Sindh’s Educational Bureaucracy: Much Ado About Nothing?

Like an onion with unending layers, the bureaucracy involved in managing public schools in Sindh appears to have no end to its expanse. And its performance leaves as many tears in the eye as an onion does once prompted. Arshad Yousafzai keeps remarkable count as he reports how redundant bureaucratic layers are laying education in Sindh to waste.

Instead of revamping state-run schooling, a hierarchy of bureaucracy of Sindh’s School Education Department continues to create more and more problems that are akin to throwing several spanners in the works at once. Despite the continuous complaints against the bureaucracy and red tape from school headmasters across Sindh, little has changed in reality and centralization of power means officials have been left with more powers than ever.  Government school teachers say conflicts between officers and senior schoolteachers are a routine occurrence. One of the reasons is that although directors or other high ranked officers in the school department enjoy an equal grade as senior headmasters per Sindh Civil Servant Rules, the latter have almost no mandate to make any decision for their schools at their will.

The minister for education and literacy is the official head of the department, while education secretary is the bureaucratic leader. Around three special secretaries, including special secretary schools, special secretary (A&T), and special secretary (Law) directly work under the education secretary. Seven additional secretaries work under these three special secretaries.

 

Headmasters generally face great difficulties in getting even the simplest of things done. It is quite logical to expect teachers and principals to tend to petty matters at schools in a much more efficient manner, they are compelled to follow cumbersome processes to get even minor administrative tasks looked after. Educators opine that the hefty red tape is a disservice to students and teachers. It’s neither in line with boosting enrollment ratio at public schools nor a substitute for the enhancement of formal organizational structure. It is in fact an outgrown organ of the department.  “There should be an organizing authority that could at least keep a check on public schools’ performance. But the fact is, Sindh’s schools are being laid to waste for the past many decades at the hands of such officials,” Taleem Bachao Action Committee convener Anees-ur-Rahman said during a conversation with Academia Magazine. “School can never accomplish anything until we do away with bureaucracy.”

SED’s Bureaucratic Hierarchy 

As per the Sindh Education Profile 2016-17, the provincial education department is working on the formation of a centralized system of governance and service delivery to keep a close eye on the performance and capacity of public schools at all levels. The minister for education and literacy is the official head of the department, while education secretary is the bureaucratic leader of the organization. Likewise, around three special secretaries, including special secretary schools, special secretary (A&T), and special secretary (Law) directly work under the education secretary.

Seven additional secretaries work under these three special secretaries; including four additional secretaries who assist special secretary for schools, an additional secretary (A&T) and additional secretary (GA) help the special secretary for A&T, while an additional secretary (Judicial) assists the special secretary for law. This bureaucratic chain does not even begin to include the army of remaining officers that include section officers, account officers, superintendents, assistants, directors, senior clerks and other official staff. All the staff mentioned above works at the Sindh Secretariat for the implementation of policies at public schools across the provinces via regional offices.

Regional Officialdom

Apart from the departmental contingent at the Sindh Secretariat, hundreds of officers have been deployed at 12 regional school directorates that are operational in six divisions – Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Sukkur and excluding Banbhore. These directorates are functioning at two levels, the Primary School Directorate and the Higher School Directorate. Each of the directorate is managed by a director, who is a grade 20 officer. 

Similarly, an additional director of grade 20, finance director of grade 19, four deputy directors of grade 19, four assistant directors of grade 18, two grade 17 accountants and 8 superintendents of grade 17 work at each directorate. This hierarchy doesn’t include senior clerks, assistants, operators and other office staff. The same organizational structure is also being operational at directorate of primary level and the higher school.

 

An Example From Karachi

Karachi, which is the most densely populated division of Sindh, also has two school directorates. They both have more than 150 officers of grades 17 to 20. And with around six districts in the metropolis, each district has its own corridor of power overseen by District Education Officers. For example, District East Karachi has two district education officers of grade 19 and around 8 deputy directors of grade 18, eight account officers, 10 superintendents, 12 senior clerks excluding operators, office staff, assistants, and other low grade employees. 

Data reveals that 450,413 students were enrolled at 2,757 public schools of six districts in Karachi. The department has hired 23,662 teachers which makes the student-teacher ratio 19:1.One the other hand teacher-officer ratio stands at 20:1, just in Karachi.

 

Towns — Employment Hub For Officers

However, the force of officers is further divided at the town level. Amazingly, each of the towns has a four-layer governing system to run schools. The primary and high school directorates have been divided into girls and boys sections. Each of these sections has its own officers who coordinate with headmasters at the Union Committee levels.  Thus, 18 towns of Karachi have officially 74 Taluka (Town) education officers. Of the total, 36 are working under the Primary School Directorate, 18 for girls and 18 for boys. The same number of officers can be found in High School Directorate. But the town education offices have their own setups. Each of the officers is being assisted by superintendents of grade 17, two assistants of grade 16, two senior clerks, and 4 junior clerks.

Karachi Schools Data 

After defining this hierarchy of bureaucracy, the question arises – how many schools have been functioning under their supervision. Thus, the data from the Sindh Education Profile 2016-17 reveals that 450,413 students were enrolled at 2,757 public schools of six districts in Karachi. To teach these students, the department has hired 23,662 teachers. Therefore, student–teacher ratio comes to 19 students per teacher, while the teacher-officer ratio turns out to be 20 teachers per officer. 

 

Poor Performance Still

With such a massive force of officers at its disposal, the education department should be set for smooth sailing. But, the standard of education in state-run schools is on a continuous decline and students who don’t even attend regular schools have shown better results in their matriculation exams than those enrolled in public schools. The data of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) annual examinations held under the Board of Secondary Education Karachi (BSEK) available with Academia Magazine reveals that government schools have failed to enable any of its students to secure any of the top 100 positions in the last 10 years. This poor performance of the public schools not only exposes the government’s education policy and wasteful spending, but also raises many an eyebrow over the qualification of the teaching staff, the unending crowd of officials, as well as over the system of education operating under Sindh government. 

Expert’s Call 

Commenting on the state-run schooling system, Federal Urdu University of Arts Science and Technology Dean of Education Dr Kamal Haider opined that successful teaching and school management generally did not have a formula. However, some of the mandatory measures that should existed at every school must include a mandate for teachers and headmasters to act per their best instincts. “It is an absolute fact the huge officialdom won’t work until teachers feel free in making decision in favor of students,” Dr Haider said. “We should have dismantled the school bureaucracy that create hindrances for schoolteachers instead of facilitating them a long time ago.”