Education after Post 18th Constitutional amendment and responsibility of Society
The Eighteenth constitutional amendment has some drastic effects on overall Pakistani legislative and administrative system. While Education sector has no exception, the omission of concurrent list has opened a Pandora of issues, ranging from planning, implementation, finances on one side and the curriculum, teacher training, syllabus, and infrastructure on other side. Before elaborating these issues it is essential to understand the effects of 18th amendment on educational sector and how it is different from pre 18th amendment scenario. There are two distinctive changes in 18th amendment. First the inclusion of article 25A that ensures the right to education to the children from five to 16 years, and second the exclusion of concurrent list which implies that the curriculum, syllabus, planning, policy, Centre of excellence and standards of education would be devolved and comes under provincial jurisdiction. The implications of 25A can only be significant if the government really exhibit the will to implement the clause in its true essence, however if such would be the case then even the National Education Policy (2009) may suffice where it has been suggested that ‘Provinces and Area Governments shall affirm the goal of achieving universal and free primary education by 2015 and up to class 10 by 2025.’ In fact the NEP is more strategic (as it should be) in achieving the education goal. Nevertheless the article 25A provides an opportunity to develop a legislative framework for Education sector that would provide the basis of accountability of responsible authorities who may be involve in denying this basic right to education. The second and the most significant effect of 18th amendment is the abolishment of concurrent list. As stated above it has implications on all those educational areas which were part of federal jurisdiction. In fact apart from Higher education, everything related to education is now devolved to the provinces. After 18th amendment two school of thoughts emerged in an academic circle, those who are in favor of, and those who have serious concerns. Those who have concerns advocates that the provinces have some serious deficit of capacities in terms of financial, human and technical expertise to take up the colossal challenge of planning and implementing the province wide education system. Another principal concern raised is more on ideological grounds, and curriculum is the basis of such grounds. After the 18th amendment, provinces would have freedom to exercise free hand in
developing curriculum that suits them the best. However in doing so they may end up with something which is not aligned with national ideology and cohesion. In worst case one province may develop curriculum which is not acceptable to the norms of the other province and hence could embark into direct conflict. According to them such scenario is not ignorable in countries like Pakistan where political parties and their ideologies differ significantly. Reviews of past educational policies are good examples of such division. Expanding to national cohesion issue another concern raised is the standardization of the educational system in Pakistan. In this case the fundamental question is how can a nation ensures that the same standard of education has been taught from north to south of Pakistan. Similarly the representation of Pakistani education system in international arena where Pakistan is signatory and member of several treaties and agreements would have been diffused, as no central body would be present to represent the nation. On the other hand proponents of 18th amendment view it as an essential and long awaited change, which can lay a foundation of bridging planning and implementation gap. To them eighteen amendment provides the basis of autonomous educational provision through which provinces can plan and implement the educational system according to their needs and requirements. For e.g. if Baluchistan economy relies mostly on natural resources then for obvious reason it needs a manpower which is trained and skilled in the same sector, comparatively Punjab with more agrarian economy has its own requirements. Same arguments have been made for promoting local and regional cultures including languages and customs. Another major point made by the proponents of 18th amendment is bridging the gap between planning and implementation. One of the terrible issue of Pakistani educational system since its inception was remain the gap between planning and implementation. Historically the planning was done at the federal level with little consultation from provinces (at-least provinces were always on blaming side, arguing that they were not taken in confidence in developing policies, rules and regulations) resulting in a huge misconceptions and lack of ownership from provincial side. The proponents also answers to the concerns raised after the amendment. To them the capacity of provinces to develop and run the educational systems is largely under rated and usually emanates from the trust deficit embedded in the psyche of federal level establishment. To them most of the operational level expertise are already present at the provincial level and what is not available can always be develop or imported. Similarly most of the funding specially for primary and secondary level education was already part of the provincial budget. From the above few points it is clear that there is an imbalance between the opinions and attitudes from two opposite sides. It also shows that the provinces are not ready to embark the responsibility not because they don’t have capacity or resources but because they still lack unified thoughts in
bringing forth the plans which are not only aligned with the provincial requirements but also unsusceptible to national integrity and cohesion. One of the reasons of such lacking is the dearth of coherent, thoughtful and meaningful dialogue between the educationist, planners, policy makers, implementers etc. representing the grass root level and the officialdom level. Quite often the impressive talks, presentations and conferences generate immense interest in various educational issues but fail to bring any lasting imprint on educational discourse, educational policies and practices. It is this important to conceive of dialogues that are concentrated, evidence based, bringing forth concrete solutions and carry the message forward to ensure impact on policies and practice. The dialogues in light of evidence and among related people have greater potential to generate more meaningful and relevant discussions. If a non-threatening environment is somehow created to ensure free, frank and open dialogue, solutions can be forged. Such solutions need to be carried forward to the policy and practice level for broader impact utilizing various forums – monographs, technology, media etc. Such discourse also helps to emanate the common grounds where all the groups unanimously agree to the issue and its possible solutions. In the light of above discussion it is imperative to open the venues through which people could engage in to meaningful discourse, however the modus operandi of such discourse is still a question mark. Shall it be a policy dialogue, an interactive writing contest, conference or some other out of box mechanism? Number of questions need to be answer for e.g. How to engage education sector stakeholders to develop a consensus on educational issues? How to prioritize the issues, i.e. which issues require addressing first? What are the mechanisms require that ensures provincial autonomy and at the same time respond to national integrity demands? Above and many other questions like above demands a movement from civil society and government officials to come forward and engage in the process. Otherwise the fear is that the education system again falls in to the myriad of despair or mirage of joys which solely exists in our mind but never transform in to meaningful practice.