Govt, provinces to collaborate on out-of-school children issue: education minister

ISLAMABAD: In collaboration with provincial governments, the federal government will make every effort to bring Pakistan’s nearly 25 million out-of-school children into school, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Monday.

Addressing a press conference after the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference, Mr Mahmood said the federal and provincial governments were on the same page about bringing improvement to the education sector with a special focus on out-of-school children.

Flanked by Punjab Minister on Higher Education Yasir Humayun Sarfraz, Adviser to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ziaullah Bangash, Adviser to the Balochistan Chief Minister Mohammad Khan Lehri, Azad Kashmir Education Minister Barrister Syed Iftikhar Gilani and others, the minister said the conference was a platform to discuss various education-related issues to reach a consensus.

He said it was attended by representatives from all the provinces.

Volunteer teaching programme for Islamabad-based schools to be launched soon

Mr Mahmood said that in addition to the out-of-school children problem, the class-based education system was also a challenge. There are currently three types of education systems where separate curriculums are taught – the public school system, the private school system and the seminary education system.

He said that during the meeting all stakeholders had urged for a uniform education system in the country and to improve the quality of education by making it market relevant, as students who have completed PhDs face difficulty getting jobs.

Mr Mahmood said the education ministry would present its recommendations to launch a uniform education system in the country to the prime minister, while an effective curriculum council will also be established.

The minister said the education budget also needs to be increased, as the desired results cannot be achieved without sufficient investment in the education sector.

The government will also start double-shifts in areas where the number of existing schools does not meet the requirements of students in order to bring in out-of-school children.

An education volunteer programme will also be launched under which university and college students and other educated volunteers will help the government meet the shortage of teachers.

There are around 30,000 out-of-school children in Islamabad, he said, and the ministry is focused on bringing them into schools. The volunteer programme for Islamabad-based schools will be launched soon.

Of the total 25 million out-of-school children, he said, the government wants to enrol at least 1.5m in the upcoming academic session under the regular admissions policy.

Speaking to the press on the sidelines of the conference, Punjab Higher Education Minister Yasir Humayun Sarfraz said that divisional universities in Punjab will be upgraded and all the colleges in their jurisdiction will be bound to register with them.

“We are going to construct some more universities so there is no shortage of universities at the divisional level. But if the future we will ensure that colleges get affiliated with universities from their areas online,” he said.

Mr Sarfraz said the Punjab government has decided not to invest in development projects such as new buildings for new colleges and so on until the quality of education is improved in existing institutions.

Two universities of the capital without heads

The two professors appointed vice chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) last month have not yet joined their institutions.

QAU’s new vice chancellor Prof Dr Mohammad Ali and AIOU’s vice chancellor Prof Dr Ziaul Qayyum were serving as vice chancellors in Punjab-based universities when they were appointed.

During Monday’s press conference, Mr Mahmood said he has taken up the matter with the Punjab higher education minister, who had assured him both professors would be relieved soon to join their respective institutions.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018