ISLAMABAD: A committee constituted by the Supreme Court has pointed out “insufficient commitment and patchy management” in Pakistan’s education sector and recommended several measures, including the declaration of an education emergency in the country.
The committee was constituted by the chief justice of Pakistan in April. It was chaired by Wafaqi Mohtasib Syed Tahir Shahbaz and included Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, U.A.G. Isani, former Allama Iqbal Open University vice chancellor Dr Shahid Siddiqui, former Higher Education Commission chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, joint education adviser at the Ministry of Federal Education Rafiq Tahir and others.
The committee was given a mandate to implement Article 25-A of the Constitution, under which the state is obligated to provide free and compulsory education to children between the ages of five to 16.
‘Paradigm shift required to accord appropriate priority, oversight to education sector in order to implement Article 25-A’
It finalised its report, Education Sector Reforms in Pakistan, Implementation of Article 25-A, after a number of meetings, and recommended the need to declare an education emergency and tackle “myriad challenges” including out-of-school children, the quality of education, a uniform education system and skills development.
In the report, the committee pointed out that the country is faced with the challenge of 25 million out-of-school children between the ages of five and 16, with 2m children being added every year.
The report said there are “clear constitutional provisions” – articles 25-A, 37-B and 38-B, as well as the country’s commitments to the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals “where our failures are palpable”.
“Clearly, such a grave situation calls for extra-ordinary measures,” it stated.
For effective enforcement of Article 25-A, a paradigm shift is required to accord appropriate priority to the sector in terms of financial and human resources along with sufficiently empowered institutions of oversight, the report said.
The committee also recommended a substantial increase in the education sector budget from the present 2.2pc of GDP to 4pc of GDP at the national level and a minimum allocation of 25pc of the total budget of the provinces.
This would entail capacity building at the provincial and district levels so funds can be properly utilised, and are not lapsed or allocated to other sectors, the report added.
It also recommended “a big jump” in the construction of new schools in the public sector, and in recruitment and training of a large number of teachers. Ghost schools and non-functional schools also need to be made functional.
The report said private educational institutions serve a sizeable 36pc of students, and while acknowledging their contribution in imparting education the school-going children, the government should bind private schools to rationalise their free structure and enrol at least 10pc of students from disadvantaged backgrounds under corporate social responsibility.
It pointed out that under housing laws, each housing society is obligated to earmark amenity plots for community service, but most of these plots are leased to private elite schools. The report said housing societies may be directed to offer these plots at subsidised rates for the establishment of public sector schools.
The report also said it was critical to introduce double shifts in schools with a sufficient number of students, and public schools may also facilitate informal schools in the evening. However, the report added, the implementation of this “would also require additional recruitment of teachers and staff with budget”.
In many cases, it said, low enrolment is the function of poverty and large families in the lower strata of society.
“Appropriate incentives will have to be given,” the report said. “Federal government and provincial governments have a number of projects in hand according to special need with encouraging results. Best practices in community schools, non-formal schools, public private partnership, and voucher scheme can be shared by the provinces and expanded for enhanced targets. The minimum of 50pc annual increase in number under these projects is essential to supplement government existing effort.”
The report said “private entrepreneur firms and individuals” should be encouraged and incentivised to “adopt schools for infrastructure development and provision of necessary facilities”. These incentives could be in the shape of tax rebates or the attribution of the schools to the sponsors.
The importance of religious education was also highlighted by the committee. The report said that in order to utilise the Deeni Madaris sub-sector of education, the government in consultation with their representatives should devise a formal education programme.
The report also called for merit-based management and a 50pc increase in funding for the National Commission for Human Development and Basic Education Community Schools to expand the network of the two organisations.