Education in Balochistan

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Samra Hamid

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the world realized the importance of advanced technology and digital learning in all spheres of life. People adopted and learned skills online for earning purposes and utilized such technological platforms for educational purposes too. Therefore, video conferencing apps such as Google Classroom, Zoom, and Skype gained more popularity. Given the increased demand for these apps, it also enhanced the use of the internet in Pakistan, introducing new methods for the prevalence of digital education for all. However, these skills, the limited availability of the internet, and an understanding of the digital world were proportionately missing in the educational institutes of Balochistan. Unfortunately, this was the result of the limited services, limited budget allocation, and lack of training in both technical and digital domains, for the students and staff of educational institutes in Balochistan.
To prevail in better and advanced education, Balochistan needs to upgrade the teaching methods for which finance and proper management are required. There is a need for an efficient and implementable model that can be achieved through Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) for Balochistan`s educational institutes to help overcome these gaps. Thus, this article aims to highlight and suggest policies concerning the importance of Private-Public-Partnership in the education sector of Balochistan for better-advanced education in the province.
The concept of public-private partnerships is framed as a best practice to achieve educational goals and is a legal contract between the government and the private sector. It creates an interdependence between the two parties making it obligatory for the private and government sectors to cooperate. In this setup, private stakeholders provide educational services and typically assume the role of service delivery and risk-sharing with the government for a certain period. Meanwhile, given the presence of 3200 ghost schools, the government can finance or accommodate these private organizations with these buildings (of the ghost schools).
Regarding the dysfunctional education system of Balochistan, the model of PPP seems to be a good policy option for advancing education in the province. Given this, in the current times educating the new generation requires an updated curriculum, advanced technology, and technical training. However, all of them are lacking in this peripheral region but can be attained by adopting PPP assistance. To do so, the initial steps need to be acknowledged and worked upon particularly the pillars, such as resources, collaboration between stakeholders, performance assessment, accreditation, and accessibility, without these steps, PPP cannot sustain.
Since the province`s economic conditions and education status stand at the lowest, the literacy rate at 43.5 percent, the highest in the country, and the poverty rate, at 71 percent. Balochistan stands on the brink of an educational recession. Other than these emerging challenges, the province also faces more complex existing challenges in the shape of ghost schools, ghost teachers, and untrained staff. The appointed teachers have limited knowledge of using digital services or rather do not have access to technological equipment at all.
Regrettably, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the net enrollment rate during COVID-19 drastically increased in other provinces of Pakistan. however, it decreased from 44% to 40 % in Balochistan. The main reason for it seemed to be the limited resources, non-availability of technology in schools, and limited human capital (that is, teachers).
To achieve quality education, the government must include private stakeholders to adopt and sign the PPP policy to ensure future prospects for the youth of the province. The ultimate goals of this policy should be to provide reasonable fees for schools in the preeminent poor areas and to attain sustainable educational policies. To utilize the resources and finance allotted to education, the government needs to counter corruption first, for which the best method is to partner with private stakeholders. By doing so, the engagement of private stakeholders would prevent political involvement and political influence in the institutes resulting in quality education and merit-based teachers to teach.
The successful model currently in practice is the Punjab Education Foundation with 1.6 million students studying in more than 3200 Public-Private-Partnered schools. Therefore, over the years, education in Punjab has progressed more than in any other province of Pakistan. Given the success rate of PPPs, other provincial governments, particularly Sindh are also adopting the partnership policy. Such a policy can help with corruption in Balochistan too and can introduce a new system of checks and balances for the institutes.
In the case of Balochistan, with an increase of 5% in the education budget of Rs 8.463 billion for primary and secondary schools, handing over technical training to a private organization/sector funded by the government will facilitate the management of money. This will also compel private organizations to take effective, productive, and durable actions in the institutes. By doing so, the Balochistan government can utilize the sum of Rs 2,400,000 by dividing and applying the educational budget to provide better education in the province. This can aid the students with better access to education, by operationalizing the existing ghost schools. A better learning environment, through vocational training, skill development techniques and digitalization of schools and infrastructural rehabilitation and development. It can also help with every public school’s administrative issue, particularly vulnerable to corruption. The inclusion of these private stakeholders would lead to the proper administration and neutral decision-making within the institute, providing merit-based opportunities and better-qualified teachers to bring up quality human capital.
PPPs also enhance the system of checks and balances, converge, and aids in countering the political influence in the administration and other decisions of the institute. Given this, there is a high chance of getting rid of the ghost teachers and schools and activities like fake attendance of teachers. Empirically, there are almost 12,218 primary schools out of which 3200 are ghost schools in Balochistan. Similarly, the ratio of operating teachers and the presence of 10,000 ghost teachers. This increases the workload and stress for the operating teachers, leaving one teacher for every 40 students, consequently, reducing the quality and focus of education for the students.
According to research, the model of PPP has been quite successful in the educational field, with approximately 5834 schools running successfully in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the stakeholders and responsible departments in Balochistan are mismanaged and lack administrative skills, which creates a vacuum for corrupt elements. In a region (Balochistan), where international organizations are so interested, particularly with the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goal, Education for All (EFA) the funds can be very well utilized for developmental purposes.
To conclude, it is evident through research and studies that PPPs are successful all around the world and are now practised in Pakistan’s other provinces as well, with successful outcomes. Balochistan government should also adopt a partnership with the private sector to ensure quality and advanced education for the youth of Balochistan. While signing the policy of PPP the government should make sure that in the poverty-ridden province incentives and scholarships at a very primary level are granted to deserving students. The policy should also include vocational, communicational, and advanced skill development programs for both students and teachers. Moreover, there should be no interference in the role and responsibilities of the private sector. With the economic conditions of the province, this approach of PPP can be very helpful to at least elevate the literacy rate and skill set in the province.