Education must be top priority: Murad

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Provincial Minister for School Education Murad Raas has said that education must be top priority and should not be politicized in order to achieve the desired goals. In this regard, Punjab government has taken revolutionary measures. He was speaking at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. LCCI President Kashif Anwar presented the address of welcome while Executive Committee Members were also present. “We are bringing changes in the province’s school education sector that aim at setting new standards and change the department’s affairs for good”, he said. The provincial minister said that the Private Schools Act was not upgraded since 1984. The Punjab government took this initiative while talking the representatives of private schools into confidence. He said that the NGOs are exaggerating the data of out-of-school children for personal interest. Murad Raas said that there was around 2 to 2.5 billion rupee corruption in School Education Department in terms of transfers of teachers, postings, leaves, ACRs, promotion and retirement dues but we have broken that system. He said that an APP has been introduced and now the teacher can apply for everything with comfort from their smart phones. He said that the dues on retirement will directly go into the account of the teacher. “When a teacher will be free of all of these hassles, he will be able to provide quality education to the students”, the Minister said. He said that education sector, we are far behind of the world. He said that education sector needs at least 10 years concentrated efforts. He said that we have never stopped the education program of the previous government but removed the lacunas. He added that there are at least two teachers for 40 students in Punjab. He said that 2.5 lakh children are benefiting from the card given by the KPK government but we have introduced educational facilities for 4 million children. He said that two thousand new classrooms have been built in the schools of Punjab. He said that now the teachers are getting online training and our team is monitoring it regularly. LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that with increasing inflation and cost of living, children often have to choose between going to school and providing additional income for their households. Socio-economic factors contribute to a major chunk of out of school children in Punjab (5Million+ as per Punjab Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey 2021). More than 20 million children in Pakistan are out of school. He said that the public schooling sector in Pakistan needs to be transformed according to the needs of the changing times so that demand driven skills can be imparted in our school children. In this regard, LCCI recommends that Technical and Vocational training streams should be initiated in our school education curriculums. The LCCI President said that as per studies published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), there is an immense demand of entry-level skilled labour, especially in our Textile, Automobile and Telecommunications Industries. Linkages can be created between the School Education Department Punjab and Associations representing these industries to generate a pathway to employment for children coming through the School Education Department, Technical Vocational Educational Training (TVET) streams. This step can open tremendous economic opportunities for school children in far flung areas and mitigate one of the key causes for Out-Of-School-Children. Kashif Anwar said that the Government of Punjab started the scheme few years ago by virtue of which a number of schools were adopted by private sector or NGOs. That scheme had a beneficial effect on the quality of education as well as on the drop out numbers which improved sizably. That system needs to be revived with little modification like this time. The Public Private Partnership model needs to be expanded further and incentivize the business model to make it attractive for the larger education conglomerates functioning in Punjab. Vocational and Technical training may be ensured by the sponsors of such adopted schools.He said that private IT companies can be engaged to establish IT Hubs in all districts as a pilot and expand it further into large technology institutes like ‘IITs’ in India. Establishing an IT HUB in a district is not a very large investment but has significant yields. A Learning Management System can be developed, which is customized to the requirements of the children. It can be combined with the Technical and Vocational Training program to translate into career opportunities for children. There should be schools in the vicinity of Industrial Areas.LCCI President said that the teachers lack effective teaching and delivery capabilities and are still tuned to outdated techniques. Hybrid training models can be introduced with private schools to enable Lead Master Trainers from School Education Department to acquire new age teaching techniques. He said that the out of school children number is greater than 5 million in Punjab. He said that more than 50 percent of the 3-4 year olds in rural Punjab are not enrolled in any form of early childhood education and there is currently a shortage of 85000+ classrooms to fulfill the prescribed Student Classroom Ratio of 40:1 for each individual classroom, having a direct impact on quality of education imparted. He added that as a result, we witness problems like underage children working as beggars on the roads. The LCCI President said that the speed on school infrastructure development has been exceptionally slow and retention of students is low. Over the last 4 years, there has been a descending trend on the funds earmarked each year in the annual development plan for building additional classrooms and this is worrying sign. He said that there are 100,000 sanctioned teaching posts lying vacant and they are increasing every day. With teacher postings not rationalized as per need, this number becomes even more worrisome. He added that there are various studies carried out in the past with the help of aid agencies like UNDP, DFID, USAID to improve the standards of education in Punjab and also to meet SDGs goals set by UN for all countries, particularly developing one like Pakistan. He said that need to know where we stand in achievement of the SDGs targets and also benefitting from the consultancy reports of the past or those which are currently under review or submission.CaptionLCCI President Kashif Anwar is presenting shield to Provincial Minister for School Education Murad Raas.

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