The hanging gardens of educational policies | Political economics

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Jhe Hanging Gardens of Babylon continue to fascinate historians, engineers, architects and art lovers, despite having been non-existent on the ground for millennia. The multiplicity of perspectives maintained over the past centuries on this subject has led to the enrichment of human minds through the production of invaluable knowledge. The unresolved questions of who built them, how they were built, and where they were built stoke human curiosity, adding to our bank of knowledge. Similarly, the education policies of the Federal Government in Pakistan continue to fascinate us for seven decades with the breadth of their respective frameworks and visionary perspectives. However, we do not find the expected results on the ground.

The policy-making process and rationale for selecting areas of special interest with stipulations regarding target setting in Pakistan bears a “disconcerting” affinity to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In political discourse, the subject of free and universal school education has resounded throughout the history of political commitments at the national level. “A free and compulsory education of six years should be ensured and should be gradually increased to eight years in the future”; the declaration came as one of the recommendations of the 1947 All Pakistan Conference on Education, organized by the federal government, in recognition of the role of education in the development of the country. It set the course for education policy making in Pakistan with a national policy instrument for the executive branch of government. Four years later, Pakistan’s literacy rate was only 16%. The first targeted policy directive came from the 1959 National Education Commission, commonly referred to as the Sharif Commission, through its 1960 report. and eight years of compulsory schooling. within 15 years. The third milestone was the National Education Policy 1972-80 (since the Education Policy of 1970 was lost to the secession of East Pakistan) which was presented to the nation by the then President in March 1972. She stated that up to Class X, education would be free and universal. “From October 1, 1972, it will be free for boys and girls up to the eighth grade; from 1 October 1979, pupils in classes IX and X will receive free tuition. One can joke that the recommendations of the 1959 commission do not need to be reconsidered after only 12 years.

Next came the 1978 policy which envisaged achieving universal education for all boys of school age by 1986-87. For girls, the goal was to be achieved by 1992. A short-term policy goal was to achieve a literacy rate of 60% by 1982-83. However, data available from UNESCO indicates that in 1981 our literacy rate was 25.7%.

Our fifth milestone was the National Education Policy of 1992. It not only set educational goals, that is to say, to make primary education free and compulsory, but also to give ourselves the means to achieve these objectives that is to say, schools and trained teachers etc.. However, the end of the century made the federal government realize the need for another policy that could lead the country into the 21st century. Therefore, the National Education Policy 1998-2010 was introduced. She reaffirmed that basic education is a basic right and identified some problems and constraints affecting basic education in Pakistan. The policy committed the government to achieving 90% enrollment in elementary schools by 2002-2003.

The absolute increase in the education budget is substantial. Yet the policy formulation process chooses to turn a blind eye to subnational fiscal space.

We received another policy in 2009. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2009 went further than previous policies and formulated policy actions such as a) it required provincial and regional governments to develop plans to achieve the universal and free primary education by 2015, and b) all governments (federal, provincial, district and zonal governments) to commit 7% of GDP to education by 2015. The last of the policy instruments is National Education Policy Framework, 2018, which summarizes the “how” component to address educational challenges.

Our ranking 154/189 on the Human Development Index, a total enrollment rate of 52.5 million, a declining net enrollment rate, a stagnant literacy rate for five years at 60% and 32% d out-of-school children aged 5-16 is a grim reflection on the processes of policy formulation and implementation. Federal laws and policies are binding on lower levels of government, but one can question the availability of resources leading to the provision of “catalytic funds to support provincial governments” (Removing Financial Barriers for Priority 1 of the 2018 National Education Strategic Framework) or the demand for sub-national governments to commit 7% of GDP to education (NEP 2009)? The same for free and compulsory education? Apparently both aspects that is to say, the mobilization and allocation of resources and the effectiveness of governance systems at different levels, have always been treated as “quick fixes” while making public promises. They make the allocation of resources and the guarantee of universal school education appear as mere inconveniences for the executive. He just needs to improve his performance? The hope of carving out a small share of national and sub-national resources for a single sector is both unrealistic and unachievable. Punjab allocated 349.4 billion rupees to the school education development budget last year, up from 322.5 billion rupees the previous year. Meanwhile, about Rs 38 billion was allocated to other education sectors, compared to about Rs 34 billion for the previous year. In the social sector, education comes just after health as a percentage of provincial allocations. The absolute increase in the education budget has been substantial. Yet the policy formulation process chooses to turn a blind eye to subnational fiscal space.

The case of guaranteed access to free school education is similar and a bit more complicated. The availability of school infrastructure commensurate with local demand in every part of the country, as well as the presence of qualified teachers is a basic prerequisite that our education delivery system lacks. The past three decades have seen the role of the private sector as an important stakeholder in Pakistan’s education ecosystem grow. The share of private sector schools is estimated at around 42%. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution assigned the provision of education to the provinces and the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014 assigns this responsibility to the provincial government as well as local governments while setting out enforcement measures. work for the private sector. However, seven years have passed since the enactment of the law, and yet no roadmap is available to realize the right to free and compulsory education.

In my opinion, ensuring free and compulsory education requires bottom-up holistic planning and its time-bound implementation mechanisms. For Punjab, district level plans with clear roadmaps for resource mobilization and improved service delivery are needed with defined roles for district administration, district education authorities, district-level local governments, private sector entities and civil society organizations as proactive partners in improvement. access and quality of education. The importance of the role of the private sector must be further recognized at the policy and regulatory level in addition to developing mechanisms to develop localized plans. In the absence of such plans, policies will continue to be fascinating hanging gardens for citizens.


The writer is the rector of the Superior University


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