Pakistan inches closer to new national educational policy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal government on Tuesday identified host of lacunae in its education system and promised to prioritize four action areas – access to education, uniformity in standards, quality of education and skill development – to bridge the gap.

“This is very unfortunate that our literacy rate has gone down from 60 percent to 58 percent in last seventy years while 22.5 million children are still out of school,” Shafqat Mahmood, Minister for Education and Professional Training, said while launching the National Education Policy Framework.

He said that more than 41 percent of the enrolled children in primary schools dropout before completing grade 5, resulting in “very low” enrollment in middle and high schools.

The minister said that three different streams of school systems were working in the country and that’s why “there is a massive disparity between curriculum, school facilities, teachers and students achievements.”

“We have created a system of winners (the elite) and losers (the poor), and this needs to be addressed immediately,” he said, adding that bringing up children with vastly different mindsets was resulting in a “fractured national psyche.”

The minister also detailed missing facilities in the schools which were resulting in “on an average only 60 percent of the enrolled students pass grade 10 examinations.”

The education policy has also highlighted the lack of skilled labor in the country as only 1.9 percent of labor force has received any technical or vocational training.

“The current education system can impart technical skills to only 400,000 students per year while the requirement is five million per year,” the policy says.

The policy also envisages mainstreaming of Madrassas (religious seminaries) through active dialogue with the seminaries boards to give madrasa students “an equal opportunity through core subjects and skills programs.”

The government through the education policy promises to bring more children into schools by applying technology solutions like establishment of digital classrooms and help students access learning content through offline, online and prepackaged solution.

To ensure an equitable playing field for all of Pakistan’s children, the government has promised to establish a National Curriculum Council to identify core subjects for all students, and regularly assess students’ learning outcomes in all educational systems.

“Children should not be held back due to their socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity or religion,” the minister said. “All children have a fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality of education to achieve their full potential and we are trying our best to ensure that.”

Azam Khan, an education expert, said the government’s education policy mainly highlights the problems and lacunae in the system which everybody already knows.

“The policy does not talk about overall spending on the education with respect to the country’s GDP which remains around 2 percent, the lowest even in South Asian region,” he told Arab News. “The spending needs to be raised to at least 3 percent.”

Khan suggested the government to focus on improvement of educational standard in the public sector, and ensure a uniform medium of education in all private and public sector schools to abolish “apartheid education system.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his maiden speech after winning the election,had stressed the need to reform education system with ‘uniform education for all.