Experts call for disrupting status quo to fix ‘broken’ education system

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LAHORE: Challenging the current ways through which the state is addressing the education crisis, DisruptEd – ideas and conversations for disruptive innovation in Pakistan, organised by Alif Ailaan along with a host of government, private and non-government organisations, outlined the need for new approaches to fix the broken system.
The event highlighted that the country has not been successful in marshalling its resources for carrying out reforms or bringing about change, nor does the state, society or the polity treat education like the emergency that we claim it is.
“Ours society is characterised by great disparities in income, education and opportunity. Nearly half of our country’s children are not in schools and getting them there is a Herculean task,” Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said while addressing the function as chief guest. 
“The role of technology and innovation in such a scenario is imperative to the way we deliver education not only to children but also to society as a whole,” he said. Participants agreed that new avenues to deal with education problem must be explored and implemented to change how the crisis is perceived and addressed by the state and other stakeholders.
“Without a ‘disruption’ to the way things are, a fundamental change that alters the very basics, there is little chance of Pakistan being able to deal with the education crisis,” Alif Ailaan Team Leader Mosharraf Zaidi said. “None of the major problems in education, be it low enrolment rate, poor quality, lack of accountability or the total absence of a robust discourse, can be solved without a bold approach. We need to stimulate thinking in the public, private and non-profit sectors about solutions to these problems,” he said.
Currently, 25 million children in Pakistan are out of school. Of these, about 6 million have never entered any classroom. The rest have enrolled at one point, only to drop out, most likely within the first three years of enrolment at the age of five.
Speakers at the event emphasised that the use of technology can help improve the provision of education in remote areas and disrupt current practices of providing education.
Sheikh Ijaz, a member of the Punjab Assembly from Faisalabad District) was featured as one of the ‘disruptors’ of education within the political realm. “I believe education can only be fixed if parliamentarians and politicians truly take ownership of the system,” Ijaz said. 
“By admitting my own children to a government school, I have developed a better understanding of the challenges faced by schools and our system of education as a whole. This has enabled me to tackle these issues in a more effective way,” he added. 
There is a broad understanding of critical situation of the educational emergency as well as the appetite for quality education. Poor condition of educational infrastructure, however, has made parents reluctant to send their children to schools. With reduced elite preference for public schooling, the standard of education within the public sector has fallen profusely.
“There are serious issues in terms of capacity and misplaced priorities of the government in improving the standard of the public-sector schools,” Asad Umer, a member of the National Assembly from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said.
“While the private sector presents a dramatic increase in the provision of quality education, its accessibility and affordability remains limited for the masses. The government needs to adopt a uniform schooling system across the board to remove discrimination in the educations system.”
It was highlighted at the event that teachers play a vital role as ‘disruptors’ of the current substandard teaching practices, particularly through the use of pedagogy and technology. However, it was also felt that teaching quality could not be substantially improved through reliance on technological innovations.
“We cannot improve the teaching quality solely by relying upon technology,” said Dr Mohammad Sabieh of the Khwarizmi Science Society.

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