The classification of various schooling systems prevailing in our country perplexes even the astute of all. One fails to classify different genres of schools. It is like a big super store where a consumer gets disoriented with a full number of products, brands, manufacturers, and packages but returns home without getting fully satisfied.
It is what’s happening with our school system which is swarmed with different genres of education institutes. Various categories of schools are operating and catering to different segments of the society. Hence, our private schools have a semblance of the free market economy which has unlimited buyers and sellers, and there is freedom of entry and exit.
However, the importance of private schools cannot be denied as they are filling the void created by the nonseriousness of the government. According to a study conducted by the UK group of scholars, the enrolment rate in Pakistan for 2004-2005 has increased ten percentage points due to the prevalence of private schools.
Pakistan is the front runner country where preference to private school over public school is the highest. In the absence of actual figures of private school, one can easily do an informal classification of private schools. This informal classification of schools has four broad categories including English medium for elite, private schools for middle class, private schools for the lower middle class, and private school for the slum areas.
Schools for the Elite Class
To begin the classification, Elite schools rank on top catering to the most privileged people and are normally run by a board of trustees. They serve as a status symbol for the rich families due to the highest fee structure. Some of these schools were established long before the inception of our country and are located all over Pakistan.
International curriculum such as GCSE, GCE, and International Baccalaureate are followed in these schools to qualify students for foreign colleges. Due to their contemporary teaching practices and modern grading system, they are highly esteemed. However, these schools are also considered to be causing class disparities in our society as they are not accessible to the common people.
Schools for the Upper Middle and Average Middle Classes
The second category of schools comprises of institutes which cater to Upper middle and average middle class with a reasonably high fee structure. These schools have emerged after the denationalization of educational institutes during 1979 and opened their branches all over Pakistan. High profile business men and social elites own and run them under the board of trustees.
The hybrid examination system is a mix of local and international curriculum. The prime objective of these institutes is to replicate the elite schools. Though they follow strict by-laws, parents and students complain about their additional fees. These additional charges create agony amongst the parents and students. The quality of teaching practices falls between good to mediocre
The average middle class schools are located in less posh areas and cater to average middle class with a nominal fee structure. They operate even in 500 to 250 yards of bungalows and know how to catch the attention of the parents by playing all kind of gimmicks. The trick includes High fashioned English school names or putting a counterfeit affiliation with some cadet or international school.
The school environment is mostly unsuitable as proper space is not available for the classrooms, and sports facilities are not provided. The school network claims to be registered, but some of the branches remain unregistered. There have been instances in which newly established schools wners have fled to the foreign countries, leaving teachers and parents in a state of disillusionment. The Directorate of the private schools has often failed to take action against these swindlers. These illegal practices continue as the government gives the schools a free hand.
Makeshift Schools in the Slums and Katchi Abadis
The slum area or schools located in Katchi Abadi are known to be the worst category of so called private schools. They function from a small flat to 40 yards of the shanty house and are usually located in unregularized Katchi Abadis, and colonies where parents do not give due preference to education as they were illiterate themselves.
The case of Massi Jina will best illustrate the reason for the existence of these schools. Massi Jina is content with the fact that all her three kids are enrolled in an English medium school. She is happy that they are not whiling away their time like other kids of the street. She had high expectations from the school as it was established by a highly educated person of the colony. According to her the owner of the school has completed 12 years of education and is in the process of completing their 14th year. A gullible person like Massi Jina is oblivious to the actual position of the school as she cannot gauge the performance of her children who are even unable to tell the name of the current month or do simple mathematics.
Unfortunately, the reality is that these institutes were originally tuition centers which have turned into schools by gaining trust and confidence of the parents of their areas. The fee per child ranges from Rupees 60 to Rupees 100. It has been observed that the schools are managed by a single person who is the Head, Administrator, and Teacher, all at the same time. Multi-grading systems normally exist where a child completes two to three classes each year. Due to the scarcity of space, hundreds of children are crammed in one small room with no proper lighting. Several incidences have been reported where walls and rooftops of schools have collapsed killing innocent children. Moreover, these unregistered institutes are deeply involved in corporal punishment which makes the presence of these schools more suspicious. The illegality of the schools becomes more conspicuous when the students are denied enrollment for the board examinations. Many owners have opened these institutes to avoid hard work and find an easy way to earn money.
Government and Education Department Need to Improve the Schooling Systems
Though, the government on many occasions has taken efforts to register these schools after proper screening. It has failed to take stern action against these schools or register them after proper scrutiny. It has become obvious that the Directorate of private education is not functional and lacks adequate resources to do its job.
Besides, Education Department, Government is also unable to implement its laws in un-regularized katchi abadis as they do not come under the ambit of any rule of law. Hence, this is a vicious cycle where bad governance is leading to low quality schooling.
Department of education should be given full autonomy and required resources to implement complete school by-laws in the private sector of education. Secondly, measures should be taken to minimize rampant commercialization of schools, so that they do not become a menace to the society. The model of Private, public partnership can also be put to test to support small schools.
On a final note, the advocate of private schooling should alter their opinion about the efficacy of these educational institutes since the reality is quite paradoxical to the popular opinion.
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Author - Mahjabeen Rizvi
Mahjabeen Rizvi is a politically aware writer who works in the Educational Development Foundation.