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Abodes of Learning

Anne Vaugier Chatterjee

By Shahrukh Rafi Khan
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2006, pp. 181, Rs. 495.00


The book under review is topical in that discussions on education are both neverending and never seem to go out of fashion. For example, one only needs to recall that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) just launched its 2006 ‘Global Report on Education for All (EFA) by the year 2015’, in which it stated that overall steady progress had been made since 1998 towards the attainment of goals of universal primary education and that primary school enrolment had gone up sharply in several world regions (South Asia included, of course) that had been lagging behind till then.   This academic book aims at providing a status report on education in the five politico-administrative units of Pakistan. It also explores the ways and means by which the public sector can ensure a more efficient and effective achievement of primary school objectives in the rural areas of that country. This analysis is the product of relatively small sample surveys carried out in the four provinces and a federal administered territory of Pakistan, namely Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, North West Frontier Province and the northern areas. Composed of six chapters, the book is divided into two distinctive parts. While the first three chapters are for general readers, the three others, relying on statistical analysis, are directed at a more expert readership.   The most valuable input of this book is probably contained in its second chapter which provides a qualitative and comparative analysis of government schools, private schools and NGO schools. This is the central theme of the book. From the finding of the surveys it appears that there has been over the last decade a massive exodus from government to non-government schools, that is, from an inadequate government school system to an ever expanding private and NGO school network.     In the following chapter, the author looks into another major aspect of the reforms in the education sector, namely, participatory development programmes, incidentally part of the social action plan implemented in two phases in the 1990’s. In this context, the question that obviously begs to be asked is how parents, despite illiteracy and low education levels, can play a monitoring role in their children’s schooling. As in India—and elsewhere in the world for that matter—policy makers in Pakistan are convinced that parental and community participation was a missing ingredient in making rural public schooling a success. However, in this regard, no concrete ...

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