Visit To Kashmir And Punjab, 7th - 21st February 1999
Report Of The Education Group
The Education Group of the visit was made up of professionals who represented a cross-section of education and related services in Pendle.
The group was able to investigate the education service at various levels, thanks to a concentrated schedule of visits and presentations. These ranged from the Minister of Education of the Punjab, to regional administrators, headteachers, teachers and pupils. The hectic schedule brought its own problems however, in that the quality of exchanges was sometimes sacrificed for quantity, so that the insights gained by the group were not always as deep as they would have wished. Furthermore, in so short a time, it was only possible to get a very partial view of the education system in Pakistan. The comments and observations which follow are therefore limited in scope, and should not be taken as a general overview of the Pakistani education system as a whole. Nevertheless, praise is due to the organising committee for enabling such a diversity of views to be heard and appreciated.
2) Group Objectives
The group shared some common objectives, but members also had individual objectives which related to the specific services or age group which were their main professional interest.
3) Educational Organisation
Pakistan is divided into the Provinces of: Punjab, Sindh, North West Frontier, Gilgit Agency Baluchistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (disputed). They all have separate Provincial Governments and are divided into Districts for administrative purposes. We met and were briefed by the Educational Ministers and their Secretaries for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in the provincial capital of Muzzafirabad and for Punjab in the provincial capital of Lahore. The Asian Heritage community of Pendle come predominantly from backgrounds in the Gujrat/Faisalabad and Jhelum districts of Punjab, and the Bhimber and Mirpur districts of AJK. The exact proportions of each are a matter for further research. The Provincial Governments are led by different political parties - AJK is ruled by the People's Party (leader Benazir Bhutto) and Punjab by the Muslim League (leader Nawaz Sharif) - so there are some differences in education policies. School education was organised loosely on a First, Middle and Secondary School basis as found in LEAs like Bradford, Norfolk and latterly Leeds. Technically it was divided into Elementary Education - Primary (Ages 5 to 9) and Middle Schools (Ages 9 to 12) and Secondary Education - High School (Ages 13 to 15) and Higher Secondary Schools. Schools were almost invariably mono-gender, although some of the Elementary Schools had boys and girls together. There was a State Sector and a small but increasing Private Sector. Education was up to the age of 15 and began at 5. The Primary Stage started with Prep/Nursery and then progressed year by year from Class 1 to Class 10. The Middle Stage began at Class 6 and the High School Stage at Class 9. All the schools visited had pupils from Class 1 to Class 10 and it was reported that pupils did not move from one class to the next without proof of progress. Education was not compulsory and many school aged children could be seen on the streets during school hours of 8.00am to 1.00pm. A fee of 25 rupees a month was charged in State Schools, but in the rural Private Schools it was about 300 rupees a month and many were required to keep 10% of places available to poorer families. Children who completed their education left having 'matriculated' in a prescribed series of examinations as in the School Matriculation Exam of England in the late 1940s which is roughly equivalent to GCSEs. It was stated that there was one prescribed national curriculum at college level, which was made up of Maths, English, Science, Social Studies, and Islamic Studies. Technical education was concentrated in a smaller number of specialised institutions, which required students attending them to live away from home.
Azzad Jammu and Kashmir
It was reported that 10% of the 3.033 million population of AJK lived in urban areas. The population density was 205 persons per sq. km. The adult literacy rate was 41% by comparison with a figure of 23% for Pakistan as a whole. The Deputy Director of Education (Project) claimed a 98% participation rate for boys and an 86% rate for girls in Elementary Education. He believed they had made great progress since 1947. He felt that there were sufficient numbers of schools at this time and was proud of the fact that there were to be 107 new Secondary Schools this year. In 1970-71 0.89% of the total budget had been spent on education, in 1998-9 it was 11% on buildings alone. (Detailed figures are attached in Appendix One and Appendix Two)
The Deputy Director gave an overview of the Northern Education Project - AJK. This project was of 650 million rupees (c. 85 rupees to the pound) - 80% funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the rest by the AJK government.
Its objectives were:
The project had clear targets for the training of teachers and headteachers, the development of textbooks, the provision of equipment, the construction of buildings and their furnishing and the creation of an administrative infrastructure. We saw little sign of its effects during our visit though we were informed that its early achievements were in School Mapping as a prerequisite for the planners, to help the coordination of the locations of schools in order to modernise the system and make possible the better distribution of clusters of schools. He also talked about the government initiative in establishing School Committees to run schools locally. Devolution of responsibility to local communities for the day to day administration of the system was a national policy. He emphasised that in AJK parents wanted education for their children, (see "Pakistan Education Project" - Appendix Three) and that despite the lack of compulsion, attendance rates were high.
Information about the Neelum and Jhelum Valleys Community Development (NJVCDP) was shared with the delegation during a presentation by M Hussain Bhatti, Programme Technical Advisor. The project was an integrated multi-sector development which aimed to improve the living standards of the rural population. It was built around a participatory approach and organised rural communities at grass root level by the formation of both male and female community development groups. These were organised to help people take charge of their own affairs and to achieve self reliance for sustainable development. Beneficiaries were helped to adopt proven technologies, enterprises and skill enhancement on the basis of their self-assessed needs. There was not, within the schedule, time to visit the project; however it clearly mirrored some the initiatives currently undertaken with communities in East Lancashire by the Youth and Community Service.
It was apparent from the documentation presented to the delegation that women played a significant role in this initiative. This would be an eminently suitable project for an initiative with localities such as Brierfield or Nelson. It might be possible to develop support links for these projects in the rural areas of Pendle.
The Punjab Government is based at Lahore. The Education Minister - Brigadier (retd) Zulfikhar outlined the problems in education since 1947. He said that there was a strong base and tradition established by the British which had lost its way in the social problems following independence and the Bhutto governments of 1970 onwards. He claimed there was an atmosphere of poor discipline, teachers and students were less willing to learn, the examination system was weak and cheating was commonplace and there was a general lack of motivation. The new Government was reconstructing the system and over the past 18 months they had made great strides. They had employed a third party validation exercise using the army to look at the 40,000 schools in Punjab (over 70,000 in country as a whole). This exercise had uncovered 1,500 "ghost schools", where teachers and others were being paid, but no such schools existed in reality. They were beginning to make real headway as they established a computerised database for use in coordination and planning. This would solve the major problem, which was lack of reliable information. They were now following the principle that education was for the community and must be organised by the community themselves. On 28th February throughout the country there was to be a meeting in each school to elect a School Management Committee to work together to run the school. These committees were to be made up of 9 members per school: the Headteacher, a teacher representative, 5 parents and 2 retired local Civil Servants. If beyond Middle School age there would also be 1 student.
Other reforms included the use of trained commissioners to de-centralise administration to the district level and give them a monitoring and evaluation role in schools. There would also be an expectation of strict financial discipline. The examination system was being reformed to remove all its inherent weaknesses. The Professional Colleges, e.g. the Police College, were to become totally merit-based. Entry was to be by pre-admission merit test only. The next phase was to improve the quality of teachers through training though there were difficulties created by the fact that the teachers were employed and deployed as civil servants with civil service job protection. This meant that the quality of teachers could be universally guaranteed. In the Punjab there was a 60% enrolment rate but this was accompanied by a very high dropout rate - 61% of girls and 40 % of boys. They wished to discourage this and had instituted national awards to schools who made improvements to enrolment, attendance and academic standards. All this was not easy as there were substantial qualitative differences especially amongst the more isolated schools. Efforts were being made to educate local communities in their responsibilities. The School Management Committees were to participate in a short training course and a progressive plan of area training had been drawn up: education of the whole community was seen to be vital. Issues such as the traditional gender gap needed addressing. The Minister contended that girls were very bright and showed the greater strength of character but, particularly in rural areas, the perceived utility of girls' education was low.
To support the decentralisation of education, District Officers would be appointed to monitor 6,000 schools per district. A centre of about 35 schools (a murkah) would be looked after by an Assistant Education Officer with an office and a brief to supervise the work of the School Management Committees. They would be supported by 2 mobile supervisors who would visit school twice a week. There would be a direct computer link from Centres to Districts and District to Province.
The changes were being supported by foreign aid. The British Council Educational Programmes provided grants and scholarships to the UK with a view to good practice being taken back to Pakistan. Conferences, campaigns and specific projects were funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Foreign companies were also providing support e.g. Macdonalds and CE Consultancy who gave technical advice.
The Minister declared that the new system was just like that set up by 'your Mrs. Thatcher'. The government had based their policies on the premise that things worked better if responsibility was devolved to local communities whilst retaining control at the centre through finance and a clear and punitive system of monitoring and evaluation. Given the difficulties of communication, the levels of social deprivation and the isolation and ignorance in many rural areas, it might be thought that there would be more sense in Thatcherite philosophy in Pakistan than in educated developed Britain. While the use of 'Governing Bodies' to run schools presupposes a level of education that is not readily available to schools, the devolution of power and finance to the point of use must surely bring benefits. However, as the trip progressed and we began to better understand the country and spoke to practitioners rather than politicians the picture was ultimately not quite so clear.
4. Education - from the perspective of teachers
It was evident from the official presentations that there was a desire to reform the educational system. There was also a recognition that the future prosperity of the country depended on the quality of education. This was mirrored in an article in The Frontier Post for Sunday 21st February 1999 which said:
The view from the front line of teachers and their Headteachers however, was not so positive, and much of what they said was borne out by a visual inspection of the schools and colleges in which they worked. A number of reasons were put forward for the perceived weaknesses of the system, summed up in the following quotation from The Nation Online reporting a conference in Islamabad on January 30th 1999 under the auspices of Oxford University Press, Marshall and Action Aid Pakistan.
The group visited 5 State Schools, and 1 Private School involved in Elementary and/or Secondary Education. Each was different. Three of them had past pupils who were successful people in East Lancashire in their chosen walks of life - a doctor, a social worker, a scholar, a teacher and a councillor. At each it was clear that the staff at the school were doing the best job possible and teaching styles and curriculum content were geared to the practical constraints of the cultural context and general circumstances. In each there seemed to be an atmosphere of order and eagerness to learn that did all involved great credit. There was no visit to an 'Army' School therefore it is likely that many of the comments below may not apply. Neither were there visits to urban schools, so a truly balanced view of Pakistani education was difficult.
The Curriculum included: English, Urdu, Mathematics, Science, Islamic Studies, Social Studies and Physical Training. Some examples were found of 'Agro-Technology' which was a practical course involving work with electrical wiring, machinery etc. Music may not feature as a subject but it was evident that music played an important part in the life of schools. At the Government Boys Pilot School in Bhimber the delegation was greeted by a Pipe and Drum Band complete with kilts and a Drum Major. The influence of Raj Highland regiments was obvious. The same was seen at the Boys Islamia School at Lalamusa. In the school hall the visitors were also entertained by a very accomplished flautist accompanied by a drummer and percussionist. Their skill level was excellent. The Readings from the Holy Quran and the poetry in praise of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) were sung by very talented vocalists at every school visited.
Religion was an important part of School Life. Pupils received Islamic Education which complemented the teaching in the Mosques. Schools regarded it as the basis of education as Islam places great importance on the acquisition of knowledge. The mullahs expected great influence in the school. There were similarities with the situation in England. Parental responsibilities for religious instruction were sometimes delivered with difficulty due to their lack of education. Religious officialdom was more concerned with reading the Quran in Arabic. Schools' courses attempted to redress the balance.
The buildings of the State Schools were difficult to describe. The standard structure was apparently a single storey building made of concrete. There were few windows which made the rooms dark and uninviting. The whitewashed walls were peeling and showed signs of concrete disease. The floors were either stone flags or trodden dirt. There were very few posters on the wall; the Girls School at Bhimber, AJK, was the exception but even there only a few were seen. There were no displays of pupils' work. The Government Boys Pilot School, Mangla Hamlet, Mirpur, AJK was perhaps the most dilapidated of all the schools seen. The Boys Government Pilot School at Bhimber had a large parade ground on which 4 elementary classes were taught, while the main building was of the usual style with dark, overcrowded, bare classrooms. The Girls School in Poona, AJK was the most recently built of the State Schools and the whitewash was fresh and the furniture new, but the style was the same and one felt it would be like the rest soon. The Boys Islamia School, Lalamusa, was different in that it had a large hall/gym and a Science Laboratory with 3 large granite benches with a sink in each. This was largely because it was a former British Army School possibly built about the same time as the original Edge End building. It was in significant disrepair. The private school at Channan was different and, though only part built, it was constructed with purpose and had spacious classrooms and specialist accommodation. (See Appendix Five)
Class sizes were large. All the classrooms in all the schools were full to capacity and class size average looked to be 50 plus. Resources, particularly in the State Schools, were very limited. Classrooms were equipped only with a blackboard. Books were sometimes shared, particularly in the earlier years. Because of overcrowding and lack of resources, teaching strategies were limited. All lessons were in a declamatory style. Problem solving and critical or independent thought were rarely encouraged. Learning was by rote and there were signs that some pupils could recognise and say English words but did not really understand. The teacher carried a long stick which was used to point at the board for pupils to repeat parrot fashion. The stick also dispensed summary and swift punishment to anyone who was distracted or disruptive.
The question of discipline is interesting. Children back in Nelson (and parents) regard Pakistani schools as stricter. This is apparently due to the easy and arbitrary use of physical punishment. Superficially this contention is supported by the emphasis on military style PT, marching bands and cadet forces which were seen aplenty. This is completely in line with a superficial understanding of Islamic teaching. Both the Quran and the Hadiths of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) emphasise the importance of discipline, of blind obedience to parents and to teachers who should be treated as parents, and of the duty of Muslims to correct behaviour of the young by the use of the stick. In schools the reality is that the accommodation, the lack of resources and overcrowded classrooms mean that classes have to be tightly structured so that order becomes possible. The stick enforces the regimentation essential in the circumstances. It is imposed discipline in the schools not the personal inner discipline that is one of the real strengths of Islam.
In the English context self control is needed to let somebody else talk in a lesson or participate in group work or complete homework or study without direct supervision. Because pupils know that contravening the conventions of the classroom is wrong and punishment is not immediate and physical, some think that discipline is slack. Parents likewise find the need for getting children to take responsibility for their own actions difficult. They prefer an easy and swift remedy for bad behaviour.
In England we are used to varied teaching styles - group work, individual projects, class or group discussion - and the use of equipment - TV and video, computers, etc - so common in this country depend on reasonable class sizes and accommodation for their use. There is little opportunity for anything other than the declamatory whole class teaching in Pakistan. Information & Communication Technology opportunities are virtually non-existent in State Schools, though perhaps not in Private Schools. Much can be learned from the English methods in Pakistan. It may not be easy with the current resource and accommodation difficulties but, if and when the massive investment that is needed is made, then we should be ready to give all help possible.
Four institutions described as colleges were visited. Two of these were government funded, and two were private. These visits highlighted the differences in resourcing between the two sectors, although it would be unwise to draw too many general conclusions from a small number of visits in a relatively small part of the country. The Principal of the Government Degree College, Professor M Zaman Ali Choudhry, spoke proudly of his college, and its three faculties of Arts, Sciences and Commerce. The Science laboratories were poorly resourced, and such resources as there were, were old fashioned and basic. The building was in poor condition, and while proud of his students' achievements, especially in sport, the Principal was preoccupied by the lack of money to erect a perimeter fence to keep cows out of the college's garden. (See Appendix Six for complete text of talk)
At least one member of staff was involved in running his own educational establishment, which provided an interesting commentary on the demand for private education, and on the pay of teachers. Staff at the college were clearly committed, but frustrated by the lack of resources to carry out the work to the standard which they wished.
This same frustration was evident in the Principal of the Boys' High School at Poona. His school had recently been recategorised as a college, but promised resources in support of this had not materialised. Much of the school/college had a dilapidated air, and one could not but sympathise with the Principal.
The two private colleges visited were very different. One was the 'Insight College of Arts, Science and Computers' at Bhimber, whose Principal and owner, Mr Umar Gul, had been very active in purchasing IT equipment, and had obtained government accreditation for his college. It had 5 campuses, 700 students, 40 full-time and 20 part-time teachers. A visit to one of the girls' campuses revealed a suite of 10 up-to-date computers; discussions with two groups of young women showed them to be highly motivated and articulate in English. One group was studying Science as part of a programme to become doctors.
At the boys' campus which was visited, a Maths lesson was observed, where a mixture of Urdu and English was being used. The 50 students were well-behaved, asked lots of questions about life in England, and set out clearly their aspirations for good careers. Mr Gul was particularly proud of the qualifications of his staff, whom he had appointed himself. The accommodation was basic but sound, and superior to the premises of the government-funded institutions.
The final college visited, the Kalri College of Computer Sciences at Mirpur, turned out to be a shop premises, where computers and software were sold, and where 5 computers were available to the public, on a "pay as you learn" basis. The young entrepreneurs who owned it were proud of what they had achieved, and had ambitions to expand the operation. There were a number of people working at the computers, demonstrating how young people are determined to improve their skills, and pay to do so.
Reflections from the visits to schools and colleges
A Headteacher and a member of his staff at a reception at Dinga explained why the teachers were about to strike against the implementation of the Schools Management Committees. They maintained that the system of local politics was such that the local councils would hijack the election of the Committees for their own ends and establish them as a means of extending local influence rather than improving the education system. To this must be added the clear message we had picked up at all the schools of how Headteachers of State Schools did not have the right to 'hire and fire' staff. Teachers were government appointments and could only be dismissed by the government. There were apparently a significant number of teachers appointed who did not attend and, when the Headteacher moved for their dismissal, political influence was used to prevent it from happening.
Teachers were also cynical about the issue of "ghost schools", believing that it was politicians who had set up such schools in the first place in order to gain financially. Against such a background, one can only hope that the changes which have been set in train lead to the desired improvements.
There are also other issues which impact on the efficacy of the education systems. Some of these are; non-compulsory education and variable enrolment rates; the ambiguous attitude of parents - education is a good thing sanctioned by the Quran but children are needed to supplement the family income, work in the fields or at home; the ambivalent attitude of schools - it is a blessed relief if children take days off in the week; and the very limited job prospects for leavers in Pakistan all have their effect here in England. An education programme might prove useful to convince some Asian Heritage parents that casual or condoned absence may be the norm in Pakistan, but it has a very harmful effect on children's chances in Britain. Parents and pupils must realise it is a serious matter. Punctuality should be treated the same. Late arrival for an appointment seems to be endemic. Interestingly enough the 'movers and shakers' in Pakistan were rarely late and did not take kindly to it in others.
There is also the view, expressed in the Frontier Post (Appendix Four), that the existence of a private education sector means that decision-makers who use it do not have a vested interest in improving the public system:
The general attitude to women was discussed in an article in The Frontier Post of Sunday 21st February (Appendix Seven). It contended that the "male ego and local cultural ethos must be held responsible for the plight of Muslim women today." The Minister of Education of the Punjab stated that families did not always see the need to educate their daughters. It was, however, encouraging to find at the Wisdom Institute for Girls, the private school we visited, a different attitude in that they saw girls' education as perhaps more important than that of boys in the long run; after all they said these were the mothers of future generations!
It was difficult to judge the extent to which women were involved in the decision-making arenas. Women's attendance at formal presentations was limited to one or two women in positions of authority. Even where these women were in senior positions their involvement was minimal. In all cases their words were translated by males from the group, making it difficult to have spontaneous interactions. The Urdu speaking BBC correspondent, Rahila Bano, provided much appreciated translation which, to some extent, helped to overcome the communication barrier, and allowed women in the party to exchange views and ideas directly with other women. There appeared to be a lack of self-confidence amongst women and this was compounded by the attitudes of men particularly in the rural communities where women appeared to have a less prominent role in community affairs.
It was interesting to note that a speech raising the question of the 'invisibility' of women, delivered by a female member of the delegation to a group in Dinga did not attract the same attention and respect as was accorded to male speakers.
The factor raised by the Minister for Education in Punjab of the 60% drop out rate of girls as opposed to the 40% of boys from school would seem to indicate the education of girls was not seen as important as that of boys. When families were faced with financial considerations of schooling, evidence would suggest boys were given preference over girls by the parents. If one considers also, the apparently larger class size in girls schools (60 was not unusual) and poorer facilities than those seen in boys schools, it was not difficult to draw the conclusion that girls were substantially more disadvantaged that their male peers.
It is therefore important for all agencies operating in Pendle, to recognise that additional consideration should be devoted to the needs of girls and young women, to overcome the barriers they may experience in reaching their full potential as active members of the community. Where opportunities arose we questioned men in positions of power about the lack of involvement of women in the decision making processes, and asked them to consider the economic need to harness the valuable contribution women can make to community and economic development.
Support Structures for Young People
(i) Youth & Community Service
On more than one occasion, the delegation was told that juvenile crime in Pakistan was not as great a problem as in England, due to the strength of the family. Although this might be an element, there may also be other reasons, if this is true. For example, education is not compulsory in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir and many children take on employment and family roles at an early age. Where children do attend school, and afterwards mosque for religious education, they appear to have very little free time to socialise with peers and develop interactive social skills. When socialising does occur it is in single sex groupings. In Pakistani culture young men and women do not socialise together and there are severely limited opportunities to develop friendships with members of the opposite sex. Apart from very young children we saw little evidence of play and organised activities for young people other than the scouts and guides.
Young people help their families after school with business and farming activities, which does restrict their opportunities to socialise. Most of young people's choices are determined for them by the circumstances in which they find themselves, and their parents.
There was evidence that community organisations, particularly in rural areas visited, were developing provision which included specific focus on activities for young people, and the building of community halls for communal activities.
However, it appeared that there was no parallel Youth and Community Service or Careers Service though there was awareness that there needed to be long term development of Services once the overriding difficulties and poverty of the educational system has been overcome.
As a result of the visit, Youth Service staff were in the process of contacting the Ministry of Youth Affairs to establish how their overview of youth issues is working in practice. They are concerned with sports, cultural and educational needs of young people. Our understanding is that the Ministry does not provide services to young people but provides support and guidance to other government departments on issues affecting the lives of young people. At the time of writing further information about their activities is being awaited.
(ii) Careers Guidance
In both the Punjab and Kashmir the education system was such that the provision of a careers service as it exists in England would be seen as a luxury and quite rightly the education departments in both of these areas saw extending education provision for all as their priority. The education director for the Punjab described a fledgling service that would offer basic advice to students on FE progression routes. This would involve an individual who would service a large number of schools and would have a wider brief than offering further education advice. It became clear from talking to both students and teachers that career decisions were made according to two major factors:
From this evidence it was possible to learn some lessons for ELCS's work in Pendle, which are set out further in this report.
Follow-up Activities from the Visit
Members of the Education Group felt that many of their objectives had been met through the prolonged contact they had with the culture and people of Pakistan. Nevertheless, depth was sometimes sacrificed for breadth, and this has inevitably meant that objectives were not always fully realised. There are certain activities however, which are to be carried out in common between services. These centre particularly on:
Other proposals for carrying out follow up work focus on individual service providers. In some cases, the visit has pointed out what it is not possible to do, and in others, discussions are still taking place over the best way forward.
Martin Burgess felt that the visit had highlighted a difference in attitude to education between those of a Kashmiri and Punjabi origin. Thus, some work on the background of Edge End pupils might be useful in this regard:
Similarly, the Youth & Community Service has learnt a lot from the visit, and believes that in any follow up work there would need to be contacts renewed or established before a visit could take place. These would include Non Government Organisations and other voluntary organisations and the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Like the Careers Service, the Youth Service felt that it was necessary to develop the education system first before other services, such as their own, could be encouraged. This was likely to be a long-term development, due to the significant proportion of the budget given over to defence. There were however, likely to be some opportunities for development, as follows:
Some of the issues highlighted above are also relevant to Nelson & Colne College. The need to communicate effectively to staff the circumstances of parents' background, and the cultural elements which determine parental and student outlook has become manifest. It is equally important to work with the Careers Service to ensure that parents, as well as students, have an informed and unbiased view of careers choices, and the implications of these for young people.
It is also important to appreciate that parents do not understand the British education system, and cannot therefore always provide effective support to their offspring. A comprehensive system of parental education is therefore required. This would be more effective if the various agencies involved worked together.
All agencies have realised the need to work together to improve the delivery of their services. The members of the Kashmir Working Group are to be congratulated and thanked for their initiative, which allowed this group of travellers to learn about education in Pakistan and the Kashmir while enjoying the warmth, hospitality and generosity of its people.