Yesterday's panel "Governance in Transition: Pakistan and Bangladesh" discussed - among other topics - education in Pakistan. There was a presentation of facts on enrollment; spending; literacy and all the factors that one usually uses to measure performance. But Dr. Perez Hoodbhoy wanted to go deeper than these statistics. He wants to steer you away from just throwing money at this problem.
After all, that's our first response, isn't it? For as long as I can remember, anyone discussing education wants more money. I have never subscribed to this theory because I know that money isn't the answer. My personal experience in Catholic schools showed my over and over that more can be done with discipline and dedication on the part of teachers. this is not to say there aren't dedicated public school teachers. I'm sure there are, but I attended Catholic schools, so that's my frame of reference.
Dr. Hoodbhoy wanted to highlight what money can't fix. He talked about teacher literacy rates. He talked about schools whose budgets have to accommodate bribing local officials. He talked about children who must work to help their families survive.
Then he showed us a reading primer.
"A" is for "Allah"
"B" is for the Urdu word for gun - complete with picture.
And the the letter "T" for "takrao" the urdu word for "collision".
My heart skipped a beat and my eyes stung. The illustration was a crude cartoon of planes crashing into the World trade Centers on 9/11.
What good would all the money in the world do?
Did I take it too seriously? Because around me there was shocked laughter. I felt completely all alone and isolated? Was I the only person in the room who felt that like a physical blow? The bulk of the audience were young people under 25. They were students, but well educated students. Laughter?