Too much planning; too little work!
By Kulsoom Fayyaz
Benjamin Franklin has rightly said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”, but in case of the educational policies of Pakistan it’s not the lack of planning rather it’s lot of planning which has actually failed them. It is nothing but exaggeration that Pakistan did not have a proper educational policy; in fact, it’s lack of proper implementation of one policy which is still in the phase of experimentation, almost 7 decades after its inception.
Endeavors to raise educational standards have not been rare since the creation of Pakistan. Starting with the national educational conference in 1947, 7 national education policies, 11 Five-year plans and several different strategies have been proposed and initiated and a dozen or more conferences, seminars, workshops and other moots on education are held.
Planning Commission (PC) is responsible with the task of policy-making and all spheres of development including education, which has been responsible for developing five-year development plans since its inception in the 1950s. Since the first five year plan 1955-60 the PC has produced 11 five year development plans so far. It is noteworthy that, other than each five-year plan, some education strategies that run parallel particularly focus on educational improvement. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has mainly prepared these policies. The first such policy effort was the formation of a Commission on National Education in 1959 to make guidance for an educational system, appropriate for the needs and values of Pakistani citizens. Since then succeeding governments have launched education policies during their terms in office viz. the New Education Policy, 1979; the Education Policy 1972-80; the National Education Policy and Implementation Programme, 1979; the National Education Policy, 1992; and the National Education Policy: Iqra, 1998-2010.
Lately, some fresh policies that have supplemented the ongoing education policy, namely: the Education Sector Reforms: Action Plan 2001-2004; the National Plan of Action on Education for All, 2001-2015; and the Report of the Task Force on Higher Education in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities. The key fundamentals that determine education policy in Pakistan are the fulfillment of overall literacy including adult literacy, universal primary education for school age children, betterment in school completion rates and lessening student dropouts, enhancing quality, equity and access of education.
However, most of the policies, plans and programmes have failed in achieving their anticipated results. The targets that were to be achieved within twenty years of formulating the first five-year plan in 1955 have not been attained yet. In Pakistan, the failure of educational policy is mostly attributed to the issues of poor implementation. There have been many occasions when educational programmes failed to be properly implemented and achieving desired objectives. Some of the failed mega projects include the Sindh Primary Education Development Project (SPEDP), the Girls Primary Education Development Project I & II (GPEDP), the Primary Education Curriculum Reform Project (PECRP) etc. Many teacher training programmes, carried out by the government, were found not to resemble with the listed aims of strategy. Several five-year plans have also accredited that on most occasions the policies failed at implementation level.
An evaluation of the history of educational planning and development in country demonstrates that setting targets, lamenting the failure to achieve the same, and scheduling new targets with unqualified assurance have been a permanent game that policy makers have played and on too huge civic expenditure over the last 60 years. Dissimilarities in the hues and shades of various governments, whether democratic or martial regimes, nominated or otherwise, socialist or radical, only has marginal and negligible difference to the custom in which the educational policies has been molded.
The outcomes or consequences under all circumstances have been the more or less the alike and the outcomes clearly depicts that there has been a lack of political commitment to literacy and education.
Lack of continuity in preceding government policies, exploitation of power by authority figures, insufficient allocation of funds, absence of training for human resource, lack of far-sighted leadership, lack of political will, poor follow ups, substandard monitoring system, incompetent policy evaluations, centralized approach in implementation, lack of political stability and decaying institutional disciplines are the main causes that have plagued the process of educational policy implementation in Pakistan.
Although regularly designed policies in Pakistani education are modeled to be sublime and perfect, yet, because of the reasons acknowledged above coupled by feeble official structures and repeated political interference, the policies remain unfulfilled and do not achieve the anticipated results. Taking into consideration, the above-mentioned scenario the poor policy implementation in the country, can only be rectified, if firstly, that policy makers and policy implementer are required to be taken on board before, during and after the policy formulation, implementation and policy evaluation stages. This will help in the creation of commitment, strong determination, inspiration and solid individual and institutional foundation for the effective application of the policies. Secondly, increased budgetary allotment for educational projects may also improve the process of implementation if it is carried out with professional zeal, professionalism and commitment by showing resistance to corruption in all shapes.
The writer is a Mass Communication Graduate from Punjab University Institute of Communication Studies. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org