By Zubeida Mustafa
ACCORDING to a recently jublished World Bank study, the slowdown in the :rash expansion of the school system in Third World countries, and the decline in the investment capital available to them, lave caused policymakers to turn their attention to the quality of education.
It is now being realised that low levels of student achievement are hampering economic development. Moreover, poor school quality means that in many cases education is not cost-efficient.
But where does Pakistan stand in this new debate on quality versus quantity in education?
Pakistan’s education planners would do well to study Bruce Filler’s Raising School Quality in Developing Countries. The anomalies in Pakistan’s educational system would, however, baffle the experts.
In the first place, primary education here has not expanded as fast as in many other Third World countries. Even 40 years after independence, Pakistan’s literacy ratio is dismally low at 26 per cent and primary school enrolment rate is barely 50 per cent. The country has not reached the peak of expansion as many other developing states where literacy and enrolment rates are considerably higher.
Secondly, the expenditure on education has registered a much faster growth over the years. Yet the quality of education has shown no perceptible improvement.
This is all the more evident when the key indicators for school quality in Pakistan are compared with those in other countries. For instance, the percentage of pupils completing primary school is 50 in Pakistan. It is 60 in low-income countries, 75 in middle-income countries and 93 in industrialised states. In Pakistan the per primary pupil expenditure was about US$28 in 1980 when it was US$59 in low-income countries, US$195 in middle-income countries and US$2,2,297 in industrialised countries.
Only in respect of pupil-teacher ratio, Pakistan’s record of 36 in 1980 was better than the 44 for low-income countries. It was 32 for middle-income countries and 18 for the industrialised states.
What the World Bank study seeks to establish is that investment in education can, if scientifically channelled, raise the level of student achievement. It is time Pakistan conducted surveys to research the economic benefits of “school quality” not only for individuals but also for the nation’s output.
Such a study would serve a useful purpose by identifying the areas which need greater investments if the quality of education is to be raised. Conversely, it could help highlight wasteful expenditure which has little impact on academic level. The latter cannot be overemphasised in view of the fact that Pakistan’s investment in primary education has grown phenomenally over the years but neither has school enrolment expanded proportionately nor has school quality been raised.
Broadly speaking, school quality has been defined as (a) the level of material inputs allocated per pupil (resource concentration), and (b) the level of efficiency with which fixed amounts of material inputs are organised and managed to raise pupil achievement.
If maximum economic returns are to be obtained for the investments in education it is important to address the question, which specific material inputs are related to student achievement.
The World Bank paper reviews 72 studies conducted in developing countries over 15 years. The findings are significant. The elements which were not found to be consistently related to achievement were: the class size, the availability of laboratories and the salary levels of individual teachers. On the other hand, elements which were found to be directly related to the achievement of students were: * Expenditure per pupil * Instructional material e.g. textbooks, radio, etc. * School library activity * Teacher training * Teacher’s social background * Length of instructional programme. It clearly emerges from the surveys that the key elements in determining the quality of education are availability of textbooks, intensity of the use of libraries, level of teachers and the time devoted to instruction. One inherent weakness of these surveys is that they do not take into account curriculum content, quality of textbooks and other books available and the management of instruction.
From some earlier studies it has, however, been established that some characteristics of teachers definitely enhance learning. These include their academic and intellectual proficiency, creativeness, motivation, in-service training, knowledge and teaching methods. The World Bank study emphasises the need for cost-efficiency in schools. One way of achieving this, it says, is to invest in those material elements of school quality which are cost-effective. This requires choosing among various school inputs and practices. To decide which input is worth investing in, the magnitude of each intervention’s effect and its cost needs to be evaluated. It is clear that no such exercise has been conducted in Pakistan and the investment made in various sub-sectors of education are obviously quite unplanned. The education budget has grown but school quality or quantity has not been enhanced correspondingly. If education is to be made cost-effective greater efforts will have to be made in the direction pointed out in the World Bank Discussion Paper.
Source: Dawn 4 April 1987