Education Policies in Pakistan:
Politics, Projections, and Practices (2015)
By Dr. Shahid Siddiqui
Reviewed by Sajda Kausar
Iqra University, Karachi
The author Dr. Shahid Siddiqui holds an exhaustive
experience of teaching, teacher education, research and educational
administration and currently holds the post of Vice Chancellor of
Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. His other works include
Rethinking Education in Pakistan: Perceptions, Practices and
Possibilities (2007); Adhe Adhoore Khawab(2010); Education,
Inequalities, and Freedom: A Sociopolitical Critique (2010); and
Language, Gender and Power: The Politics of Representation and
Hegemony in South Asia (2014). The book under review is yet another
manifestation of the author’s deep insight into the educational issues
which Pakistan has been facing since its inception. The author terms
the book as “The rst comprehensive critique of educational policy
documents” (p. xx).
The book is structured in fourteen chapters, encompassing
various shades of educational spectrum. The contents of the book
are fully supported by relevant tabled information, educational
policy excerpts, in-depth analysis followed by a detailed discussion.
Almost all chapters of the book delineate dierent dimensions of the
eld of education as dealt with by the education policies from 1947
to 2009, leading to analysis and discussion along with the chapter
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At the very outset of the book, the author hints at the important
role policies play “in the progress and development of a country” (p.
xvii). The process of policy formulation, according to him, should
begin with a thorough need analysis of learners and reliable data.
Dr. Siddiqui has boldly questioned the actual procedure of data
collection, mentioning not only lack of research skills, absence of
information verication process, but also the government’s tendency
to inate numbers so as to project its eciency and ask gains from
internal as well as external donor agencies. Lack of consultation
with the education stake holders is yet another pertinent issue
identied by the author, which leads to unrealistic targets. The next
stage of policy formation is to set goals considering the information
gathered in the rst step. The author aptly points out that most of our
education policies have tall claims and unachievable targets leading
to the challenges in the next stage- implementation.
Dr. Siddiqui unfolds the multifaceted nature of the discipline
of education by discussing various topics which could create a
beautiful symphony if orchestrated well. The author acknowledges
that one important thread that runs across all the education policy
documents is “the overarching ideology of Islam” (p. 34). The
emphasis on “reorientation of education in the light of Islamic
teaching” (p 35), the proposal of making “Islamiat a compulsory
subject”(p. 37), and setting knowledge of Islam as a prerequisite for
hiring a teacher are some steps the author has referred to.
The author particularly focuses on the conspicuous role
the teachers play in enhancing and enriching the given curriculum.
The author observes that there have been many steps suggested in
Pakistan education policies to bring improvement in the teaching
quality like holding short- term teacher training courses, raising
salaries and in-service training of female teachers
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Education Policies in Pakistan
Low literacy rate of our country as compared to other
countries is another topic of concern brought up in the book. The
author identies one of the causes as the changing denitions of
literacy-ranging from the 1951 education policy which denes
it as reading a clear print in any language to 1998 which claims
literacy is “reading a newspaper and writing a simple letter in any
language” (p. 65). The education policies according to the author,
hint at eradication of “illiteracy within the shortest possible time”
(p. 53) through the following methods: functional education,
universalization of elementary education, establishment of People’s
Open University (now, Allama Iqbal Open University), and making
primary education compulsory.
The long outstanding language issue is termed as a major
challenge by the author as he opines, “Language remained a
contested issue even after the independence of the country….” (p.
133). The various questions raised by the writer relate to adopting a
particular language as the state language, as a medium of instruction
or as a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Referring to
the drifting linguistic positions Pakistan education policies take,
the author mentions that “the injurious eects of making an alien
language (English) the medium of instruction” ([as stated in
Pakistan Educational Conference, 1947 document] p. 134), and
“the use of English as the medium of instruction at higher levels
perpetuate the gulf between the rulers and the ruled ….” (Proposal
for a New Educational Policy, 1969, p. 137). According to Dr.
Siddiqui, “Pakistan had two main language options- English, being
the ‘language of its imperial masters” (p. 147) or Bangla, being the
language of the majority. He states, “Neither of the two choices were
exercised…in favor of Urdu because of an emotional association
with it” (p. 147); however, as Dr. Siddiqui keenly observes, “The
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Education Policies in Pakistan
targets set for implementing Urdu as a medium of instruction…were
also not realized….” (p. 265).
Dr. Shahid Siddiqui expresses that the promises have by and
large, remained unaccomplished and he points out the main reasons
for not achieving these targets: “a lack of participatory approach;
unreliable data; unrealistic goals; lack of political will; lack of
political stability; lack of resources and fragmented eorts” (p. 274).
The overall picture of the educational context of Pakistan that
the writer has presented is quite dismal. There have been numerous
ups and downs in the political and social scenario of the country;
nevertheless, many individuals and organizations dedicatedly work
to improve the situation and because of these unrecorded eorts,
sanity has prevailed to a great extent. The book unfolds the writer’s
power of expression; the diction and style he has used thoroughly
matches with the content he has discussed.Dr. Shahid Siddiqui
has covered his subject with a multi-dimensional approach. The
underlying desire of streamlining the Pakistan education system
ripples across the book.
The book under review is based on primary and secondary
sources, keen observations, analytical mind, well-organized
approach and an inclination towards objectivity. It is therefore,
highly recommended for policy makers, researchers, students and
teachers related to the elds of education research, policy making as
well as for general readers.
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