Education has been considered as one of the most basic and crucial need for any economic, cultural, social and policy plan. Rather than just being a right of everyone education has been considered throughout as a process through which different societies plan their socio economic development. In today’s era, education has a pivotal role to play in the poverty reduction, sustained economic growth and in many other fields. Education and literacy in Pakistan and around the globe is recognized as crucial to grasp the goals of sustainable and balanced development. However, both of these elements are termed as imperative for socio economic development worldwide.
According to the data received from the Pakistan’s bureau of statistic, Pakistan across its spread has over 260,903 institutions and is providing around 41,018,384 students with approximately 1,535,461 teachers serving in different institutions. The private sector has 31% institutions under its banner while the remaining 69% institutions are public institutes. Having seen the number of institutes operating in Pakistan still the country stands second in the world with the highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC). 44% of the total population between the age group of 5-16 is not attending the schools, 5 million remains not enrolled in schools, while 11.4% adolescents between the ages of 10-14 are not provided formal education.
Inclusive education has been a dare need for Pakistan as it can rebuilt the country’s growth for the good. It can give an access to so many under privileged who do not have the platforms to prove their mettle and excel in the specific interests. Pakistan needs to enforce education for all to glorify the intelligence, the minds of its country. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training of the Government of Pakistan supports the UNESCO definition of inclusive education as:
“A strategy for responding to and meeting the variety of needs of all learners by raising participation in education, cultures, and communities and reducing exclusion from and within it”. It requires modifications and adaptations in terms of content, methods, structures, and strategies with a shared vision that includes all children of the appropriate age range and the conviction that the regular system has a responsibility to teach all children. “The premise of inclusion is advantageous not only for kids with special needs, but for all kids, regardless of their gender, color, personality traits, or financial circumstances of their parents,”
The Islamabad Declaration on Inclusive Education, which was endorsed by all provincial and federal governments in 2005, demanded an operational definition of inclusion education as being aimed to:
‘… ensure that all children, regardless of gender, abilities, disabilities, socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds: are treated with dignity and respect; have equal access to education, health services, employment, and all other aspects of life; are able to develop to their full academic, physical, emotional, and social potential; have access to learning material in appropriate media and technical devices; and develop confidence in their abilities, skills, and future.
Realizing the value of education, the Pakistani government is working diligently to increase the literacy rate by educating children in underserved regions using a variety of methods. However the country has been unable to overcome the prevailing issues that have led a question mark on the success of inclusive education. These issues are as following:
Gender Inequality: Due to men and cultural sensitivities that perpetuate the notion that education is not beneficial for women, girls are often not allowed to attend schools in many rural Pakistani areas. Families in remote villages, where subsistence farming is often the main means of survival, often can only afford to send one child to school. Typically, the boy is sent because he will certainly become the family’s largest breadwinner. Girls are viewed as “operating the stove,” which is their contribution to the household.
Government Investment: The government’s investment in education in Pakistan, at 2% of GDP (World Bank, 2021), is among the lowest in the world. The Pakistani community does not participate in or have any sense of ownership over projects and programs related to their children’s education as the result of corruption, a lack of political will, a central governance system, poverty, and political unrest
Inadequate schooling systems: According to world bank, in Pakistan, 40 percent of schools lack boundary walls, 36 percent lack drinking water facilities, 61 percent lack power, 39 percent lack sanitary facilities, and 6 percent lack any structures, according to the most recent survey measuring Pakistani social and living standards. Most schools have a shortage of desks and chairs, and others don’t even have mats for students to sit on. Furthermore, the majority of coeducational primary schools are in disrepair, and the majority of rural school buildings are constructed of a mix of mud and wood.
Discriminatory societal attitudes: Discriminatory societal attitudes portray children with disabilities and their families as being ashamed, humiliated, or in disgrace. It is believed that a child’s impairment is God’s retribution for a parent’s transgression. In the eyes of many, a disabled child is better served at home than in a classroom. The subpar instruction provided at the majority of schools for girls and kids with disabilities only serves to support these viewpoints. Furthermore, due to a lack of qualified instructors and experts as well as inadequate pediatric health care, children with disabilities have requirements that are not met in schools or anywhere else.
Education system based on unequal lines: The Pakistani educational system is structured on unequal lines, which has a direct impact on educational quality, particularly at the primary level. At every level, the medium of instruction varies between the public and private sectors. People are split into two halves as a result, creating some type of imbalance. One division is based on English as the primary language of instruction, and the other is based on Urdu. To maintain a high standard of education across the nation, it would be preferable to standardize the educational media.
No trained teachers: Government school teachers lack adequate training. If political parties have complete control over the educational system, even instructors with no professional training can easily find employment there without having to pass any difficult requirements. They cannot train a nation by providing high-quality education since they are not qualified teachers. However, more skilled professionals can educate the populace to create a good country.
Pakistan has been facing many other issues such poverty, no rights for transgender education, transportation issues among many others. Furthermore, Pakistan has been struggling to increase its literacy rates in the country but there is no such improvement visible in the country.
According to the World Bank, Pakistan adopted the UN Conventions on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Article 25a of the country’s constitution guarantees all children the access to free basic education. However, these texts will have no practical influence on the lives of people they were intended to help unless there is political will, a thorough action plan, successful execution, and community understanding of the right to — and value of — education for all children. Other programs include Initial steps in the development of a support system for children with special educational needs (including children with disabilities), Awareness programs have been initiated towards education authorities, communities, schools and parents, Extensive teacher training, 16 government primary schools divided into 4 school clusters in Islamabad, 4 government schools (will soon be expanded to 6 schools) in Quetta.
Other than these Pakistan have no additional programs to encourage inclusive education. The process of inclusive education has remained stagnant since announcement and there is hardly any news related to new reforms in the education sector. Since in accordance to the World Bank, Pakistan is now a part of South Asian countries with the lowest literacy rate.
The following are some of the major recommendations to encourage inclusive education in Pakistan:
1. Parents, schools, legislators, service providers, and community members should never regard handicapped children differently.
2. Avoid ignorance on the part of parents regarding the potential of children with impairments.
3. Availability of bathrooms, classrooms, playgrounds, and transportation at the school.
4. There must be no prejudice in the systems for education, assessment, and exams.
5. Free basic education must be provided to the students belonging to families with constrained monetary means.
6. A through action plan must be developed to avoid any insufficient support structure, including a shortage of trained professionals and paraprofessionals.
7. Every school must provide transportation for the soundness and safety of the students.
8. The worth of experience sharing and help from all parties involved in putting inclusive education into practice in both word and spirit.
This study demonstrates that the Pakistani educational system cannot be improved by sound policies and constitutional changes alone. In order to remove obstacles to inclusive education, it is necessary to improve community involvement in school systems. Enhancing accessibility, quality, equity, and knowledge of gender equality and the rights of individuals with disabilities are the goals. These suggestions will guarantee access and equity in primary education for all children, including girls, transgender children, and children with disabilities, with national and international support. This would also aid in reducing gender disparities in primary education and enhance primary school learning results in Pakistan.