22 May | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

CSJ, PCMR host moot on free, compulsory education for all

Speakers urge govt to engage independent education policy experts, relevant stakeholders in policymaking process to develop comprehensive education policy

Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and People’s Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) organized a conference on fulfilling the dream of free and compulsory education – Article 25-A – wherein speakers urged the government to engage relevant stakeholders in policymaking to develop comprehensive education policy to address key issues.

Punjab Minister for School Education Rana Sikander Hayat, Center for Social Justice Executive Director Peter Jacob, Dr AH Nayyar, Dr Baela Raza Jamil, Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, Advocate Saqib Jillani, Advocate Raza Ali, Dr Uzma Ashiq Khan, Abida Mukhtar, Faaria Khan, and Shafaq Minhas addressed the conference in Lahore.

Sikander Hayat says Ministry of Education will empower school management councils to introduce reforms, ensure equal opportunities

“Our government is committed to investing more funds in education, which will be used to improve quality of early childhood education, enhance access to technology in schools, and elevate standard of teachers training,” Rana Sikander Hayat said while speaking on the occasion. He reiterated that the Ministry of Education will empower school management councils to effectively address education-related issues, and introduce reforms to promote social cohesion and ensure equal learning opportunities for all students.

Executive Director Peter Jacob highlighted challenges stemming from institutional disconnect and policy vacuum caused by a lack of coherence in policy decisions and a lack of coordination among relevant public bodies. He acknowledged announcement of an education emergency and emphasized the need for clear strategies and measures to address barriers and gaps in achieving the goal of inclusive and equitable quality education. He termed involvement of relevant stakeholders as crucial in developing goals, targets, and actions for the upcoming education policy.

Dr Baela Raza Jamil expressed concern over the learning loss experienced by children in Pakistan, attributing to inadequate funding provided by duty bearers, and lack of approval of rules of business, which hampers implementation of federal and provincial laws related to the right to free and compulsory education guaranteed by the constitution. She asked the government to prioritize early childhood education to improve learning outcomes and language skills among children. She stressed engaging authentic stakeholders in the policymaking process to develop genuine solutions tailored to address education-related issues within the specific context.

Dr AH Nayyar asks govt to abolish textbook boards; suggests multiple textbooks to enhance quality of learning, teaching, and examination

Dr AH Nayyar told the audience that a predominant religion-specific content was present in textbooks that promotes a certain ideology which is a violation of Article 22 (1) of the constitution. He said that the government needs to abolish textbook boards, and offer multiple textbooks from private publishers to enhance quality of learning, teaching, and examination, which would foster critical thinking and creative writing skills among teachers, and students.

Dr Riaz Ahmed Shaikh said that the quality of education suffers due to lack of harmony in policy goals and policy actions introduced to influence the worldview of the nation. He said that the inadequate allocation of resources for education and non-scientific educational culture contributes to decline in education standards. He emphasized reversal of regressive policy decisions to bring the focus back on fact-based quality content in textbooks to promote a more balanced and informed educational curriculum.

Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash emphasized importance of imparting education in the right manner, cautioning that low-quality education can be more detrimental than receiving no education at all. He expressed concerns about promotion of certain ideologies in textbooks, noting that this compromises overall quality of education. He underscored the need to transfer responsibility of education to universities by abolishing the examination boards, which would ultimately lead to significant improvements in the education system in the long run.

Dr Yaqoob Bangash asks policymakers to transfer education responsibility to universities; abolish examination boards

Advocate Saqib Jilani underscored the government’s obligation to provide free education, including textbooks, transportation, meals, and stipends to prevent children from engaging in child labor. He announced that he intends to file a petition in the Supreme Court under Article 184 (3) to ensure implementation of the fundamental right to education, guaranteed in Article 25 (A) of the constitution.

Advocate Raza Ali said that the single national curriculum (SNC) was a craft of the National Curriculum Council (NCC), which lacks legal authority, instead, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) was authorized to make such decisions under the eighteenth constitutional amendment. He highlighted an ongoing petition in the Lahore High Court that challenged the single national curriculum, an extra-constitutional policy decision made by a non-statutory body – the National Curriculum Council.

Abida Mukhtar expressed concerns voiced by the parents regarding the single national curriculum, and the ‘religious’ material in all textbooks particularly due to the involvement of the Punjab Ulema Board (PUB) in approving textbook content published by the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Boards. She mentioned that the parents filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, challenging the regressive and unconstitutional policy decision to assert their children’s right to quality education.

On the occasion, Shafaq Mihnas shared findings of the content analysis based on 130 textbooks published by federal and provincial boards that carry texts and images specific to a majority religion in books of all subjects, including languages and social studies, and portray males and females in culturally assigned conventional roles.