Famous for the mountains, greenery, springs, and wilderness nature, Gilgit-Baltistan & Chitral (GBC) share boundless ties and togetherness. This includes their simplicity, hospitality, and unconditional patriotism for Pakistan. In addition to cultural social, linguistic, and historical similarities, educational resemblances are worth mentioning. This menu presents our understanding, hopes, and aspirations of education in GBC. Proceeding before the education scenario, we give a quick geographical and cultural flavor of both the regions.
GBC are the northernmost part of Pakistan, where, GB connects with Azad Kashmir to the south, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the north, Xinjiang region of China to the east and northeast, and Jammu & Kashmir to the southeast. GB is highly mountainous covering an area of over 72,971 km² with a 2 million population and Gilgit is its capital (UNDP, 2017). Similarly, Chitral being the largest province in KPK spreads over an area of 14,850 km². Chitral neighbors GB in the east, Kunar, Badakhshan, and Nuristan in north and west, and Dir Swat in the south (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 2017). Chitral shares much of its history and culture with district Ghizar of GB because in the past both regions have been ruled over by independent monarchical state Raja. Later on, Chitral earned the status of a semi-autonomous princely state within the Indian Empire through negotiation with the Raja. Chitral retained this status even after its accession to Pakistan in 1947, only being made an administrative district of Pakistan in 1969. Geographical connections accelerate mobility thus cultural ties became possible in GBC (Marsden, 2009).
Shandur pass not only removed boundaries but also served to foster the unique cultural, social and religious bounding including Khowar language, dress, music, wedding, food, etc of GBC. The education systems discussed below are the portrayal of how GBC is educationally connected, what similarities and differences one can observe, and what are the alternatives to raise the quality in their education system which ultimately further strengthened their strong cultural bondages and improve their quality of life?
A cursory outlook shows much similar education system in GBC. For instance, According to KP Education Index (2016), Chitral ranks high literacy (77.42%) in KPK. Various education service providers have their existence in GBC such as the public sector, private education services, local community service, Army Schools, and madaris education. The heavy mandate of education in GBC rests with the government education service owning 608 primaries, 83 Middle, 75 High, and 9 Higher Secondary Schools. Moreover, 1386 primary, 603 Middle, 1116 high and197 higher secondary School teachers serve in the public sector in Chitral (District Education Report KPK, 2017-18; Department of elementary education KPK, 2017-18) while the GB government takes a leading position in providing education with 2220 primary, 2203 middle and 136 high/higher secondary schools. There are 6970 teachers (212 higher secondary, 335 High, 2220 Middle, and 2220 primary) 4515 male and 2415 female teachers serve in the public sector. Qualification wise there are 471 Matric, 1307 FA/FSc, 3435 BA/BSc, 1660 MA/MSc, 13MPhil in the public sector (Alif Alan, 2016).
Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan also has a mandate in both the regions with 45 schools (22 primary, 11 middle, 10 high and 2 higher secondary) with approximately 8000 students and 350 teachers in Chitral while GB having 27 primary, 29 middle, high and 4 higher secondary schools. Besides its regular schools, AKESP also runs a number of community schools in GBC (AKESP, E-Newsletter, 2016). Other than these two systems, a number of private and Madaris schools also operate in GBC. For instance, the USWA Foundation with14 schools and 1700+ students across GB and Army Public schools also contribute to education at large. Hasegawa, Elysian Al-Mustafa public school, Central Asia Institute to name a few also provide education in GB.
These educational systems have their own programs unique from each other. Some follow the Punjab textbook and some oxford. Government schools are considered outposts of access while the private institutions claim quality. A closure look on examination results and other indicators in terms of quality, infrastructure, syllabus, and other co-curricular activities, the AKES, P, and Army system become unique in both the region. The enrollment ratios in these schools are higher than any school in GBC. To further capitalize on this scene how do they co-operate with each other is unclear.
GB government has launched providing free books to the students and biometrics for the teachers, however, the quality of the books are questionable. Similarly, the KPK government has improved infrastructure, career paths for teachers, effective monitoring, and biometrics in some schools. To ensure quality and efficiency the KPK government has introduced a district monitoring office which ensures that the targets made are achieved and teachers are punctual. Other positives about the government are that in recent past teachers in both regions have been inducted through NTS. Despite many good initiatives, there are serious issues of accountability, evaluation, professional development, and infrastructure in GBC. Similarly, most of the private schools are not economical for the low-income population and do not fulfill (except a few) the high expectations of the high-income population. Thus remain in the middle. In such situations Madaris becomes the only option left for parents to educate their children for free; however, these schools are seen suspicion by the elites. What we get out of this education system is the class system in the society which leads to many issues. Good or bad education is not the issue of the day but how effectively, the system can work together for a better society is a central question.
What we conclude is that organizations public or others operate on certain principles in a democratic society. These principles are performance, accountability, ownership, and work ethics. Schools, who wish to achieve their goals and aspirations, are required to follow these simple rules. Now point to ponder is that education providers in GBC need to seriously engage in assessing their capacities of delivery and see where do they stand and what they need to do to be growing schools bringing changes in the lives of the students and communities.
Courtesy: Pamir Times