Following its mission of building peaceful and just society in Pakistan, Strengthening Participator Organisation (SPO) held a conference on ‘Education and Social Justice’ on March 29, 2010. The objective of the conference was to further explore educational processes and their impact on exclusion and persistence of inequalities in education from multidimensional and intra-disciplinary perspectives.
The conference was attended by educationists, scholars, members of civil society and stakeholders from all over the country. Prominent among those who spoke on the occasion were: Zafar Zeeshan, Dr. Tufail Muhammad Khan, Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, Harris Khalique, Dr. Mubarak Ali, Zehra Arshad, Noman ul Haq Siddiqui, Sadiqa Salahuddin, Dr. Sajid Ali, Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Dr. Karamat Ali and Naseer Memon.
Welcoming the participants Zafar Zeeshan, head of programme SPO, said that the educational problems could be resolved by making social justice an integral part of education. Introducing the theme of conference Dr. Tufail said that theme of the conference was in consonant with the mission and programme of SPO. He highlighted the fact that an egalitarian society translates rhetoric into reality.
Eminent educationist, Dr. Shahid Siddiqui spoke on ‘Curriculum and Social Justice’. He said that modern hegemonic modes captured minds by dominating sphere of cultural production. ‘The things that cannot be controlled by coercion can be subdued through discourse connected to power.’ Siddiqui lamented the fact that education in Pakistan only focused on economic dimension not on social development under the pressure of liberal economic regime. In his speech Dr. Shahid gave the changed role of education in human history, and types of education systems in Pakistan.
Renowned writer and poet, Harris Khalique, explored the relationship between language, education and social justice. He cited example of the distortion of Jinnah’s speech by establishment and resisting forces to safeguard their vested interest. ‘For a proper language policy we need to correct history’ Harris said. In his speech Harris referred to various sign posts regarding medium of instruction in the history of Pakistan. He analyzed the language used in constitution and policies just to evade final decision about medium of instruction. ‘The kind of pidgin English we are imparted to children in Pakistan does not give knowledge’ Harris stated. He was of the opinion that to change power equation in the favour of poor we need to educate in mother tongue.
Famous historian and intellectual, Dr. Mubarak Ali, gave an overview of historical background of education in East and West. ‘Traditionally education was not a responsibility of state. With French revolution the domain of education came under the purview of state. It provided an effective tool to control populace’ Mubarak stated. Dr. Mubarak said that our education system was ruined by the ideological nature of our state that not only distorted minds but also our education system. Social justice could not prevail unless we get rid of existing system, he opined.
Shedding light on the issue of access to education, Noman Siddiqui of Sindh Education Foundation emphasized the need of aligning education in accordance with the dynamics of our society. Without paradigm shift in our thinking and system we could not achieve the ideal of socially just society, he said. Dr. Sajid Ali, associate professor of Institute Education Development, identified basic fallacies in education policy. He urged policy makers to view politics of education in a holistic way. Zehra Arshad presented the paper of Dr. Hafiz Iqbal in his absentia. Speaking on the quality of education and social justice, Zehra Arshad, coordinator Pakistan Coalition for Education, presented facts and figures and performance of Pakistan in achieving MDG goals.
Mukhtar Ali, Executive Director of Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, was of the opinion that education was not a priority in the development fund. ‘In the absence of monitoring system statistics are not reliable’ he asserted. Mukhtar especially mentioned the fact that private elite schools get grant but there is no support for government schools. He was of the view that duplication of projects ruined education and efficiency.
Sharing his views eminent economist Dr. Karamat Ali said that access to education did not necessary lead to social justice. ‘Our education system has killed creative capabilities of student. Enquiring capacities are stifled by parents and teachers’ he said. Concluding the ceremony, Chief Executive SPO Naseer Memon thanked all the participants and speakers on behalf of SPO. He said that we had to leave the conference with the question regarding individual priorities vis-à-vis education.