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Editorial: Educational Inequalities

The state must stop thinking of quality education as a privilege if it wishes to proceed toward a more equal society

by Editorial

File photo. A. Majeed—AFP

Globally, there is much hand-wringing over the advantages “schools for the privileged” grant compared to state-run institutions, with critics voicing concern over “powerful groups or privileged classes” restricting access to quality education for the majority. Those who can afford it prefer private schools, which promise better education, modern facilities, and smaller class sizes. What is less discussed is how equality in education is also not guaranteed in state-run schools. In Pakistan, the quality of education at public-sector institutions varies greatly, depending on location, building specifications, available facilities, and the curricula and qualification of the teaching faculty. Such stratification of education systems perpetuates social inequality, widening existing gaps between haves and have-nots.

This form of “inequality” is ubiquitous and hinders, but does not render obsolete, the potential to support “geniuses” that can bring about sweeping changes in their chosen fields. Though even here, studies have found that privileged students have a much easier time in adulthood than their poorer counterparts. As a developing country, Pakistan faces significant disparities between privileged and underprivileged schools, with the former typically located in affluent areas and possessing significant resources. Underprivileged schools, meanwhile, are situated in impoverished areas and often lack basic infrastructure or quality education. Defenders support such inequalities as a natural consequence of capitalism, noting state intervention to “equalize” education carries its own set of problems.

Solutions offered by idealists are not free of controversy. One proposal calls for Pakistan’s privileged schools to “help” underprivileged schools through sharing of resources and expertise, contributing to the larger goal of reducing educational disparities. This is easier said than done, and a better solution might be finding a reasonable compromise through legislation that improves state schools. Such initiatives must acknowledge and address overcrowding and encourage communities to decide on suitable curricula and offer homegrown solutions to common problems. Above all, the state must stop thinking of education as a privilege, and extend it more funds and attention to encourage a more equal society.

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