Education reform showing progress in Balochistan despite challenges
Quetta: The Government of Balochistan has invested time and resources in a number of structural and governance reforms since 2013. These reforms have largely been to address the challenges of providing improved infrastructure, devolving key responsibilities, and plugging the shortage of teachers through merit-based recruitment. However, the impact of these reforms is still unclear. This was highlighted in “2013-2018 Five years of education reform: Balochistan Wins, losses and challenges for the future 2018-2023”, a report published by education campaign Alif Ailaan on Tuesday.
The launch of the report was attended by the Minister for Education Mr. Tahir Mehmood Khan and the Minister for Science and Technology Prince Ahmed Ali. Also attending were political representatives from across the country, including Zubeida Jalal, Sardar Hussain Babak, Ahmed Iqbal, Raza Haroon and Usman Ahmed Khan Kakar.
The Balochistan Education Sector Plan (2013-2018) provided a holistic strategy and roadmap for guiding the reforms process over the following five years. It put special emphasis on improving quality, equity and governance. Under BESP, the Balochistan government implemented reform initiatives like real-time monitoring, standardised testing of learning levels, restructuring of governance systems through District Education Authorities (DEA), and improved education financing.
Despite these reform efforts of the provincial government, enrolment, retention, learning outcomes, and school infrastructure all continue to pose substantial challenges to the provincial authorities.
Alif Ailaan’s detailed report on Balochistan education makes the following recommendations:
- The government needs to focus on immediate provision of middle and high schools across the province. To address long distances and low population density, a much higher proportion of high schools must be residential for students and teachers. Additionally, all high schools should have middle school classes added to them.
- Number of out of school children between the ages of 10-16 years is twice that of children between the ages of 5-9 years. This represents a major challenge since incorporating children from the former age group into the formal schooling system starting from primary levels is not a viable solution. The government needs to introduce accelerated learning programs that can ensure adequate means for these students to be situated in the formal schooling system.
- The devolution of powers through the cluster management system, and the local and district education groups needs to implemented in a manner where timely decision making can be undertaken with the requisite fiscal powers.
- The increase in education budget needs to be met with commensurate increase in the effectiveness of financial management system in order to ensure adequately absorb increased funding. This calls for a focus on not only year on year increases in education allocations, disbursements and utilisation, but also marked improvements in the efficiency with which funds are spent
- The Secondary Education Department must focus on improved teaching and learning capacity at all levels to ensure greater participation in the examinations as well as better performance of all students. Simple curbing of cheating without improvement in teaching will not be enough. There is also a need to focus on teacher training targeting improved teaching and learning of languages through ensuring that teachers and children are able to operate in a learning environment that is most conducive to learning.
- A new, and targeted effort to address the most remote thinly populated areas is therefore an urgent priority for Balochistan. This focus will not only elevate access to quality education in these districts but also address sociopolitical concerns about inequitable progress in the province
- Invest substantially more in new technologies to solve education challenges in Balochistan. Solar energy can address the absence of electricity across a wide swathe of government schools in Balochistan. Similarly, bespoke language-based digital content can be used to enable and empower teachers across the province.
- In order to cater to challenges pertaining to provision of schooling to communities with low population density, the Balochistan Residential Colleges model may need to be expanded to cater to both boys and girls across Balochistan.
At the launch of the report in Quetta, a coalition of 25 organisations, working for the improvement of education in Balochistan, presented the Balochistan Minister for Education Mr. Tahir Mehmood Khan with the Balochistan Education Charter. This charter proposes legislative, management, financial and education quality interventions, which can bring both immediate and long-term impact in Balochistan education’s struggle with enrolment, school infrastructure, and learning outcomes.