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DisruptED the Way Forward for a Prosperous Pakistan

Islamabad, PK – 16 April, 2014 – Islamabad: Challenging the current ways through which the state is addressing the education emergency in the country, DisruptEd – ideas and conversations for disruptive innovation in Pakistan, organised by Alif Ailaan outlined the need for new approaches to fix the broken system. Despite 25 million children being out of school, the country has not been successful in marshaling its resources for reform or change, nor does the state or society or the polity treat education like the crisis or emergency that we claim it is.

Speaking at the closing session, Ahasan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Government of Pakistan at the DisruptEd in Islamabad today said, ours is a society characters by great disparities in income, education and opportunity. Nearly half of our country’s children are not in schools and getting them there is a herculean challenge. He further said, the role of technology and innovation in such a scenario is imperative to the way we deliver education not only to children but also to the society as a whole.

25 million children in Pakistan remains out of school across Pakistan, of those 25 million, about six million have never, ever seen the inside of a classroom. The rest have enrolled at one point or another, only to drop out, most likely within the first three years of enrolling at the age of five. An out of school Pakistani child is more likely to be a girl than an enrolled Pakistani child, with over 15 million of the 25 million out of school kids being girls.

On the quality of education, the government data doesn’t capture quality, at any level, in any province. Our entire conception of education quality is based on the Annual Status of Education Report survey (ASER), a civil society initiative. ASER tells us that of the kids in school, only 50% at the Class 5 level can read a Class 2 level passage in Urdu or their native language (for rural Pakistan, this number increases to 55% for urban Pakistan).

Based on the theme of disruptive innovation in education, the event highlighted that new avenues to deal with education problem must be explored and implemented to change how the crisis is perceived and addressed by the state and other stakeholders.

The one-day DisruptEd – Ideas and Conversations for Innovation in Education, a daylong multi-sessions initiative brought together leading thinkers, policy makers, civil society concerns and media professionals to discuss and debate the potential of innovation in the education sector.

Mosharaf Zaidi, Director Campaign of Alif Ailaan in his speech said, “without a ‘disruption’ to the way things are, a fundamental change that alters the very basics, there is little chance of Pakistan being able to deal with the Education crisis. None of the major problems in education low enrolment rates, poor quality, lack of accountability and the total absence of a robust discourse can be solved without bold new approach.” We need to stimulate thinking in the public, private and non-profit sectors about solutions to these problems, he added.

Pakistan faces a national education emergency but stories related to education rarely make it to the front page of newspapers or appear in prime-time slots on television. Alif Ailaan’s mission is to put the subject of education at the front and centre of public discourse in Pakistan.

The Oscar award-winning director, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy in her session highlighted the art of story telling on innovation and Disrupted education, she said immersed in an information-driven culture, innovators too must learn to tell a compelling story.

There are many who claim that Internet bandwidth and capacity are barriers to the use of technology for improving access to education and enriching the learning experience. Others insist that content is king and that educational materials must be developed before or along with the bandwidth to deliver it. But content developers have failed so far to fully exploit the potential of 2G technology. Technology innovation can be the catalyst for change and the disruptive factor for improving the service delivery on education.

Mr. Asad Umar, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s member of the national assembly of Pakistan while talking on public private partnership said that there are serious issues in terms of capacity of state and misplaced priorities of governments. One schooling system policy should be adopted to remove discriminations in education systems.

Marvi Memon, MNA of Pakistan Muslim League (N) shared her views with participants about the status of education at the grass-root level in in Sindh, she said. “Education is our prime objective, however there are a lot other issues like syllabus, teachers capacity, ghost schools and political interference, which needs to be addresses by making legislators accountable to the peoples.

Associate Professor of Lahore University of Management Sciences, Dr. Faisal Bari shared his views about the regulatory framework, he said we have made frameworks and regulations on education but the core issue remains financing free and compulsory education by the state. He said the state and society are not thinking, where we can have money to ensure quality of education.

Kasim Kasuri, Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum and CEO of Beacon House School Systems said that there are many challenges and hurdles for private sector to work in the education sector and no meaningful recommendations have been incorporated while preparing any laws to govern this sector.

A general consensus from various sessions was gathered on the need for a universal education system in the country, where the private sector can bring in the efficiencies through innovation in management, the public sector with its infrastructure and the civil society organization with their civic engagements can improve the current state of education in the country. However the critical factor remains the need for legislators to allocate more attention to education in terms of both governance and allocation of funds.

Alif Ailaan was founded to bring together and empower all those Pakistanis who want to respond to the country’s education emergency, and equip our children to succeed for themselves and for Pakistan.

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