Education in Seventh Plan: The weakening political commitment

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION is not a high priority item in the draft of the Seventh Five-Year Plan. The targets are relatively modest and if these are achieved, Pakistan would still remain educationally backward.

Given the government’s poor record in meeting the goals of the Sixth Plan it appears that the authors of the Seventh Plan are being .more cautious and realistic in not aiming too high. But the lower targets could also be indicative of the government’s weakening political commitment to education.

34-12-03-1988-2Although the draft Plan describes the government’s performance in the field of education in the Sixth Plan period as “fairly satisfactory”, the fact is that all has not been well in this sector.

 Sixth Plan performance

 To begin with, only Rs 13.4 billion of the Rs 18.8 billion allocated for education was actually spent. The physical targets also fell short of realisation. Nearly 15 million persons were to be made literate in five years, By the government’s own reckoning only 150,000 actually benefited from the literacy programmes.

Nearly 40,000 mosque schools were to be opened but only 17,000 or so could be established. Primary participation rate was to be pushed up to 75 per cent from 50 per cent in 1983 but it actually inched up to 63 per cent.

 Literacy

The most significant shift in the Seventh Plan strategy is in respect of primary education and literacy.

The thrust of the Sixth Plan was towards opening mosque schools to universalise primary education. Adult literacy was to be imparted through the informal sector. The Seventh Plan draft implicitly admits that both strategies proved to be a failure.

Hence the focus is once again to revert to primary schools, 28,113 of which are to be opened in five years. Mosque schools will be established for small settlements only. Thus the enrolment ratio at the primary level is expected to be raised to 79 per cent by 1992-93 which compares unfavourably with many Third World countries.

In order to universalise primary education, an effort will be made to geographically distribute the facilities in such a way as to locate a primary school within easy reach of all children

Female ratio

 Recognising the importance of enhancing the enrolment ratio of girls (which stands at 45 per cent in 1987-88) the Seventh Plan specifically speaks of making concerted efforts to induct \girls into school.

In order to facilitate the availability of female teachers — an important factor in persuading parents to send their daughters to school– the terms and conditions of service of women teachers (such as age, qualifications, training, etc) will be revised and made more flexible.

But most significant is the motivational campaign the authors of the Plan hope to launch to increase school enrolment. Much would depend on how this task — essentially a political one — is handled. The basic weakness of Pakistan’s educational strategy all these years has been its inability to mobilise the people and involve them in the education process.

The efforts in the primary education sector will assume added importance in view of the government’s decision to more or less abandon the literacy programme on which a sum of Rs 834 million was spent in 1983-88.

The draft Plan adjudges the Iqra project — LAMEC’s latest brainchild which provides for an award of Rs 1000 to the instructor for every neo-literate — as too expensive and having inbuilt dangers of misuse and corruption. The Nai Roshni schools which were launched with such fanfare in 1986, it is now said, will be absorbed in the formal school system.

The responsibility of imparting adult literacy will thus fall mainly on the NGOs and other groups. As a result the literacy rate is not expected to go up significantly. From the present 29 per cent (estimated) it should rise to 38 per cent, by no means a very respectable figure. The increment is calculated to be predominantly from the increase in primary school enrollment.

This shift is reflected in the financial allocations made to these sectors. While the allocation for the primary sector is to go up from Rs 3.5 billion in the Sixth Plan to Rs 10.5 billion in the Seventh Plan, the share of literacy and mass education is to be revised downwards from Rs 834 million in 1983-88 to Rs 400 million in 1988-93.

chnical education is another area where our planners have failed totally although it has been officially reaffirmed that there is need to produce technical manpower tailored to the employment market and the requirement of the national economy. In view of this the Sixth Plan envisaged the setting up of 200 trade schools. Not a single one of them came into existence.

As a result the pressure fell on the polytechnics and monotechnics whose number increased nominally by eight in five years,

With no other outlet and the level of training and education at the school leaving stage so inadequate, the students continued to flock into colleges and universities. While the Sixth Plan targets for school enrollment could not be met, the students who went to colleges and universities were far in excess of the numbers planned.

The Seventh Plan provides for structural changes in technical education to produce technical manpower acceptable to the market and to increase the intake capacity of technical institutions

Vocational institutions

Numerous measures have been suggested. After class eight, students will be able to join a vocational institution for a certificate course of three to ten months duration. The duration of the postmatric diploma course will be reduced from three to two years in the polytechnics and technical colleges.

The best diploma holders along with those who pass their intermediate science will be allowed to join the B.Sc. Engineering course which will be reduced to three years from the present four. The Engineering University will offer a two-year Master’s degree in engineering which will be at par with the present BSc Engineering.

All this will increase the intake capacity of technical institutions without their number being increased substantially. While only 12 new polytechnics are planned, the capacity of technical institutions will rise from the present 9,000 to 14,000.

The strategy calls for less capital investment while it ensures the expansion of output. But how it would affect the standards, one will have to wait and see. In keeping with this approach the technical education component of the education sector in the Plan is to be reduced from 6.7 per cent in Sixth Plan to 5.9 per cent in the Seventh Plan.

 Financing

The Seventh Plan allocates Rs 23.29 billion to education. Under the Sixth Plan Rs 13.43 was spent. The recurrent expenditure is expected to be Rs 93 billion. According to the Plan document, “this level of recurring expenditure be from public exchequer would necessitate strong cost recovery measures.”

Given this approach it is not surprising that the policy of financial load-shedding by the government in education is to continue. The private sector is to receive a new boost in the Seventh Plan period. The Plan specifically speaks of encouraging communities to set up on self-help basis or as a private venture, primary, middle and high schools. By way of incentive the government will offer five as a development grant 50per cent. of the cost of the building of these institutions.

Future housing schemes will be required to provide for the construction of primary and secondary schools, the cost of which will be recovered from the cost of land and development charges to be paid by the allottees.

The private sector is to play an active role in the literacy programme and also in opening new colleges, universities and technical institutions.

In view of the financial crisis of the universities, the fiscal measures proposed are significant. First, the Seventh Plan speaks of revising the funding system of the universities which are administratively controlled by the provincial governments but funded by the federal government. This, according to the Plan, has weakened financial discipline. It is not explicitly stated but implied that the provincial governments will now be asked to fund higher education.

Secondly, the fee structure will be rationalised and more of the cost recovered. At present the unit recurring cost per student per year in a general university is Rs 15,282 of which only Rs 240 is recovered as tuition fee. Significantly, the allocation for university education has not been increased substantially. It will rise from Rs 1383 million in 1983-88 to Rs 1552 million in the next five years.

Some new measures to be considered are:

  • Age of admission to class I should be increased to six years from the present five years.
  • Integrated textbooks should be used upto class III.
  • The stages of education will be restructured so that classes I to III constitute lower elementary, IV to VII upper elementary, IX to XII secondary, XII to XV college and XVI and above universities. Thus intermediate classes (XI and XII) will become a part of secondary school and the degree course will be of three years duration instead of the present two years.
  • School management committees will be set up for each school to involve the local community in its day-to-day running.
  • Public and institutional libraries are to be developed. But the funds allocated for this subsector in the Seventh Plan is a nominal one of Rs 200 million over five years. The Sixth Plan had allocated Rs 455 million but only Rs 125 million was actually spent.

It is thus plain that there is to be an increase in the government’s spending on education in absolute terms but this is not to be as substantial as is needed to improve the state of education in the country.

Moreover, the share of the education sector in the Seventh Plan is to decline to 3.7 per cent. It was 3.8 per cent in the Sixth Plan document. The increasing role of the private sector and the emphasis on cost recovery (the term user’s charges has been calculatedly avoided) means that education will become more costly

Source: Dawn 12 March 1988