Education is an important determinant in the financial development of a nation. The quality of education indicates the quality of human resource and expenditure on education is considered an investment in human resource development.
We want to give our children the best – but how do we decide that private education is really worth it? The educational landscape of Pakistan has gone through diverse transformations in the past two decades and there has been a continuous growth in student enrollment in the private sector. The changes in the education sector that have been taking place in Pakistan have created an environment with numerous opportunities as well as challenges in terms of legislation and policy development. With an increasing population of children under the age of 16 and the addition of Article 25A under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the state is faced with a challenging task of improving the quality of education and enrolling all children aged between 5 -16 years of age in schools.
However, the provision of education by the state has been rigorously constrained by poor governance and politics. Overcrowded and congested classrooms is a frequent complain regarding state/government-run schools. The poor state of public schools has inevitably forced a large number of parents to shift their children to private schools. The private education sector has seen a considerable increase in student enrolment in the past two decades, hence increasing the role of private educational institutions in the educational landscape of Pakistan.
The Private Edge
In Pakistan, a majority of middle-class parents would not dream of sending their children to government schools. They have and are constantly showing an increasing interest in private school options. Why? Prestigious private schools in Pakistan are likely to have teachers who are more qualified, with graduate degrees and higher level of training. Also the private sector are known to hire “the best person for the job”.
Over the last decade, private school education has become a way of life for many Pakistani children. As parents’ expectations and preferences change, educational entrepreneurs are responding with a range of services, and can be stamped to be acknowledged as the “new education industry”. Offering an even more tailored service, private educational institutes are a new breed of professionals who help parents out in their pursuit of quality education for children.
Private schools in Pakistan pride themselves on outstanding customer service. They go beyond offering just mandatory subjects and thus have been responsible for producing many leaders in politics, business and other fields, with the skills of adapting quickly to changes in technology.
Unfortunately, private schools are being continuously “suffocated” by undue state bureaucracy. There has been an increase in the number of private schools who have been threatened and pressurized with legal action by a group of influential “alpha parents”. They have and are facing litigation over unjust demand of parents’ refusal to pay summer vacation fees. These “unrealistic demands” can be categorized as great dilemma facing private schools owners.
In a semester system, the complete 12 month fee is charged in two installments twice a year. In the current scenario, the private schools in Pakistan have provided relief to parents by billing on monthly and bi-monthly basis. However, what the group of ‘alpha parents’ and regulatory authorities have failed to consider is that all staff and teachers are paid for 12 months and accordingly, the rents are also paid for the complete year.
The private schools have to bear the administrative expenses, including rent, utility bills, and teachers’ salary, teacher training costs, all developmental work including repair/ maintenance and up gradation of buildings during the summer vacations. On such basis the decision can be countered in light of the ground and financial realities of schools as an enterprise. Apart from this, the private schools spend a huge amount on school security, an expense that is neither known nor charged to parents.
Therefore the rules and guidelines set by the regulatory bodies and authorities should not be directed solely towards lowering fees, as this could have an adverse impact on the standards and quality of education.
Regulators must look at ground realities before arriving at a decision regarding the fees. Else, a thriving private education sector that is filling in for the government’s continued failure to provide quality avenues for the educational needs of its citizens might well be razed to the ground, all under a misplaced sense of public welfare.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine