Access to Schools but not to Education in Gilgit-Baltistan – Noor Akbar Gohar
Schools occupy an important place in education system of any nation because they provide students with an academic background of basic knowledge and skills to build the edifice of their career as they pursue higher education.
Gilgit-Baltistan is one of regions with highest literacy rate in the country. Nonetheless, the region is not an exception when it comes to lament poor educational practices at public sector schools and colleges. The situation is not different at private sector educational institutions either with exception of a few schools and colleges.
Given the security of job, huge salaries coupled with other perks and privileges, well-furnished buildings and infra-structure in place, the existing public sector schools should be the centers of learning and nurseries of future leadership. Similarly, the colleges should be the torch bearers of research and innovation. But disappointingly, reality is contrary to such expectations.
School and college education in the region is characterized by lack of proper monitoring and in-efficient regulation. Lack of proper check and balance has resulted in teachers’ absenteeism, idleness and time killing at schools, which in turn has led to poor academic performance and increasing dropout of students from the school.
Better teaching and meaningful learning cannot take place until teachers keep themselves updated about new developments in their respective fields, keep record of student progress, are punctual in the school and go to class with well-planned lessons after thorough preparation, reflect upon their teaching and student learning and follow effective methods of assessment.
Such a professional approach cannot be cultivated in teachers without pre-service and in-service training of teachers. But, most of the Govt. school teachers in GB don’t have the faintest idea about lesson planning, lesson preparation, class room management etc. If you ask a government teacher about teaching pedagogy, it is more than likely that you would find him deaf and dumb.
According to one of the govt. teachers,“salary, time allowances and holidays are the favorite topics of discussion of teachers at public sector schools but reflections and experiences with regard to teaching and learning are seldom made, discussed and shared”.
Another menace that has plagued school education is appointment of teachers on the basis of nepotism, bribery, religious and political influence in utter disregard of merit. In the previous regime of Pakistan People’s Party in Gilgit-Baltistan, 2009-14, hundreds of teachers were recruited after taking bribe.One can wonder, if these teachers, without basic teaching credentials and capacity, appointed in sheer violation of the merit would deliver to the needs of students.
Moreover,the region is not an exception to ghost schools and teachers. Like other parts of the country, such schools exists in GB, which function only on paper and such teachers can be found who are taking salaries while sitting at home and there is hardly any action from any authority.
The situation of colleges is not different from schools. According to one of the lecturers teaching at a degree college, there is virtually no check and balance in the colleges. Half of the year they attend college, for the rest half year, they virtually remain at home. Some of the lecturers even send other people in their place to teach.
There were high expectations attached to sitting government when it came to power. It was expected that practical steps would be taken to do away with the menace of corruption in education sector-that the institutions would be cleaned of those appointed on illegal basis. But disappointingly, despite dismissal of hundreds of illegally appointed teachers by then chief secretary Gilgit-Baltistan in 2014, the present government after coming to power reinstated them.
The education system demands improvement and reforms. It’s high time to transform the system and regulate it in a manner that could equip new generation with required knowledge, understanding and skills thereby enabling them to cope with the challenges of this era of globalization.
Provision of in service training to teachers, introduction of internationally accepted best teaching practices, effective monitoring by higher ups, merit based induction through a standardized testing system, increment in salary of teachers on basis of an effective appraisal system are some of the steps government can take to bring improvement in schools.