Pakistan’s Deeply Flawed Education System

Why are schools failing to educate?


By  : —  Rashid Ishaq

If you are a parent in Pakistan who is spending lakhs of rupees per month on the education of your children, then there is a probability that the money is not being spent on school fees alone but a major chunk of it is also being paid to give your child a shadow education, i.e. on after school tuitions. It also means that you do not trust the school system that your child attends. If yes, then you need to ask yourself why.

Did you choose the school because you are following the rat race and think that the bigger the name, the better the education despite knowing that students from these schools actually learn from the same teachers but after school and at tuition centres?

Or are you a working parent and do not have the time to oversee your child’s homework or are unable to teach them yourself? Even then, it is important to ask yourselves and your child why there is still the need for such intense afterschool studies when all the studies should have been finished in the 8 hours or so the child spends in school.

Barring exceptions which are always there, parents need to question the fact why their child is unable to complete his/her study independently after school if the school they have chosen claims to have garnered top results year after year and also charges a premium fee.

Are the school facilities that parents are being charged for being used only for sports and recreational purposes? Are the classes over loaded due to which teachers cannot pay individual attention to students? Why are the concepts being taught not clear? Or are they not being taught in the correct manner that your child still needs extra coaching?

In Pakistan over the years, unfortunately, shadow education has become the norm. Earlier, tuitions were considered necessary only for those children who were considered weak in their studies.

Tuition centres encourage students to take shortcuts. Rather than studying the respective subjects in depth, they provide them with old examination papers to solve in a given time period and just like that studying becomes the training of the mind to work mechanically rather than think objectively. In other words, the rote system is being encouraged.

A recent survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan shows that 59% of Pakistani parents say their child goes to tuition centres after school. Of these 67% of children in urban areas go to tuition centres after school compared to 55% from rural areas.

These figures are nothing to be proud of. In fact they show the dismal state of education in urban areas where parents pay lakhs of rupees every month to top schools.

A mother I spoke to recently confided and said that she pays approximately 150k per month to a school for her four kids and additionally pays 100k to academies for evening tuitions.

Parents often fall for false advertising where students from these top schools are shown scoring A and A* but in fact they should question the fact that if children from these schools get such high grades, why do they still attend academies?  It may seem extreme to say so but the government should ban these kind of advertisements since they mislead the parents. Instead schools should only be allowed to advertise the kind of educational system they are following and teaching. These kind of regulations will remove false flags and tall claims made by these schools and also help parents choose the right kind of educational system for their children.

Primary education is of vital importance simply because it builds the educational foundation of a child. If the foundation is weak, the child is likely to fail at every step. If concepts are not made clear at this stage, then it is highly likely that your child will continue to be dependent on external help in future as well.

Financial burden

However, besides the financial burden on the parents, the children are under an added stress due to the expectations that come with the combination of school and tuitions. After spending so much money, parents automatically think that their children are bound to bring in straight As or exceptional results and when the children fail to do so, they are mentally tortured for lacking behind.

All these reasons have made a huge impact on the social and educational system of our society. The quality of classroom teaching has been affected. Teachers also know that 90 per cent of their students take tuitions therefore, they fulfil their responsibility in class half-heartedly. The tuition centres are expected to pay special attention to the students instead.

On the other hand, students also pay less attention in the classroom as they feel that their tutors will do the needful. The level of respect for school teachers in the eyes of the pupil has gone down considerably due to this fact.

Students have become dependent on tuitions and tutors for understanding concepts rather than making an effort on their own to investigate a subject and develop their own understanding.  This is also because there is no ‘student-centred’ approach as a teaching method in these schools.

Besides, the financial burdens and the poor quality of education, shadow education also affects the health of children. After having spent 8 hours in school from early morning to afternoon, children spend the evenings and sometimes up to midnight in these academies.

Research shows that children who do not have time for recreation, sports or other hobbies perform poorly in school. For instance, Finnish kids spend no more than three hours a week on homework and are also some of the brightest.

Too many hours spent on studies can affect both students’ physical and mental health. Extracurricular activities and social time gives students a chance to refresh their minds and bodies. But students who have large amounts of work have less time to spend with their families and friends. This can leave them feeling isolated and without a support system.

After a full day of learning in class, students can become burnt out if they have too much homework. Too much of studies can also result in less active learning, a type of learning that occurs in context and encourages participation. Active learning promotes the analysis and application of class content in real world settings. Homework does not always provide these opportunities, leading to boredom and a lack of problem-solving skills.

Tuitions also mean that the child is spending so much time away from home. This also affects the parent-child relationship. “Helping children with their studies at home is an important way for parents to bond with them and acquaint themselves with the habits, studying style, areas in need of improvement and strengths of their offspring” (Marion, 2001). However, tuitions reduce the opportunity for parents to know their child better.

In the twin cities Rawalpindi and Islamabad, tuition centres are mostly based in good localities such as Bahria Town, DHA or other top sectors of Islamabad either in basements or on top most floors of buildings, in private houses as well as online. Sometimes teachers are seen running in between class periods to give home tuitions and then back to take their next class in schools. Imagine the sort of stress these teachers are undergoing.

The purpose of this article is not to question the existence of these tuition centres but to draw the government’s attention to such schools that even after charging hefty sums from parents, cannot provide the right kind of education to children so that they do not need after school coaching.

This article also hopes to open the eyes of parents and encourage them to question this phenomenon.

For the relief of students, a solution can be to train examiners so that they are not following the typical marking system but to judge students’ work objectively.

It is high time parents make informed choices. To provide the right kind of education, schools need to introduce the actual methodologies of 21st century education. They need to get rid of the factory model type of education or traditional teaching methods including “direct instructions” where a teacher stands at the front of the class and presents information in a kind of drilling and punishing method. Pupils just repeat words or phrases after the teacher, memorise and teaching is done and dusted.

These methods need to be phased out in favour of the progressive ‘student-centred’ or ‘child-centred’ learning methods. In these methods, a teacher will not reveal a specific topic or a chapter before the class to students and will not also open book until the kids are ready.

So you may wonder how the teaching will be done.

The teacher comes prepared with a designed activity or a project for students to work on and once that activity or project is completed, the teacher tells the students to start research and gather information related to the project from different books instead of their syllabus books.

The students are also encouraged to search the Internet for the same and once they are done, only then the teacher reveals the chapter they are going to study. Following this method, students are fully clear and understand the concept already. This is just one example of great teaching methods but If you have this real sort of project based learning to offer, your students will not need to attend after school coaching.

Flipped Learning

How about using flipped learning instead of giving too much homework? This teaching methodology is used as an alternative and better way than homework style of traditional or factory model education. In this method, the conventional notion of classroom-based learning is inverted, so that students are introduced to the learning material before class by just proving them or to their parents through students’ online learning diaries a short video link to watch at home and that is specifically related to their upcoming topic in the class the very next day.

Furthermore, why not give preference to students’ voice and choice methods and students-centred approaches vs teacher-centred?

I am sure this sort of school and teaching methods will make a difference towards how your kid understands concepts and make studying easier for him/her.


This existing situation lays an important responsibility on school authorities as well as parents. School authorities need to ensure that teachers fulfil their responsibility to the students. An effective monitoring mechanism needs to be devised to ensure the quality of teaching in the classroom.

Parents too should try to pay more attention to their children as they are the first and most important teachers in their lives.

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