Professor of Economics predicted we have to design a remedial education programme to address learning gaps of student learning losses.”

In a talk on ‘Post-Covid inequality: the education access in Pakistan, how to bridge the gap’, Tahir Andrabi, Professor of Economics predicted, “Learning poverty will go up to 79 per cent. Unequal access to learning is real. Around 66 percent households in Pakistan do not use technology for learning at all. We will have to do students’ assessment first. We have to design a remedial education programme to address learning gaps as there is large student learning losses.”

He was speaking at King Edward Medical College Alumni Association of United Kingdom KEMCA (UK)’s 3rd Universal Healthcare Symposium held Sunday that allocated a whole segment to ‘universal education’.

He talked about Targeted Instruction Programme (TIP) on which he is working to rebuild foundational skills of students and support existing teachers to target instruction at the student level.

“Supporting teachers is important and that requires giving them cost-effective and easy to use tools. There is a need to act fast to mitigate further learning losses,” he said. The TIP will partner with 1000-2000 govt primary schools in ICT in all the provinces. There will be large-scale targeted instruction till class 5,” he informed.

Another talk on ‘Medium of Instruction’ opened with a two-minute video of a nursery child whom the teacher is showing picture of an ant and asks what is it called. The child says ‘keera’. The teacher insists she taught the name of this keera (insect) but the child cannot recall. The 4-year-old starts crying. He says, ‘ask mama or bhai’. The teacher insists that he recalls the name which is ‘ant’ here. The boy keeps crying. He is visibly in distress. A child’s comfort is in home language. Medium of instruction is important.

This is how veteran educationist Anjum Altaf started his talk on Medium of Instruction. Remedial Education Programme on “The first rule of coaching is to start with strengths. The teacher could have conversed with the child where he had seen this keera, ask him what he knew about this one, in his language. The child would have gained confidence,” he said, adding, “When you are constructing something and you put the first brick wrong, the whole construction will be faulty.”

“Helping children express themselves is most important. When they go to school happily they will learn new things. When they feel burdened at school, their minds will go for rote learning to perform in the exams. When you have problem expressing in a language you become conventional, rigid in thinking with inability to imagine. Home language is the answer. “People say Pakistan’s problem is over population. What about China? How is China light years ahead of us? They don’t teach English from the beginning. Starting English at Class 6 would be good. We don’t have a common base. There has to be a core curriculum that everyone has to go through. People don’t have a common vocabulary, they can’t communicate,” he said.

Noted educationists Faisal Bari, Tahir Andrabi and Noreen Zafar also spoke. The webinar on education closed with Malala Yusufzai, a luminary and her father Ziauddin Yusufzai who have set-up Malala Fund for girls’ education.

Faisal Bari spoke on Article 25A which promises free and compulsory education from ages 5-16., “How is that possible when we have one school where should be four. The idea was to have a school every 5km. That has not happened. So the distance has increased and transport isn’t there. Net school enrolment rate is 80 to 85 percent. A huge number of children drop out before Matric, he said.

“The tragedy is that children go to school for 10 years and do not know to read and write. Quality of education by and large is very bad. Single national curriculum alone can’t address this. To say we don’t have the resources is not correct. We have totally ignored equity and citizenship and the gap has widened. Someone has to spend. Do we want to educate our children or not, that is the question,” he concluded.

Malala vowed to continue girls’ education so that future of more girls is not lost. Malala Fund focuses on girls’ education, quality education, life-skills and teacher availability. “Return on girls’ education is manifold. You have to work with all those who are passionate about the work,” she said.

Originally published at The News