Public-Private Partnership in Education: A Ray of Hope for Pakistan

Article excerpt

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The above events took place over the course of only one month. They are but a few examples of the continuous challenges that Pakistani children and education face as a result of human callousness and natural forces. These ordeals are more extreme than in many other parts of the world; however, the disadvantages do not end there.

A systemic disregard exacerbates the situation. Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) is a mere 2.4%; to put this in perspective, the United States allocates 5.4% of its GDP to education (World Bank, 201 la, 201 lb). The net enrollment rate for primary school-age children in Pakistan is 74.1%; of this cohort, only 67.1% complete primary school. Furthermore, only 33.8% of secondary-age children are enrolled in schools. The pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools is one teacher to 40 students (World Bank, 201 la). These numbers are disheartening and present formidable challenges.

An additional, less explored, issue is the effect of class distinction in the Pakistan school system. The majority of parents who have limited means send their children to government (public) schools. These schools are free at the primary level and charge a minimal fee at the secondary level. However, the general perception is that government schools offer poor-quality instruction (Aldermana, Orazemb, & Paternoc, 2001). Private schools in Pakistan are considered to impart better quality education than the government-operated schools. Individuals or companies finance and manage these private schools as businesses and charge a fee. The fee varies depending on the school's clientele. Some of the private schools do cater to lower-income groups, while others cater to the elite. To highlight this educational apartheid (Hoodbhoy, 1998; Rahman, 2003), I present below a snapshot of two schools in Pakistan's largest city--Karachi. The majority school is a public school located in a low-income area; just a few miles away is the elite private school catering to high-income families.

A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS: FOUR MILES AND A WORLD APART

The Majority School

The majority school does not charge any fee from the students (Interface, 2007). The student body of 500 comes from the nearby low-income area. Most of their parents work as cleaners, maids, or gardeners. The school sits on a large piece of land with a few swings set up near the main gate; litter is scattered behind the swings. Not much effort has been put into maintaining the school's buildings, which are dilapidated and unhygienic. The walls and the floors are lined with cracks. Certain areas of the school are so neglected that the faculty fears the roof may fall at any time. No classes are held in these areas for fear of injury to the students. A musty smell and a greenish-brown hue on the lower walls indicate that, since the school is at a lower level than the road outside, the central courtyard has been submerged in more than two inches of water at times.

Although the government is supposed to provide textbooks, some years they do not arrive on time and the students have to buy the books themselves. Textbooks on computer science go to waste. The government is expected to arrange for a few computers and an instructor, but no computers or instructors are forthcoming. These are not characteristics of every public school in Pakistan, but the conditions observed within this school are not uncommon.

The Elite School

The campus facilities at the elite school include 27 classrooms built on UNESCO specifications. It has a library, two science labs, an art space, a design and technology hall, a computer lab, a language lab, an auditorium, a faculty lounge, administrative offices, and other facilities. A full-time doctor is available on campus and there is a child care center for teachers and other staff.

The stated aim of this school is to widen students' intellectual horizons; therefore, compulsory subjects for 9th grade include English language, Islamiyat or religious studies, mathematics, Pakistan studies, and Urdu. …