By: Sajjad Ahmed
Over the past decades, the growth of private schools increased in Pakistan and it is higher in Gilgit-Baltistan where 42% private schools are providing education to more than 47% students of the region.The education system of Gilgit Baltistan is comprised of 2,934 institutions and is facilitating 316396 students with the help of 13185 teachers. The system is composed of 1731 public institutions providing education to 180458 students and 1203 private institutions managing 135938 students. (GB.Edu. statistic 2011-12). According to the Pakistan education statistics (2011-12), among the 316,396 students 175767(56%) are boys and 140629 (44%) are girls. The data further reveals that 13185 teachers (Male 7566, 57%, Female 5619, 43 %) are employed to facilitate the students.
The district wise data shows that Gilgit district has 264 schools (Boys 68, Girls 77, and Mix 119). Likewise in district Ghizar, there are 349schools (Boys-79, Girls-31, and Mix 239). Diamer which is the remote district of GB, has 254 schools (Boys-172, Girls-22, and Mix-60). District Astore has 203 schools (Boys-79, Girls-43, and Mix-81). Hunza Nagar which is considered educationally advanced district in GB has 238 schools (Boys-58, Girls-92, and Mix-88). Skardu district has good literacy rate having 571 schools (Boys -297, Girls-129, and Mix 145). Ghancha which is also a remote district of Baltistan region, has 310 schools (Boys-110, Girls-56, and Mix-144).
The number of public schools are declining day by day in the region. Poor quality of education, bad infrastructure and lack of educational facilities has demotivated the students and parents. Over the past decade, private sector has emerged as a key provider of education services in Gilgit Baltistan. According to ISAPSA report (2010), Gilgit Baltistan has the highest percentage of private schools, where 43% institutions are private and 47% students are enrolled in private schools. The education statistics (2011-12) of GB shows that every district of GB has private schools. According to the statistical data, out of 2934 institutions, 1203 (41%) are private and 135938(43%) students are enrolled in the private schools. The gender wise distribution of the institutions indicates that in GB only 29% institutions are for girls. Interestingly, private sector has 156 schools specific for girls and 960 schools have co-education. Private sector has encouraged female education in the region. Students’ enrollment shows that out of 135938 students enrolled in private schools, 47% are girls.
The district wise distribution of private schools data shows that district Ghizar has the highest number of private schools where out of 349 schools, 111 are private. In district Skardu, out of 507 schools, 107 schools are private. Hunza Nagar has 83 private schools; district Gilgit has 74 private schools, Ghancha has 59 private schools, Astore has 32 private schools. Diamer district has only 12 private schools and interestingly in Diamer district there is no single private school for Girls and the ratio of education is very poor in this district. The ASER report (2013) also highlighted that 54% students are out of school in Diamer district.
The interesting aspect of the private sector is that majority of the teachers are female. The GB and Pakistan Education statistics (2011-12) shows that 13185 teachers are teaching in the schools of GB. In public schools 32% teachers are female; whereas the percentage of female teachers in private schools is 59%. As a result, male teachers are teaching in many girls’public schools which is disliked in the remote districts of the region. It is responsibility of the GB government to encourage female teachers and reduce gender disparity in the teaching profession. Private sector has a number of girls and co-education schools and they have balanced the gender disparity which results in having not only good academic results but also increased the access of students in schools.
I agree with the research findings of Rehman Khan, Tariq, &Tasleem (2010), that parents choose to send their children to private schools for a variety of reasons, including the lack of educational facilities, overcrowded classes’ unsuitable teaching methods, and poor discipline in public schools. The Pakistan Education statistics (2011-12) indicate that in GB there are 1044 schools which have no electricity, 954 schools which are deprived of drinking water and most amazingly 913 schools have no latrine facility. Out of the 913 without latrine schools, 38% schools are for girls. In such situation how to attract the female students towards the schools is a big challenge for the education department of GB. The report further highlights that 1032 schools have no boundary walls and 40% of the schools belong to girls. Another serious issue is the public schools building conditions. According to the report, only 289 schools have satisfactory building in the entire region and 793 buildings need serious attention and immediate repair. Availability of classrooms is another issue; there are 531 schools which have less than three classrooms for students.
Another aspect on the rise of private schools in GB is quality education. It is very rightly researched by Harlech-Jones, Baig, Sajid, and Rahman, (2005) that parents in Gilgit Baltistan abandoned and bypassed the traditional public education in favor of a new and relatively untried mode of schooling with a different medium of instruction. In Pakistan, generally all the public schools have Urdu as a medium of instruction and the same is in GB. However, living in the modern world the importance of English language and technology / scientific education demands strong command on English language.Private schools easily convinced the parents because they have modern curriculum with English as a medium of instruction. As Siddiqui (2012) states that due to its well-equipped and modern education facilities with better educational environment, the number of private schools is rising day by day in Pakistan while public schools are not able to compete with private sector. Similar findings came from the UNESCO (2011) report which highlights that major problem with the public sector education in Pakistan is its poor quantity and quality, such as shortage or absence of teachers, weak infrastructure, bureaucratic interference, corruption, lack of high quality teachers and lack of learning materials.
The rise of private schooling is not a good sign for the Education Department of GB because after Article 25-A education is the prime responsibility of the provincial government. Gilgit Baltistan is a remote region where people are not financially sound. Private schools charge heavy fee from parents and all parents are not able to enroll their children in private schools. In such situation children of poor parents will remain deprive from quality education and this will result in class system in the society. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the provincial government to strengthen the public schools and raise the quality of education. Another way is public private partnership, since the early 1990s, the concept of public private partnership has emerged in Pakistan as key element to address the public sector educational institutions. But so far this concept is not visible in Gilgit Baltistan. Public sector and private sector are working independently. Now it is the need of time that public sector takes benefit from private sector educational institutions. Private sector has potential educators and master trainers. Public schools have purpose built buildings. Public sector can provide their dysfunctional and vacant schools buildings to private sector (adopt school programme), which are running in rented buildings and not fulfilling the requirement of basic educational facilities. For teachers’ professional development, public sector can take help from private sector schools’ master trainer and can boost the academic standard of public schools. In this way both systems can contribute to the educational development of the area.
Sajjad Ahmed Bari
Graduate of the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED)