the controversial award of new 2G licences that may have cost the exchequer as much as $39bn.
There are few more important challenges in India than improving its schools. Not for the first time ineptitude and greed at the top are robbing India’s young of resources.
Here's a Daily Times piece on linking BISP to primary schooling of children:
The cash transfer under the scheme would be linked with school-going children of beneficiary families. The scheme will be the latest addition in the various innovative measures of BISP, including demand driven vocational/technical training along with the provision of micro-financing to ensure livelihood independence for millions of beneficiary families.
Analysis of the data collected through a nationwide poverty survey by BISP reveals that primary education of beneficiaries’ children is one of the major issues of the poor class in Pakistan. A careful evaluation of the data revealed that only 17 percent of BISP beneficiaries send all of their children (between the age of 4 to 10 years) to school, 27 percent of them send some of their children to school, whereas 56 percent do not send any of their children to school. In terms of numbers, more than 5 million children of BISP beneficiaries, between the ages of 4 to 10 years, do not attend any school. The future of millions of these children is in our hands; we can make them productive citizens in the world by providing them with decent educational opportunities; otherwise, sans education, they would become nothing but an easy prey for the cruel forces of extremism, intolerance and terrorism, which are unfortunately competing with the forces of reason in our country.
The makers of the US TV show Sesame Street launched a new puppet show in Pakistan on Saturday.
The programme was jointly developed by Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American children's series, and Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a Pakistani group that has been staging puppet shows for more than three decades.
The show, called Sim Sim Hamara, received $20 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
"I think, we have had a really good take off on making a Sesame Sim Sim Hamara which belongs to Pakistan," Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization, told the audience at launching ceremony in Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore.
"It has Pakistani characters, it has content which is specially designed for Pakistan and there is a lot of development on the side of making an international level production."
The shows will appear on Pakistan state television in late December and the producers hope they will reach three million children, one million of whom are out of school.
A total of 78 episodes will be aired in Pakistan's national language, Urdu, over the next three years, as well as 13 in each of the four main regional languages, Baluchi, Pashtu, Punjabi and Sindhi.
The TV show has a new cast of local characters. The lead character is a six-year-old girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music. Another character, Munna, is a five-year-old boy obsessed with numbers.
Baily the donkey, Haseen O Jameel the crocodile and Baaji, a strong woman, are a few of the other characters.
The programme is expected to help the educational difficulties of children without access to schooling and reflect messages of inclusion and mutual respect.
"A programme like this can bring forth the children of Pakistan to understand all the ideas with inclusion of kindness to one another, mutual respect and equal opportunity. And I think, that's one of the things that we are very very pleased to be a part of to be able to sponsor that," said U.S. Consul General, Nina Maria Fite.
In addition to the television show, the USAID-funded project will include radio programmes for parents and other care-givers, live puppet shows, mobile video shows, a website with e-books, games, and children's songs.
Educational curriculum will focus on language development, critical thinking, and cognitive processes.
According to figures from UNESCO and other non-governmental organisations, roughly one in 10 of the world's primary-age children who are not in school live in Pakistan, placing Pakistan second in the global ranking of out-of-school children, behind Nigeria.
The World Bank approved a $400-million loan earlier this year for Pakistan's flailing education system, one of the world's worst where the country spends less than 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on schooling.
Here's a report in The Nation about the use of mobile phones to deliver teacher training and resources:
ISLAMABAD - Nokia and UNESCO Islamabad have launched “Mobile Learning Project for Teacher’s Professional Development” on Thursday as formal collaboration took place in the presence of senior government officials, Nokia and UNESCO representatives.
As part of this programme, UNESCO and Nokia are joining hands, where Nokia is providing a technology solution known as Nokia Education Delivery to the UNESCO project ‘use of ICT for professional development of public school teachers’ in remote areas.
In Pakistan, through the project, Nokia will help UNESCO to enable the delivery of high- quality educational materials to teachers who lack training and resources.
Through mobile phones teachers will be given an opportunity to train themselves. Nokia developed the Nokia Education Delivery programme to allow using a mobile phone to access and download videos and other educational materials from a constantly updated education library.
Speaking about the project, UNESCO Director, Kozue Kai Nagata said, “In 21st century public-private partnerships are enjoying growing attention and support as a new and sustainable modality for development.
We are confident to collaborate with Nokia to provide us with the best platform to train public school teachers. Nokia Education Delivery programme is fit to match our need of delivering quality training to a large number of public school teachers across Pakistan through the project named “Mobile Learning for Teachers”.
Amir Jahangir, President AGAHI and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, shared his views on the launch that “Pakistan is a knowledge starved country, where universal education has its own challenges. To meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on education, Pakistan needs to address its education challenges through innovation and technology which can reach to a larger population with cost effective solutions”.
This unique pilot project for Pakistan has been initiated by UNESCO and AGAHI while Nokia Pakistan will enable the project implementation by providing not just Nokia devices but a complete solution via its Nokia Education Delivery programme.
Results of PISA international test released by OECD in Dec, 2011, show that Indian students came in at the bottom of the list along with students from Kyrgyzstan:
Students in Tamil Nadu-India attained an average score on the PISA reading literacy scale that is significantly higher than those for Himachal Pradesh-India and Kyrgyzstan, but lower than all other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 17% of students are estimated to have a proficiency in reading literacy that is at or above the baseline needed to participate effectively and productively in life. This means that 83% of students in Tamil Nadu-India are estimated to be below this baseline level. This compares to 81% of student performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on average.
Students in the Tamil Nadu-India attained a mean score on the PISA mathematical literacy scale as the same observed in Himachal Pradesh-India, Panama and Peru. This was significantly higher than the mean observed in Kyrgyzstan but lower than those of other participants in PISA 2009 and PISA 2009+.
In Tamil Nadu-India, 15% of students are proficient in mathematics at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to use mathematics in ways that are considered fundamental for their future development. This compares to 75% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was no statistically significant difference in the performance of boys and girls in mathematical literacy.
Students in Tamil Nadu-India were estimated to have a mean score on the scientific literacy scale, which is below the means of all OECD countries, but significantly above the mean observed in the other Indian state, Himachal Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu-India, 16% of students are proficient in science at least to the baseline level at which they begin to demonstrate the science competencies that will enable them to participate actively in life situations related to science and technology. This compares to 82% in the OECD countries, on average. In Tamil Nadu-India, there was a statistically significant gender difference in scientific literacy, favouring girls.
Here's a Financial Times Report on the inadequacy of India's primary education:
Primary education standards in India are as bad as in Papua New Guinea and crisis-torn Afghanistan and Yemen, according to a team of Indian development economists.
In a study of schools in the country’s most populous states they found that fast-paced economic growth has failed to improve India’s basic educational standards over the past 15 years. The Public Report on Basic Education Revisited showed some children were unable to read after three years of schooling across the Hindi-speaking northern belt.
“When the investigators arrived, half of the government schools were still devoid of any teaching activity,” the report said. “In a functioning democracy, this would be a major national concern. Yet little notice has been taken in the corridors of power.”
According to Jean Drèze, one of the report’s researchers and a prominent Indian policymaker, India now finds itself in an adult-literacy peer group that includes Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen.
The ratio of students to teachers in Indian primary schools was three times higher than in China, with a typical class in Bihar, one of the poorest states, having as many as 92 pupils.
“After 20 years of meteoric economic growth, there’s been so little improvement in terms of the living standards of the people,” Mr Drèze said. “There’s a very serious crisis. We have to wake up to the fact that we are relying too heavily on economic growth.”
There are 5.5m teachers in India, but at least 1.2m more are required. “The reason there aren’t any teachers in school is because states have not recruited them for many years,” said Kapil Sibal, minister of Human Resources Development.
The report’s authors said that it had taken years to analyse and verify data collected in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. One team member, A.K. Shiva Kumar, said that he and his colleagues had also reviewed educational data for the 2009-2010 year and found them to be “identical” to those of 2006.
The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report for 2010 said Indians received just 4.4 years of schooling on average, compared with 7.5 years for China’s citizens. Sri Lanka outscores both with 8.2 years of schooling and is on par with China’s 99 per cent literacy rate for young female adults.
“Most developing countries are talking of [offering their children] 10 years of schooling,” said Mr Kumar, who is also a development economist and advises Unicef, the UN’s child welfare agency. “Here there’s lots of focus on growth rates but we are not looking at how India gets to 10 years of schooling.”
Meera Samson, a researcher at the Delhi-based Collaborative Research and Dissemination and report co-author, said head teachers had not been appointed at 20 per cent of the schools surveyed. At another 12 per cent of schools, only one teacher had been offered a position.
Last year, India’s parliament passed legislation requiring the state to provide universal education.
Here are some excerpts from a piece by Lan Pritchett of Harvard University on India's poor performance on PISA:
Compared to the economic superstars India is almost unfathomably far behind. The TN/HP average 15 year old is over 200 points behind. If a typical grade gain is 40 points a year Indian eighth graders are at the level of Korea third graders in their mathematics mastery. In fact the average TN/HP child is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Equally worrisome is that the best performers in TN/HP - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to complete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.
As the current superpowers are behind the East Asian economic superstars in learning performance the distance to India is not quite as far, but still the average TN/HP child is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Indians often deride America's schools but the average child placed in an American school would be among the weakest students. Indians might have believed, with President Obama, that American schools were under threat from India but the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.
Even among other "developing" nations that make up the BRICs India lags - from Russia by almost as much as the USA and only for Brazil, which like the rest of Latin America is infamous for lagging education performance does India even come close - and then not even that close.
To put these results in perspective, in the USA there has been huge and continuous concern that has caused seismic shifts in the discourse about education driven, in part, by the fact that the USA is lagging the economic superstars like Korea. But the average US 15 year old is 59 points behind Koreans. TN/HP students are 41.5 points behind Brazil, and twice as far behind Russia (123.5 points) as the US is Korea, and almost four times further behind Singapore (217.5 vs 59) that the US is behind Korea. Yet so far this disastrous performance has yet to occasion a ripple in the education establishment.
These PISA 2009+ results are the end of the beginning. The debate is over. No one can still deny there is a deep crisis in the ability of the existing education system to produce child learning. India's education system is undermining India's legitimate aspirations to be at the global forefront as a prosperous economy, as a global great power, as an emulated polity, and as a fair and just society. As the beginning ends, the question now is: what is to be done?
Here's a story published in Fast Company about an "Education Revolution" in Pakistan:
TED Fellow, social entrepreneur and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is on a mission to foment Pakistan's education revolution.
The province of Sindh, where Obaid-Chinoy is based, decided less than two months ago to completely revamp public school textbooks, and the government enlisted Obaid-Chinoy to help. "There needs to be an overhaul," Obaid-Chinoy tells Fast Company. "Textbooks are outdated and I've been working with the government on how to encourage critical thinking and move away from rote memorization....It's tough, because the mindset is not there. The teachers are essentially products of the same system. We have to break the culture, which takes a long time."
Sindh's teachers now spend extensive time in professional training with education experts to try and reform the instruction of English, math, and social studies. "We're really making this a movement for education for social change," Obaid-Chinoy says.
"People are excited by it. Everyone's getting into it, rolling up their sleeves. We're trying to bridge the divide between the public and private school systems," which, she says, is at the heart of Pakistan's education challenges. The poorer schools are under-resourced and are often recruiting grounds for young terrorists. By improving the public education system, the less-fortunate children have a better shot at a solid future, away from terrorist groups, and local leaders hope to accomplish improvements by focusing on textbooks and teacher trainings.
"Pakistan also feels it needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of education and that was the genesis for the education overhaul," says Obaid-Chinoy. "Terrorism defines us today," but, she says, there was a time when the country was known for its vibrancy and sense of hope.
Obaid-Chinoy is doing her part in other ways to revamp Pakistan's education system. In 2007 she started CitizensArchive.org, the country's first digital archive documenting its oral history with interviews, rare photos, and other online collections. The initiative allows students in schools throughout Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India to better understand Pakistan and its history and Obaid-Chinoy was able to interview several notable figures who have since passed away, such as Deena Mistri, one of the country's first female educators. And students around South Asia are now engaged in learning exchanges with students in Pakistan, to help the countries build bridges.
And throughout her education work, Obaid-Chinoy's medium is often filmmaking. She makes about one film per year and has covered a range of topics from jihadi schools to female victims of acid attacks. Her next film will look at 9/11 through the eyes of different figures, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary this year.
"My mother gave up her dream of becoming a journalist when she got married and I think she always wanted to make sure that her six children pursued their dreams. I have four sisters and all of us work in male-dominated professions in Pakistan." And Obaid-Chinoy now brings that same sense of passion and justice to her work and thanks to her, her country may soon become a bright spot for global-minded education.
Here's a private-public partnership initiative for education in Sindh, as reported in The Express Tribune:
The Sindh Education Foundation has handed over the management of 1,200 schools across Sindh to entrepreneurs under its private-public partnership programme, Integrated Education Learning Programme (IELP).
The SEF asked entrepreneurs to apply for school adoption by submitting proposals and they received a staggering 9,600 applications. Each proposal was strictly assessed. There should be no other primary school within a one-kilometre radius of the new one or already established school as this would affect enrolment. No other secondary school should exist within a two-kilometre radius. At least 40 children should be enrolled in primary schools and 30 in elementary and secondary classes. The programme requires the student-teacher ratio to be at least 1:4. Teachers should be paid a minimum of Rs5,000 while at least Rs2,500 should be paid to the support staff. Drinking water and clean toilets are other prerequisites for the IELP selection.
Out of the total applications received, 4,500 were initially shortlisted and 1,500 were finally randomly selected, informed Sadaf Junaid Zuberi, the SEF senior manager.
The final contract signing ceremony was held at the SEF headquarters on Monday where the remaining 300 of the 1,500 selected entrepreneurs sealed their school adoption deal in the presence of Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Pir Mazharul Haq.
Prof Anita Ghulam Ali, the SEF managing director, welcomed the guests and school entrepreneurs and called for operators to take up this opportunity with full honesty and commitment. “You can change the future of thousands of children,” she said.
Lauding the efforts of the SEF, the education minister said that it has been promoting lasting public-private partnerships in the education sector. The government plans to open more schools under this agreement and people who adopt them will be strictly monitored.
The programme was launched in 2009 and was designed to give financial and technical support to new and existing private, community and trust-owned schools throughout the province. Three hundred schools were already working successfully. The project directly reaches 450,000 children.
Each entrepreneur will get a 350-rupee subsidy per child from the Sindh government via the SEF. They will be responsible for the school’s management, monitoring, enrolment, building capacity, community and parent mobilisation and student assessment.
As the project is fully funded IELP students do not pay any fees. SEF will provide textbooks and classroom aides and will also work on teacher training.
IELP follows the SEF’s Promoting Private Schooling in Rural Sindh (PPRS) programme. It is different from the PPRS as it involves both primary and secondary schools.
SEF director of programmes, operations and research, Aziz Kabani, said the aim was to “establish public-private partnership to increase access to and improve the quality of educational services to children in marginalised areas of the province”.
Here's a report on the state of education in Sindh province:
Around 94 per cent of grade III students in Sindh cannot read sentences in English, Urdu or Sindhi after being taught in grade II, according to the Annual Status of Education Report 20ll (ASER) Sindh, which was launched on Monday.
The report highlighted the major differences between children, from five to 16 years, in 17 rural areas of Sindh with that of Karachi district.
For example, the enrolment rate of children, between three to five years, was found to be only 38% in rural Sindh while 69% in Karachi.
In the age group of six to 16 years, only 29% of the children were enrolled in schools in rural areas while in Karachi it was 71%.
Around 25% were not attending school at the right age – six to 10 years, in the rural areas. In Karachi, only five per cent did not attend school. In the 17 districts which were surveyed, around 90% attended government schools, 10% private schools and less than one per cent went to madrassahs. It was just the opposite for Karachi – 27% attended public-sector schools while the majority studied in private schools. Kashmore had the most alarming figures – around 45% children in the district did not go to school.
The report also surveyed the studying habits of children. It revealed that private-school students took more tuitions than those studying in public-sector. Around 18% children in rural Sindh, studying in private schools, took tuitions as compared to only 2.6% who went to government schools. The report also stated that there were more girls in government schools in Karachi (63%) while there were more boys in private schools (52%).
The good news
Not all of the facts in the report were alarming. According to it, Karachi had the highest literacy rate for mothers – 82%, as compared to Lahore and Peshawar.
The educationists present at the launch criticised the government vehemently for its ‘non-serious attitude.’ However, they put forward some recommendations about how to use the information in the ASER report to good use.
Dr Thomas Christie, the director of the Aga Khan University (AKU) Education Baord, said that the report should also have included the number of languages exposed to children and if they were multilingual.
The director of AKU Institutes for Education D4evelopment, Dr Muhammad Memon, said that questions like why were the head teachers not able to do their jobs effectively and why did they get benefits when they did not even go to schools, needed to be answered as well.
He suggested that the process by which the teachers were selected and how they were prepared should also be examined.
Economist and former advisor to the chief minister, Kaiser Bengali, said that he had presented a charter of school reforms to the chief minister but it never made it to the cabinet. He also shared some features of his proposal, saying that there were 49,000 schools in the province while there was a need for only 15,000. “The principals in government schools should have full authority and should take action against teachers who don’t turn up.” Bengali suggested that the teachers should be relived from election duties.
Here's a Daily Times report on UNICEF's Every Child in School campaign:
Around 20 million children in Pakistan, including an estimated 7.3 million of primary school age, are not in school, said a statement issued by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Friday.
“Investing in children and their education is vital due to the positive impacts it has on so many socio-economic dimensions. It is therefore imperative that all children in Pakistan, both boys and girls, have the opportunity to attend and complete their schooling,” the statement said.
About the efforts of the fund for promoting education for children across the country, the statement said, “UNICEF is supporting the nationwide ‘Every Child in School’ campaign, which encourages parents and communities to ensure that all primary school-age children are enrolled for the new school year. A special focus is being placed on enrolling girls, who represent 57 percent of primary school-age children who are not attending school. Girls from poor families in rural areas, for example, receive just over one year of education, on average.”
“The disparities in educational opportunities are influenced by multiple factors, like wealth, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, early learning opportunities, access and quality of learning – and it is therefore critical that all who can positively influence children’s learning opportunities should come forward to ensure that this school-year is more successful than ever,” said UNICEF Pakistan Representative Dan Rohrmann.
“We must ensure that all children are in school. Free and quality education for all children, especially the most vulnerable, is essential to Pakistan’s economic and social development. An investment in children is an investment in Pakistan’s future,” Rohrmann said, adding, “The realisation of Pakistan’s vision for social and economic development depends on success of its education system.”
The right of a child to receive education is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The 18th Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan provides an added opportunity to realise this right, as Article 25A requires the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and 16, as determined by the law.
Here's a story of informal evening schooling for children of Islamabad:
ISLAMABAD, 9 October 2012 (IRIN) - As evening approaches in the centre of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, children gather at a small playground, chatting and laughing. It is a scene played out in countless parks across the country, but the children are not here to play after school - they are here to attend one.
For three hours every evening, free classes run here for anyone who wants to attend, with the idea being that some of the many children who live on Islamabad’s streets, or work in its markets and houses, might benefit.
Mohammad Ayub, who runs the unofficial school, began teaching children whose parents could not afford to send them to school in 1988.
Despite the fact that state-run primary schools do not charge fees and many provide free textbooks, other expenses (such as stationery, uniforms and transportation) mean that for many poor families, schools are unaffordable.
“It became quite popular and many parents who couldn’t afford a meal - forget education - would send their children to my little school in the evenings,” Ayub said.
The school, which relies on volunteers and donations, is one of dozens of informal institutions in the capital which are helping to educate children.
Pakistan has made limited progress in improving the quality and reach of its education system, and millions of children are missing out on schooling altogether in what the governments of Pakistan and the UK have termed an “education emergency”.
Despite making education a fundamental constitutional right in 2010, Pakistan has no chance of fulfilling its Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal education by 2015.
Many of those who have finished Ayub’s informal school in Islamabad have gone on to complete high school and college, and today have jobs they could never have dreamed of. Ayub estimates that 20 percent of the students finish grade 10, with around 10 percent going on to complete degrees at colleges.
Many, like Yasmin Nawaz, a 30-year-old mother of three who graduated from the school in 1994, became teachers themselves.
“I finished middle school, grade 8. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to high school, but Master Ayub said I must,” Nawaz said. “He paid for my textbooks and my exam registration fee, and in return, I taught here at the school. I then taught elsewhere as well.”
Despite the clear return on this investment and Pakistan’s pledge to spend at least 4 percent of its GDP on education, that figure has been decreasing. Education spending today stands at less than 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, according PETF (Page 67).
There is the issue of governance, there are no accountability mechanisms. For example, even if you do have sufficient teachers - which we don’t - if they are not in school, it is not possible to achieve anything.”
The LEAPS (Learning and Educational Achievement in Pakistan Schools) project and PETF estimate that teachers in government schools, despite being paid more than their private sector counterparts and having greater job security, are not present one-fifth of the time. Government school teachers often use political connections and union action to protect themselves.
“Even if a senior officer reports a teacher that is not performing or not even attending school, it is very difficult to take action because they will involve the unions or go to an MNA [member of the National Assembly],” said Zafar.
“Even if you get that [teacher accountability], the quality of education, of textbooks, is an issue. So all of this needs to be considered, not just what is spent on education, but how.”
Here's a piece on Shehzad Roy's "Chal Parha" GeoTV series to improve education in Pakistan:
Last month, well-known Pakistani pop star, Shehzad Roy made an appearance at Harvard to talk about music, activism and his new documentary series, Chal Parha (Urdu for: Come, Teach), which highlights the extensive issues plaguing Pakistan’s education system.
Having visited over 200 schools across the country, in an interview with DAWN, Roy stated: “In each episode we highlight an issue from public schools, for example, corporal punishment, medium of instruction, population, textbooks, curriculum, teachers.”
He added, “I want to share the lessons that we have learnt; both good and ugly. We want people to know the obstacles standing in the way of improving the structure of education in government schools while also highlighting the remarkable individuals committed to the teaching profession. These people prove the power of individual efforts.”
Broadcast on a local television channel, GEO TV, the show has gained immense popularity, fast making an impact in a country where, according to the non-profit Alif Ailaan, the government spends just 2.4 percent of its national GDP on education and where just over half of children enroll in primary school.
Mariam Chughtai, the founder of Harvard’s Pakistan Student Group told The Diplomat that the singer was invited primarily because the student group “is committed to changing the discourse on Pakistan at Harvard from one of terrorism and challenges, to that of resilience, art and social change.”
“[Roy] embodied for us an activist who is using music to make an impact on the ground, which is why his discussants, Professor Ali Asani and I were able to have a conversation with him in light of how artists have historically played a key role in keeping governments and rulers accountable,” Chughtai said.
“Roy himself spoke of the main learnings he has had in his journey of Chal Parha, including clippings from his show which illustrated these learnings. They represented both strengths and weaknesses of society in being ready for change on education.”
Alongside his music career, which, over the past couple of years, has veered sharply into the direction of socio-political commentary, Roy has managed to rather successfully integrate both his music and humanitarian work
Roy told Dawn, “We have installed thumb-printing attendance machines in the five provinces to bring transparency to the issue of teacher absenteeism. We are now collecting this data and are happy to report that teacher attendance has increased considerably in these schools. Similarly, in the episode on corporal punishment, we are proposing a law banning physical abuse in schools and we plan to diligently pursue this issue in the media.”
Here's an ET story on education in Waziristan:
A quiet and peaceful revolution is taking place in South Waziristan. Girls, with the support and protection of the tribal elders and the community, are going to school. The Chaghmalai Government Girls High School is about to open its doors to welcome its first 269 students.
After staying several years in internally displaced persons’ camps or with host families elsewhere, locals are returning to South Waziristan. Due to extensive destruction during the conflict, starting again has been tough, especially for the poorest and the most vulnerable. Despite these hardships, a positive development has emerged — communities are passionate to educate their children, both boys and girls.
Since returning, the elders have held numerous jirgas with the army to discuss how to achieve lasting peace and a sustainable economic future. Perhaps, the exodus to other parts of Pakistan created a better understanding among the communities of the value of education and its role in achieving a better life. In a region where literacy rates for males is 29 per cent and for females just three per cent, this is a big step forward.
There are so many positive signs of change. During a visit in March, I attended the rehearsals for a Pakistan Day school concert in Spinkai Raghzai, one of the poorest villages. Like children all over the country, preparing for a national day celebration, the children in Spinkai Raghzai were just as excited, though a little nervous about performing in front of their peers and guests.
The theme was peace and education, developed around the quotes of the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. But what made this little pageant so special was the setting. This is a post-conflict environment where children and their families have suffered terror, tragedy and great loss. In the past, the Taliban ran suicide-training camps in Spinkai and it has been the scene of unimaginable horror. Even now, the children there suffer anxiety that the militants might return.
It was hard not to be emotional. Only hard-hearted cynics could fail to be touched by the sense of occasion, or how remarkable this was in a now-peaceful village with so dark a recent history, or to mock the children’s hopes and enthusiasm for a peaceful future. I was reminded of a quote from Arundhati Roy’s, The God of Small Things, “That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”...
While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities". The performance edge of Pakistani kids over their Indian counterparts is particularly noticeable in rural areas. The report also shows that Pakistani children do better than Indian children in reading ability.
The butterfly effect: Helping Pakistan’s children emerge from their cocoon
The human brain is one of nature’s most fascinating and mysterious creations, with its full potential still unknown. And Prof Tony Buzan is on a quest to understand how it works.
Buzan and his team have picked Pakistan as the starting point for their Butterfly Universe Initiative, a global movement for mental literacy that focuses upon ‘learning how to learn’. The project aims to unleash the potential of five million children in the country by 2020 through mind mapping.
“Our goal is to have a mentally literate world, and for that, everyone must think,” explains Buzan, the inventor of the mind mapping method and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2014. History, according to him, has witnessed every developed country being led by critical thinking — and the creativity and energy he sees in Pakistan’s people makes him think it is the perfect place to begin his mission.
“In this digital age, there are manuals for everything but our brains,” says Buzan. “Our vision is simple: learn how to understand your brain.”
There are three things he looks for in the teachers selected for his project: the ability to imagine, the vision to daydream and the passion to educate. “We as a team gave a formula to our master trainers to train teachers, who will further teach students to broaden their mental horizons and see the flip side of the picture.”
Over the course of the project, the teachers will be shown how to open up their minds, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. “The beautiful, vibrant butterfly we see was not always that way — it was a caterpillar that went through the stages of transformation,” Tariq Qureishy, the CEO of Vantage Holding and founder of 100% MAD (Make A Difference), draws a butterfly on a piece of paper to illustrate his point. “Unfortunately, our system never lets our teachers and students evolve beyond the cocoon.”
He hastens to add that the children are not at fault — it is the system and the teachers that share equal responsibility. “Our project is unique because we try to make learning for fun for children and teaching interesting for teachers.”
One thousand trained teachers from four different schooling systems, including The Citizens Foundation and The City School, have already started promoting mind mapping within their schools. “We are targeting 100 schools for a year, where teachers get two hours of training every evening and the students learn through a full-day training programme on Saturdays,” Qureishy shares the plan for the project’s initial phase.
“It is believed that if a butterfly flaps its wings in one place, it can cause a hurricane weeks later in a distant location,” says Qureishy. “The 1,000 butterflies that we have trained have started flapping their wings. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world joins in.”
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