, May 15, 2018 | Dawn (Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD: Representatives of all major political parties on Monday agreed that the education sector needed special attention of the provincial and federal governments.

They pledged their support for a minimum reform agenda in the sector. There is a lot to be done to improve the quality of education besides enrolling over 23 million out-of-school children.

The political representatives, including provincial education minister for Punjab Rana Mashhood and his counterpart from KP Mohammad Atif Khan, pledged to take more steps for the provision of quality education to all children.

They were speaking at an education conference “Ailaan-i-Amal” arranged by Alif-Ailan.

The representatives of PML-N, PPP, PTI, National Party (NP), ANP, Jamaat-i-Islami, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), PSP, MQM-P, PML-Q, JUI-F, PKMAP and BNP-M discussed a national commitment to improve learning outcomes in schools and delivering on the state’s obligation to provide compulsory and free education to all children aged between five and 16 years.

Say there is a lot to be done to improve quality of education besides enrolling over 23m out-of-school children

The Punjab education minister stated: “It is heartening to see that all provincial governments have prioritised education since 2013 and Punjab, specifically focused on providing quality education.”

He said through various schemes, Punjab had been providing scholarships to a large number of students while special focus was being paid on school education. He said in its manifesto, which would be announced on May 27, the PML-N would set several new targets in the education sector. The minister said out of the total budget, Punjab was spending 28pc on education.

KP’s education minister said: “Party leaders should sign Ailaan-i-Amal so that their voters can hold them accountable after the elections.” He said his party had taken several initiatives in KP and many of them were long-term investment in education which would produce results after 10 to 15 years.

PTI leader Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar said: “In a country like Pakistan where 23 million children were still out of school, a national emergency must be declared after the general elections. We will need to set strict targets to get them in schools.”

ANP’s Afrasiab Khattak said there was a need for increasing the education budget. At the sideline of the event, he told Dawn that a major chunk of the national budget went to paying debts, administrative issues and defence. “Since I remained a part of the government in KP, I know there is little spending on the social sector. There is a need for improving budget for education, health and other social sectors,” he said.

PPP MNA Dr Azra Pechuho said there was also a need for legislation on quality, teacher availability and budget utilisation.

The participants pledged their support for a minimum reform agenda which included a continuous increase in provincial and federal education allocations taking it to 4pc of the GDP, a national data regime that captures data on all children in all types of schools to be shared openly and publicly to ensure transparency in the reform and mandatory pre-service and in-service teacher training with career progression based on performance and training. It was also stated that all children would be tested at class 3, 5 and 8 regardless of geographical location or schooling system they were enrolled in.

They also pledged to ensure enrolment and retention of all children between the ages of 5-16, including in madressahs, and bringing gender parity in graduation rates from primary to middle. They also proposed the designation of “education deprived areas” for union councils which are underperforming on gender parity, retention, provision of post primary schools and quality of infrastructure.

The reform agenda was detailed in a charter for education which was signed by the representatives of political parties. The participants committed to ensuring that the agreed charter was included in their respective election manifestos. They also committed to developing a plan of implementation within 100 days of the oath-taking of the future CMs after the upcoming elections.

The conference was also attended by ANP leader Sardar Hussain Babak, MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Faisal Subzwari, JUI-F MPA Noor Saleem Khan, BNP-M’s Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini, PkMap’s Senator Usman Kakar, PSP General Secretary Raza Haroon, QWP’s MPA Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli and Barrister Masroor, NP’s Senator Mohammad Akram and PML-Q leader Ajmal Wazir Khan.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2018

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