Access to Education: Pakistan’s demonic downfall.
I attended the Toronto District School Board’s “Take Civic Action” Conference not too long ago, where I was invited to speak to Grade 9 and 10 students on topics of youth empowerment, social activism and communal mobilization. I aimed at highlighting the works and accomplishments of TakingITGlobal, the largest online community of youth interested in global issues & creating positive change via mechanisms of social media and technology. Sort of like the ‘facebook’ of youth activism and social-global issues.
As the day proceeded, I found myself reflecting and comparing the education system of that of Canada to that of various parts of the international community. Before proceeding let me attest to the reality that I am in no way suggesting that the education system of that of Canada is not saturated with disparities, BUT, I do however want to allude to the reality of the increasing opportunity when considering the access to education when compared to countries like Pakistan, for example. (my reference to Pakistan is a direct reflection of my personal interactions with various members of the Pakistani community hence my first-hand take on the dynamics unfolding within the Pakistani education system)
In Canada, and in most countries for that matter, (comprising the ‘West) is seen as a provincial responsibility ensuring the attainment of education up to and including high school. Access to education in Pakistan however, does not serve as a preamble for social or economic progression in the near future. Gender disparities, the social hierarchical positioning of an individual, income, religious affiliation and perhaps the most infuriating of all, the structure of the education system in Pakistan all serve as challenges to achieve a substantive level of access to education.
The society that limits access to education and knowledge is short-sighted and destined for extinction, like the societies described in Collapse by Jared Diamond. Furthermore, along with people’s pursuit of social justice one needs to also embark on the pursuit of equal opportunities in education. Plato in “Utopia” makes reference to every citizen, regardless of sex, outlining that we must receive education from an early age, and that this should be the earliest concept of equality of educational opportunity. Education provides the bedrock for reducing impoverishment and enhancing social development. In Pakistan, there has been a downsizing trend for the quality of education but moreover, the transparency of curriculum made available to students in various schools is questionable as different schools provide arraying levels of education (i.e. all Middle schools lack the uniformity when considering their text books/resources/etc)
Madrasas (religious schools housed at local mosques), state-owned schools, English governed schools and private schools are the various components of the educative framework in Pakistan. Although Canada also consists of both public and private schools, does curriculum vary by leaps and bounds in such a way that it further perpetuates class difference, taking away from any opportunity to erode the clashing of civilizations? Are students in Pakistan belonging to the lower classes able to even fathom the idea of attending a private and/or prestigious school within Pakistan? Why has the education system become reflective of the social and economic classes of Pakistan? Why the arraying curriculum? Are school’s like Karachi Grammer School, Frobels, Aithison College, Beaconhouse, American School Franchise (and many others for which I would have to re-engage into conversations with certain individuals to remember and that in itself would be an unbearable task for me) not aware of the students that are being pumped out of their system?
The ‘elite’ schools of Pakistan are producing replicas of individuals who acclaim to be ‘elite’ as they are able to converse in English, shunning and considering their very own culture to be tainted with traits of backward and outdated. If access to education wasn’t atrocious enough, such ‘elitist’ schools have further contributed to ejecting students who, in some cases, further foster the already created social hierarchies within Pakistan. [Case and point: Consider the social interaction of some Pakistani students abroad and their pre-conceived notions of each other based on the school they've attended within Pakistan]
Access to what may be considered ‘decent’ education is undeniably tied to the class structure looming within Pakistan. This included geographical placement (and 70% of Pakistanis live in rural areas) so if one does not live in a major city your hopes for a post-secondary education are drastically low. When shedding light on job prospects and a prosperous future, the decline ratio between that of the Cambridge system (targets upper and upper-middle class) and the Urdu medium system (this encompasses government schools catering to the ‘rest’ of the population) is dramatic and continues to rise exponentially.
From Nicholas D. Kristof’s article, formulated in Nov 2010 and published in the NY Times states
One reason Pakistan is sometimes called the most dangerous country in the world is this: a kindergarten child in this country has only a 1 percent chance of reaching the 12th grade, according to the Pakistan Education Task Force, an official panel. The average Pakistani child is significantly less likely to be schooled than the average child in sub-Saharan Africa.
Such numbers are not surprising, but it seems that they have to be parroted time and time again to shake up the myopic vision of upper-class Pakistan.
There remains a void.
As I continue to be engulfed by the complexities of the world that consume me, I can't help but phathom the idea of resorting to a self created platform for the further vocalization of my stance on global affairs and all that consumes me.
...perhaps such a formulation will furher contribute to the erosion of that void.
I look forward to all of your comments and feedback and am hopeful that this medium will serve as suffice for fruitful exchange of thoughts and ideas.
[insert rant here]
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