Dr Anisa has two little children. Both are studying in junior classes in a reputable private school. She pays twenty thousands in terms of their school fees every alternative month.
The expenses of course books, uniform and other accessories in the beginning of the term are additional which range from five to seven thousand per child. She and her husband both are working to give their children the best possible education, but they are of opinion that private schools are not giving due facilities such as proper play grounds, libraries, computer labs etc., in return to high fees.
The admission fee in private school is exorbitant. Mrs.Rakshina, a housewife, enunciates. “I have three children and I had to pay sixty to ninety thousands for the admission of every child. My husband is working at an executive post in a bank and every month half of his salary goes in the school fees. I wonder how a middle class family can afford to educate its children in a reputable school. She pondered.”
What is concerning is despite providing high class schooling, tuition, transportation and other facilities, parents are generally dissatisfied with the overall educational standard. Students, too, are uncertain about their aptitudes and potentials. On the other hand, educational authorities are also failed to ensure that they are giving the best breed which can meet the challenges of the modern time.
Most of the parents share that they opt for expensive locality schools due to commuting problems. Considering the uncertain law and order situation in the country and strict admission criteria, many children can’t get admission in convent and missionary schools which are still considered the best. So the only option left is of costly private schools which usually support a network of branches in thickly populated areas.
In any case, these little bungalow schools are considered much better than the Urdu medium nationalized schools working under the government sector. Their core area of superiority is English and so-called `English Medium Environment.’ In country like Pakistan where most white collar jobs demand fluency in English and where majority people can’t speak and write the language correctly, parents willingly pay a high price just for proficiency in the language for better career prospects for their children.
English no more remains only a medium of communication. It has rather become a symbol of education and status in our society. Most parents judge the academic progress of their child by the number of English words he/she speaks in his conversation. I still remember request of a Master’s degree holder father to the English teacher of his son. He pleaded “Please do anything to make my son fluent in English. I don’t want him to suffer the way I suffered due to language barrier.” In fact, the same weakness is exploited in most of the private schools.
However, despite high sounding claims, very few schools are actually providing the environment where a child can learn the language for practical purposes. What is mainly lacking is trained teaching staff, standardized curriculum, extinct reading habits and a favourable environment in schools and at home to practice the language without any hesitation.
Teachers are the backbone of any educational institutions and are considered the barometer of its standard. However, in many private schools there is no criteria for their appointment and placement except financial considerations. The system usually works on the law of supply and demand. Whenever any place is vacant, it is filled with the first available teacher, quite often irrespective of one’s knowledge and aptitude to the relevant subject. So in private schools one can find that Masters in Science are teaching Geography and History. Graduates in Political Science and Sociology are taking English literature. Even Intermediate students, who are waiting for their results, are hired in private schools on temporary basis since they are willing to work at low/nominal salaries.
Teaching in a private school is regarded as a profession for those who don’t have any other career options. The boys who are looking for respectable white collar jobs, the girls who are waiting for suitable proposals, the spinsters, divorcees and widows who want to earn their living independently and the married women who want to pursue part time careers alongside their household responsibilities, usually opt for teaching in private schools.
However, once they enter into the field, they are tested with all kinds of administrative pressures and tactics. Perhaps the idea is to shatter their enthusiasm for teaching profession. In majority private schools, quantity is considered more important than quality. Usually, workload on teachers is immense and they are assigned a number of subjects and classes at a time. Besides they are expected to assess piles of copies, do planning, perform extra duties and jobs given to them by administration.
In such an environment, there are very few teachers who work by choice. A large majority continues since they have no other alternative. There are many who work just for the sake of their own children since some private schools offer free education for teachers’ children. Nevertheless, an unmotivated, exhausted and inexperienced teacher without proper qualification and training are often unable to do justice with their students – ones who suffer the most.
On the contrary, the teachers of the private schools have a different opinion. They believe that parents and children are equally responsible for the declining standard of education in our society. Mostly parents consider that by admitting their child in an expensive school, they have fulfilled all their responsibilities. They neither have time nor will to check the academic progress of their children. If they have excess of money, they might hire a tutor as well. But in absence of parental attention, it hardly works.
The students in private schools are usually overburdened. They carry huge, heavy bags with numerous books and copies. An excessive knowledge, too many subjects and exam-oriented studies mostly suppress their natural potential and aptitudes.
They have become increasingly lazy and careless too. A large majority of private schools’ students represent the over-pampered lost class that considers teachers their paid employees who can be fired in response to a phone call or complaint by their parents. The sincerity and devotion, respect and love which were once the essence of the student-teacher relationship are missing nowadays.
The commercial aspect and money matters have overshadowed all other values in the educational world. Merit is no more a criterion of success. If you have money, you can get admission in any school, college and university; you can pass the exam and be promoted in next grade regardless of your performance. You can buy even a degree.
Almost all private schools are working on commercial basis and for them students are the customers who have to be pleased at any cost. They increase fees every year on the pretext of inflation and to justify it, money is spent lavishly on countless useless activities and programmes rather than on real education of children.
Unfortunately, intellect and talent are not sold in any market. So the loopholes of the existing educational system become more obvious when the product of these schools enters into practical field and faces actual competition.
It’s high time for parents, teachers, educationalists and authorities to accept their responsibilities and decide on the type of education they want for their children.
Do they want to produce a money conscious and confused generation with plenty of knowledge, less intellect and reasoning? Or they wish to generate an intelligent race with a clear sense of direction, human values and sheer understanding of the modern world. Accordingly, there is a need for substantial steps to set and implement uniform standards and medium of education all over the country and replace the money making private and pathetic government schools with better educational institutions. The authorities and educated class must take initiatives before education will become a luxury for the common man and the dual educational set up of the country will ultimately collapse.
According to an important official in the department of higher secondary private schools the Ordinance of 1962 and Act of 1974, which are applied to private educational institutions, have to be revised and updated. The laws are too weak and vague. There is no legal limitation on the amount of fees.
Any school with more than fifty students has to be officially registered. However, thousands of private schools, including some of the reputable ones, are working in Karachi without any approval . The authorities said that legally they can seal such unofficial schools. But they have neither enough money nor contacts to fight against the private school owners – the big fishes.
In 1989, the directorate took an action against a well-known private school regarding its high fees. The administration was asked to set up a board of directors including the representation of parents and authorities. However, the school took the stay order and ultimately won the case.Today, that school has one of the biggest set up, running more than 30 branches with around 25,000 students only in Karachi. Such schools that are not even officially registered have their turn over in millions (approx. more than 50 million per month).
The officials agree that the contribution and importance of private schools can’t be denied. They fill the gap created due to the nationalization of many schools in the seventies and the resultant decline in their standard under government sector. They do spend a little money on its students, follow the foreign books and pay good salaries to their teachers.However, due to absence of proper check and balance, many private schools exploit the situation. They are looting millions of rupees in the name of English medium and Cambridge system.
A veteran teacher expresses that a better alternative can be provided to the middle class by preserving and denationalizing some of the good schools of the past. There are schools such as Khatoon-e-Pakistan, Delhi School, Junior Model, Frare Road to name a few., which were once considered the model institutions. They have been completely ruined with the nationalization and free education fever. Now, they attract only children of labourers, thalay wallas and lower working class. The good teachers of the past have either be retired or lost their interest due to the rotten set up. And the better educated youth rather prefer private schools due to attractive salaries and environment.
So the gulf between private and government schools is increasing day by day, making attainment of standard education almost impossible for the salaried middle class. There is a grave need for complete educational institutions, which aims at imparting knowledge rather than making money.