role of private sector in education in pakistan
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's call to the private sector to invest in education to help boost literacy to 90 per cent by 2015 raises a number of questions. The message the government appears to be sending is that it cannot shoulder its responsibility in this vital sector any more. The fact is that the private sector has always played a role - and not always a positive one - in education since 1947. Since the 1980s the size of the private sector has grown with official encouragement, so much so that today it is said to be educating nearly one-third of those attending primary schools.
The problem in inviting the private sector to enhance its role is that it implies that the government is ready to give up its regulatory functions - inevitable if the private sector is allowed to squeeze out the government's presence in education. With more resources at its disposal than the private sector (the latter spends less than Rs500 monthly on a primary-school pupil compared to the Rs4,000 that the government spends), Mr Gilani should be looking into policy, school management and governance issues that lie at the root of the rot. Enhancing the private sector's share without improving the government's performance and tightening regulatory controls would lead to more profiteering by the upscale schools and further degrade the standard of low-fee private schools in under-developed areas.
It is time the government spruced up its own schools by improving monitoring, teachers' training, governance and the administration of schools, and by reforming the curricula, textbooks and the examination system. It is also time that corruption in the education department was checked with a firm hand to prevent the leakage of funds. This would help save money that could be used to give subsidies to low-fee schools that are already in great financial straits. Dawn