25% seats in private schools should be given to impoverished children.

By Ali Hassnain

Recently an Indian initiative caught my attention. It was ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’. In Pakistan we have similar and even better bills in our system but there is no implementation of these bills. The emphasis (at least on TV by elected representatives) is on converting the curriculum in English medium and having the same curriculum in all schools. I find it both funny and absurd. Majority of the countries, almost all have multiple education systems, except perhaps the Communist countries. North Korea is probably one of the last examples.

For example, in the US private schools are generally free to determine their own curriculum and staffing policies, with voluntary accreditation available through independent regional accreditation authorities.  Not to mention catholic schools and minority schools.  State government usually sets standards for public high schools. The USA has community colleges where you can get a GDA and get admission and transfer to a better college if you perform well. GDA exams can be taken privately and the degree is equal to 13 years of education. Then there is home-schooling. Our country deserves it and should have multiple systems. Choices should be there.

In most countries you can jump into the Foundation Year, which is equal to 14 years of education, and continue to Bachelors. Unfortunately we have no such system here in Pakistan. In UK for example, you can either jump into diploma of law, after that spend two more years doing LLB and you are a lawyer. Same is the case with most degrees. Whereas in Pakistan you have to pass Matric, wait two years, pass FA, wait two more years, complete Bachelors and then you can go for LLB. Or wait two years for M.A. This is absurd really. Why the mandatory gap? But again that’s another topic. What is more absurd is the fact that even if you have done LLB in UK, you still need a B.A degree to join bar in Pakistan. That’s a topic that deserves several articles. For now, I would leave it at that.

Coming back to the topic, there are thousand things wrong with our education system and Indian education system, perhaps commission after commission would point that out. But there is one provision in India that was a surprise for me as a Pakistani. All the private schools are supposed to admit 25% children who are from poor, improvised families, that too for free. Initially it was purposed that 50% of seats should be reserved but 25% quota was finally decided for the impoverished.

Ayub Khan once called quota system a necessary evil and sometimes it is. It’s not a smooth ride by any means. Children may have problem keeping up due to the class difference and also private schools will keep raising a hue and cry about this law. There are some problems too with this law, such as children being bullied because of their social status, but almost all issues are fixable with time. This way children will also learn that they should not take everything for granted. It’s a very good idea indeed. Children with economic disadvantage should get a chance in institutions like Aitchison College, LGS, Beaconhouse and Karachi Grammar School. That would also be a great way to teach other children how to move in the real world. This can be extended to universities. Imagine the son of a factory worker or domestic help studying in LUMS.

Ruling party is indifferent about education for the masses, for now. Red tape and lack of priorities are the main problems, but there are people who might seriously consider it. Although a prominent populist opposition leader, Imran Khan is an alumnus of Aitchison College and almost never talks about upgrading it to a university. He can see the Governor House being a waste of land but he is unable to see how a college in the heart of city which despite huge allocation of resources has failed to produce academics of international standing. It can be upgraded to a university. Husband of the owner of Beaconhouse School System is one of his right hand men. The owner herself is very close to him. Instead of pleasing private school owners, Imran Khan should think about the future of children of our nation and talk about this bold step to control the class conflict in Pakistan.

Zardari was in Cadet College Pataro and was expelled, and my guess is he did not continue his education. It is sad that his children who are educated from the best universities in the word have no clear vision on education for all classes of Pakistan.

Dear leaders, please make getting education easier, not more difficult. Why can’t the son of a labourer also study in Aitchison college? Or LUMS? Or IBA?

Education is not a favour, it’s a right!