I believe that change is good but what is more important – change for the better

Contributed by Najia Sher Ali,
Parent and Teacher at Schola Nova.
She has been a visiting faculty teacher for O Levels’
Economics and Business Studies at Beaconhouse,
American National School and Bloomfield Hall, Lahore.

If I look at my country, the cause of each and every problem (ranging from pollution, population growth, pressure on resources, etc) is lack of education. Hence, I feel this is the area that we, as a nation, must focus on. An educated mind can solve any problem.

However, in the past few months, it is the educators of this country who have been discouraged. I as a parent feel that it is unfortunate that private educational institutes have been told to cut fee or eliminate summer fee.

Of all the areas, the private educational institutes are the only businesses which are doing something meaningful; imparting knowledge and teaching skills which are at par or even above international standards. These educational institutes have created human capital over the years that have been and are contributing to our economy in a positive way.

Without any calculation, in-depth analysis and survey of schools, a 20% cut down in the fee has been ordered! Who is going to benefit from this? Looking at the larger picture – no one. School owners will definitely cut down their costs. They can’t reduce teachers’ salaries but they will aim to cut costs by reducing services offered, hire fewer people, hire those willing to work at lower pay – maybe the less qualified ones, keep less staff and increase their work burden. Thus quality of education provided by private institutes (which are the authentic education providers) will go down. No one will even think of setting up a new educational institute!

The other order to eliminate summer fee was quite absurd. Teacher and staff get paid during the summer break and renovation and maintenance work also takes place during the summer months. Who is supposed to pay for these? Most school properties are rented out and rents have to be paid throughout the year.

If the purpose of the Chief Justice of Pakistan is to make education more affordable and accessible, he should think again.

If I cannot afford a BMW, I should buy a Suzuki car. I shouldn’t ask the BMW to reduce their prices! If I can’t afford a Cartier watch, I should buy an ordinary one. My purpose is to see time. If I can’t afford luxuries, I should buy ordinary goods. Luxuries satisfy wants, not needs. I couldn’t afford to pay the fee of the American School and Preparatory School, so I opted for Schola Nova. The schools that I couldn’t afford are expensive because of the facilities they provide. If one can afford it, they should go for it. If I can’t afford Schola Nova I should opt for IMCG/ICB. My children will not be deprived of education. Government schools (whose poor educational standards discourage parents from enrolling their children) should be free for all. They should provide books, notebooks and stationary (free of cost) to all students. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone can access education, not private institutes’ responsibility.

If the government cannot subsidize private schools (which it should) then it should not atleast discourage them. However, if the government wants to do something in the field of education it should look into its own schools (their curriculum/facilities/teachers/etc.). I am sorry to say but these institutes are not doing any research, innovation, teacher training or encouraging students to do better. The government needs help in this field and it should be thankful to private institutes that have done so well and these institutes can help government schools in the following ways:

  • The government can ask private schools to share their knowledge and research with them.
  • They can ask then to provide teachers/trainers on rotation to train teachers in government schools.
  • Private institutes can be requested to audit government schools’ syllabus/curriculum and advice changes/improvements and improvise their standards.
  • Government school teachers can be invited to private schools and attend classes to see how actually subjects are and should be taught – from the simplest concepts like phonics to the most complex ones like trigonometry.

The poor man is not suffering because the American School or Roots or BSS are charging high fee. He is suffering because of high electricity, gas and fuel costs and the school fee of government institutes. The government should set up free government schools or missionary schools if it wants to provide any relief to the poor.

Entrepreneurship is being discouraged. Employment is being discouraged. Real education is being discouraged. Economic growth is being discouraged. Education is the core and to taper with those who are ‘actually’ providing it, is a shame.

In any economy of the world both the private and public sector have important roles. The public (government) sector must provide public goods such as street lighting, roads etc for which individual users cannot be identified and charged so taxes are levied. The public sector also provides merit goods such as health services and education which are deemed necessary. The private sector’s main aim is to make profit and in order to achieve this aim it constantly innovates and improves its goods and services. Competition drives them to keep improving and thus ensures that they do not remain stagnant. Eventually all private firms identify target markets (consumers) that it sells products. Better quality goods and services are produced in the quest to gain more market share. Consumers benefit as a result. The innovation brought about by the private sector (due to research and development) triggers down to all levels including public sector enterprises which are known for lack of innovation. Private schools thus are the backbone of the education system which in turn is the backbone of the economy. If the achievements of private schools cannot be applauded and they cannot get any assistance and subsidies from the government, they should not be discouraged atleast.

Today in Pakistan we have several categories of schools for different types of target markets. In Islamabad alone there is Edopia for those who want a nonconventional, practical based approach. Preparatory School, Schola Nova and Liberal Arts High School based on values, principals, high educations standards and individual attention to each student. Roots, City School and Beaconhouse School System are chains of schools that have earned trust over the years with their proven track records and are specially suitable for those students whose parents have jobs with constant transfers from one city to another. City School and BSS also cater to lower income groups by providing educational facilities which are much better than and as affordable as government schools (The Smart School and Educators). BSS also has other categories of schools such as Beaconhouse Newlands and Beaconhouse TNS which cater to higher income groups and charge a higher fee for the additional facilities provided and are no less than international schools such as The American School and Sheikh Zayed School. Here there are people who are not only able to pay the regular school fee but are paying approximately six to twenty times the amount to private tutors and tuition academies!

Think again! Don’t play with the future of this country. Schools offer sibling discounts, eliminate tuition fee for teachers’ children, provide teachers paid winter and summer breaks and are a relief to mothers by providing them an opportunity to work part time. Don’t encourage private schools to take away these privileges, sack teachers, reduce facilities, cut down on maintenance and repair work, increase teachers’ work load and sacrifice on the quality of education.

Educating a nation is not a joke!

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