Now the education department


New standards for incompetence

One day the chief minister takes credit for Punjab being ahead of other provinces in terms of performance and the next the education department makes headlines for unparalleled incompetence. Such breakdown makes it difficult to take the provincial leadership’s other assurances at face value – like being the most secure province as the insurgency hits the cities. That the education department mishandled Class-V examination, and worse is to be expected in other upcoming exams, defies explanation. This is the only function the examination department has in the whole year – to carry out annual examinations – and it’s not as if it is not adequately funded. The problem, as is becoming apparent, is incompetence, corruption, and so forth.

In typical fashion, the province’s chief executive has now ordered an inquiry. And also in typical PML-N style, he has directed Education Minister Rana Mashood and Schools Education Department Secretary Abdul Jabbar Shaheen to carry out the investigation. If Shahbaz Sharif expects the two people ultimately responsible for the mess to admit wholesale ineptitude, and perhaps a resignation or two, he probably has another thing coming. Most likely, like other instances of unbelievable clumsiness – like recent petrol shortage – this too will be another one of those episodes where people will make some noise, the government will investigate, and eventually everything will be swept under the carpet. No heads will roll, no reforms will be initiated, and not much will change.

Education breakdown is perhaps the principal reason behind Pakistan’s current decadence. It is a little surprising that a government that does not understand the importance of education is unable to build that vital national narrative that is so essential in times of existential crises. Instead of ordering useless inquiries and commissions, and resorting to politically correct verbiage, the government is advised to seriously consider its style of governance. The people of today are far more aware, and empowered, than when the N-league came of age in Pakistani politics. The way it is running things, both in Punjab and the centre, it is hurting its future more than the people’s present.