Rebuilding the Education System in Pakistan – Part 2


Amaani Sehgal

The initial part of this study delved into the challenges encountered by Pakistan in rebuilding its education system.  The subsequent section looks at a potential alternate approach: Barefoot Education. This approach acknowledges the limitations of traditional formal education while striving to address the specific needs of underprivileged communities. Barefoot Education distinguishes itself within the expansive realm of education by placing a strong emphasis on experiential learning, community engagement, and holistic development. Rooted in the metaphor of being barefoot, it symbolizes simplicity, grounding, and a profound connection with the environment. Barefoot Education advocates a more adaptable, immersive, and community-centric approach to education. In contrast to traditional formal education characterized by classrooms, teachers, and a standardized curriculum, this philosophy seeks to provide an alternative approach to learning. 
The approach rests on a foundation of several key principles. It places a high priority on empirical learning, acknowledging that individuals acquire knowledge most effectively when engaged in hands-on experiences that link their encounters with new information. Another fundamental aspect is community engagement, which extends education beyond the confines of classrooms, actively involving the community and incorporating traditional knowledge and practices. Additionally, the approach also emphasizes holistic development, addressing the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual growth of individuals as well as communities. Furthermore, it gives precedence to non-formal education, adapting to the needs and realities of marginalized communities, with a particular focus on skill development that can directly improve the lives of individuals and communities.
The implementation of the Barefoot Education approach manifests itself in various ways, all sharing common features. Small class sizes facilitate personalized learning with individual attention. The learning process centers on hands-on activities, connecting theoretical knowledge to practical experiences. Community engagement is paramount, involving parents, community members, and local experts in active participation. The curriculum is adaptable, tailored to the unique needs and interests of the community for relevance and engagement. There is a strong emphasis on prioritizing life skills, empowering individuals to enhance their lives and contribute to community development.
In a country like Pakistan, where a significant portion of the population faces disadvantages, the Barefoot Education concept emerges as a beacon of hope, offering an alternative means to empower neglected communities through non-formal education. Parallel to non-formal education, The Barefoot Education has been identified as a critical component of Pakistan’s education system. The government has attempted to implement educational regulations that would allow for non-formal education throughout the country. Over the last few decades, several education policies have been implemented in Pakistan, with many integrating non-formal education as a useful tool in combating illiteracy and poverty.  However, the current situation of non-formal education, on the other hand, shows that most government initiatives remain unimplemented owing to a lack of funding, skilled human resources, and other necessary services. This is where non-profit institutions come into play, as they have a critical role in magnifying the impact of adopting the Barefoot Education philosophy through non-formal education programs. This philosophy, often contrasted with conventional formal education, is gaining traction in Pakistan, particularly through the initiatives of institutions such as the Bunyad Foundation.
The Bunyad Foundation operates a comprehensive network reaching 1,800 villages. Through various initiatives, it offers vocational courses in various trades, such as tailoring, embroidery, computer literacy, and hospitality while empowering individuals to secure income and enhance their livelihoods. Additionally, the foundation extends its impact by providing training and support to women and marginalized groups. Its multifaceted programs encompass literacy campaigns for adult education, the establishment of libraries and resource centers, awareness programs on health, hygiene, and environmental issues, disaster preparedness, relief efforts, and advocacy for the rights of marginalized communities in Pakistan. Another objective is to provide children with counseling, healthcare, education, employment opportunities, and recreational activities. To have a more significant impact on the children, the Bunyad Foundation has partnered with community leaders to establish a communal and secure space where all residents can gather to learn. The Bunyad Foundation projects provide facilities to various schools such as installing a bathroom and rehabilitation of classrooms.  In addition, it has strived to create youth groups consisting of family members to raise awareness regarding female education.
Barefoot Educational programs play a crucial role in addressing disparities and promoting equity in countries such as Pakistan, where significant gaps in access to quality education exist. The literacy rate is 62.8 per cent (male 73.4, female 51.9) according to the Economic Survey 2022-23. Pakistan has the second-highest rate of out-of-school children in the world, according to UNICEF, with an estimated 22.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 16 not attending school, or 44 per cent of the country’s entire population in this age group.  It is important to note that in Pakistan, literacy is defined as the percentage of the population aged 15 and above who can read and write. Therefore, the Barefoot Educational programs have the potential to alleviate poverty, foster social development, and contribute to national progress by helping reduce illiteracy and empowering individuals and communities through non-formal education. As such, non-formal education programs embodying the Barefoot Education concept are essential components of Pakistan’s educational landscape. They possess the capacity to unleash the potential of marginalized groups, fostering an inclusive and equitable society where every individual can learn, grow, and prosper.
The Bunyad Foundation and other similar institutions have emerged as pillars of positive change, profoundly impacting the lives of underprivileged communities across Pakistan. Their unwavering commitment to education and social development has transcended mere empowerment, ushering in sustainable livelihoods and holistic progress. At the heart of their progress lies the distinctive approach of these institutions to education, focusing on non-formal learning, community engagement, and holistic development. The acquisition of literacy has opened doors to new opportunities, enabling active participation in society. Beyond the traditional notion of acquiring knowledge, the non-formal education concept originating from the Barefoot Education philosophy, acts as a potent tool for empowering individuals and communities, breaking free from cycles of poverty and inequality. This concept demonstrates its potential to transform lives and reshape the future of Pakistan, highlighting education as a catalyst for positive change in the country.
The outcomes of the Barefoot Education philosophy represent a transformative approach to learning, leaving a significant imprint on the lives of millions worldwide. Its focus on practicality, community-based education, and self-reliance has not only empowered individuals but has also enabled communities to overcome challenges, enhance their livelihoods, and contribute to sustainable development. In an era marked by escalating global issues such as poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation, the Barefoot Education model emerges as a valuable framework for inclusive and transformative education.
It has the potential to empower individuals and communities, paving the way for a sustainable future. Given the pressing need for such approaches, the role of the Bunyad Foundation in advancing non-formal education in Pakistan becomes exceedingly pivotal. The Bunyad Foundation actively promotes and endorses a holistic educational philosophy, thereby making positive strides in the reform of Pakistan’s underserved education system. By embracing innovative and inclusive educational approaches, it is addressing the root causes of societal challenges and nurturing a brighter future for all. Their efforts exemplify the power of education as a catalyst for building a more equitable, resilient, and prosperous society in Pakistan and beyond.

About Writer:
A 11th grade student of Brearley School, New York. Amaani Sehgal is a founder of Providentia Books. Amaani believes Providentia Books will help close the wide educational gap between the affluent and the poor in Pakistan