Education, Development, and Change
Email Dr. Shahid Siddiqui

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Equal opportunities to girl students stressed


“Empowerment through girls' education in contemporary Muslim societies” 
Conference organized by the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), in collaboration with Dubai Cares and Oxfam GB,  12 mARCH, 2011.
 
The educational facilities provided to girls should be equal in all respects to those provided to boys with the objective to steer social and economic development and freedom of thought and expression – than mere transmission of knowledge.
For this purpose, curricula needed to be redesigned in a way that students begin to demand their basic right of freedom of expression and thought.  Lahore School of Economics` centre for humanities and social sciences director Dr Shahid Siddiqui said this while speaking at a conference on “Empowerment through girls` education in contemporary Muslim societies” organised by the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE), in collaboration with Dubai Cares and Oxfam GB, at a local hotel on Saturday.

He stressed that the medium of exchange of ideas should not be limited to a formal classroom alone. He said non-formal education had already been introduced in Pakistan but the country was not harvesting the indigenous knowledge or informal knowledge. The challenge of limited literacy is so vast, that it could not be resolved by a school alone.

Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) executive director Dr Baela Raza Jamil said the public sector performance was continuing to falter, while the private sector was rapidly expanding to provide respite to households often at affordable cost, offering them education opportunities at all levels with assured teachers` presence and relatively better students` learning outcomes.
Stating that the costs per student in the private sector are often much lower than that of the public sector, she said, Pakistan illustrated a powerful case study of a paradigm shift in education from state-owned and managed schooling system that reached at a high point in 1972 with nation-wide nationalisation of education, to one which was increasingly becoming `blended` across government and non-state partners. “The paradigm shift is not just about who owns, who finances and who manages but, about expanding partnerships,” she said.
Dr Jamil said the National Education Census 2005 (2006) commissioned by the ministry of education was the first comprehensive data exercise that revealed powerful shifts in education as the basis for re-examining education provision and delivery. Out of 227,791 institutions, almost 33 per cent were attributed to the private sector, managed and run by a kaleidoscope of non-state providers both secular and faith based. An Oxfam Education Report had also identified that the notion that private schools were servicing the needs of a small minority of wealthy parents was misplaced.
Explaining statistics, she said the non-state partners were active at all levels of education barring mosque schools, especially at post primary levels. Most schools operated by the private partners comprised Kindergarten to Class-X. She said the private sector expansion was mainly a response to the continuing problems of public sector service delivery.
Dr Jamil said a common thread running across public and private initiated education enterprise in Pakistan was that of `incremental` acknowledgement of multiple needs addressing, not merely access, but also quality and equity.
Now, she said, more and more households tend to withdraw their children from the perceived unaccountable government systems to the more accountable private schooling options. She said the public sector in Pakistan was definitely seeking a rethink on service delivery options through: public sector financed partnerships, affordable private schools as social enterprise, organised philanthropy and sensible contemporary regulatory regimes that do not injure enterprise and detract from the EFA and MDGs gains made in rugged territories where no government had dared to venture!
Punjab Education Foundation managing-director Ambreen Raza gave a presentation on foundation`s initiatives; Salaeya Butt from SAHE talked on the importance of governance reforms for achieving the desired results in educational initiatives; Pakistan Education Watch`s Abida Mahmood spoke on the challenged women`s face in the attainment of education.
Oxfam GB`s girls education programme coordinator Saeed-ul-Hasan and PCE national coordinator Zahra Arshad also spoke.