The challenges within the private sector educational institutions deserve immediate attention of the regulators
Education management in Pakistan -- home to 51.2 million children within primary school age bracket [5-16 years] -- is severely complex in its nature as 44 per cent of these children yet remain out of school. A nation of this big bulge of school age children cannot afford to undermine the contribution of private sector in providing access to more than one third of the total children. Out of 28.5 million children in primary age bracket that attend schools, 10.5 million [37 per cent] of them are enrolled in private schools. The public sector enrollment is further shrinking. The significance of private educational institutions hence could not be overemphasised.
Several studies carried out to assess the contribution of private sector education management system reveal that private schools have greatly helped us achieve higher enrollment and retention ratios, reducing gender gaps and improving classroom management. Private schools have also espoused promotion of modern child-centered teaching and learning methodologies.
On the economic landscape, the private education management system has emerged as a thriving market by inciting sizable entrepreneurship that also have contributed in creating more jobs. In addition to all these positive developments, the private sector education management system has also taken reform initiatives within the public sector education management system.
Despite the fast growing popularity that the private sector education management system has gained in the recent years, it however yet remains to be ascertained that up to what extent the private sector has been successful in boosting learning outcomes. This question leads us to the challenges within the private sector educational institutions that deserve an immediate attention and consideration of the regulators of private education system.
The private sector education management system could be divided in to two major streams entitled as for-profit and not-for-profit schools/systems. Each of these two streams of private education management system deserves exclusive analysis of their performance in terms of efficiency of inputs vis-à-vis effectiveness of learning outcomes.
The not-for-profit schools are being run under some social philanthropic endeavours or donor funded projects. These are mostly small scale initiatives offering no/low cost schooling to children of mostly indigent communities by establishing one/two/a few school/s within their area of geographical coverage. Most of such schools are generally found to have subscribed to public sector education system’s curriculum and assessment standards. Also, having been initiated under a compassionate sense of humanitarian responsibility, these schools are mostly seen practicing child sensitive teaching methodologies and efficiently employing inputs more than the contemporary public schools.
These schools, however, remain vulnerable in terms of sustaining due to either weaker ownership of the host communities or interrupted supply of funds. The regulating government infrastructure should be extended to bring these initiatives into mainstream public sector.
A major proportion of the not-for-profit education system on the other hand is contributed by large scale faith-based movements that run an enormous number of schools. But most of the schools under this umbrella are not very different than the conventional seminaries. Such schools not only have traces of severe child rights violations, abuse and violence but also being used as a means of sectarian indoctrination. It is not merely a matter of grave concern but also a sheer violation of child rights. It was never pressing more than now that we forge a national consensus over barring sectarian indoctrination in the name of religion.
The for-profit segment of private sector education management system also indicates certain crucial issues that should be dealt with immediate urgency. This private sector education system could be divided into two major streams further. First, the settlement or mohallah based private schools and second the large scale schools that mostly have chain of multiple school campuses.
The mohallah based private schools are generally low tuition fee based establishments that allow more children, especially the girls, to access schools. Also, most of these schools are making at least a marginal difference in terms of employing better teaching methodologies. It is, however largely done out of market based economic competitiveness and less for the sake of improving learning outcomes.
The beneficiary parents of these schools too are more interested in having their children earn higher grades irrespective of better learning outcomes. Most of these mohallah based schools are not much different than the conventional public sector schools in terms of educational facilities, teaching methodologies and behaviour towards children. These schools also call for attention of the regulators to apply stringent monitoring apparatus and bring them to the mainstreaming public schooling domain by following the principles of public-private partnership.
The second stream of private schools, that is accommodating the children belonging to above middle class economic strata of the society, seems buying most of the required educational inputs for children. These too, however, are not the best solution around. We definitely could do better here in these schools too.
Our primary school systems are also inculcating very limited altruism. The life skills that we were educated about are seldom witnessed now. I could recall from our childhood days that our parents and teachers used to educate us about how to show respect to elders, how to be gentle with others and how to behave in cultural consonance.