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Quality Education Still a Challenge in Punjab

A public school, just a few kilometers away from Prime Minister’s Model Town Home remains in deteriorating condition since 1973, Education Governance Roundtable, Punjab.

Lahore, PK – January 15, 2015 – Provincial Meeting on Education Governance convened today in Lahore, to discuss the importance of Government and Media Partnership to Enhance Accountability. The meeting aimed at generating a discussion among major education stakeholders about the current state of education governance in the province. The ILM-o-AGAHI Education Governance Roundtable was organized by Mishal Pakistan in collaboration with Ilm Ideas (a 3 year UKaid funded program).

The objective of the ILM-O-AGAHI initiative is to improve accountability and media coverage of priority education issues and build consensus on education policies by engaging various stakeholders, including media and policy makers.

Qaiser Rashid, Deputy Secretary Education (Schools), Engineer Qamar-ul-Islam, Chairman Standing Committee on Education and Dr. Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal, Former Dean Faculty Education Punjab University along with representatives from the non-governmental organizations and the journalist community attended the roundtable dialogue.

Puruesh Chaudhary, Director Mishal Pakistan, facilitating the group discussion said, While the authenticity of data and information are essential to policy development, the use of technology can not only ensure accountability but also assess the performance of the provincial education departments in Pakistan.

“The government plans to ensure sustainability and allocate more funds in education sector in coming years”, said Qaiser Rashid, Deputy Secretary Education (Schools). He also said that the teachers and students’ attendance is highest in the region but quality remains a challenge for the Punjab government. The government is also spending Rs. 4 billion on free textbooks in Punjab and is giving a stipend of Rs. 2000 every month to every female student on 80% attendance.

Engineer Qamar-ul-Islam, Chairman Standing Committee on Education, Punjab Assembly,  said that teachers’ attendance in Punjab is 90% and even the 10% absents are informed in advance. Education budget shouldn’t include teachers’ salaries in non-developmental budget. Qamar-ul-Islam further states that in future 10% disadvantaged kids will be admitted to all the schools including private schools by law. To ensure 100% attendance, Chairman Standing Committee on Education said that parents who will not send their kids to school would not be allowed to benefit from any community service initiative like Benazir Income Support etc. Chairman Standing Committee on Education then asked journalists to give input on the state of education and said that despite sending formal invitations to journalists in 2014 the department did not received anything from the journalists community.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal, former Dean of the education faculty of the Punjab University said, “building a sustainable system of accountability is the most critical factor for improving the education standards in Punjab”. He further said that the Punjab Government is only paying attention to the initiatives that can be counted and showed to public, however the quality of education remains unaddressed.

Mishal Pakistan with academicians and researchers produced a literature review in 2014 assessing an overarching complexity and trivial underlying causes that has subjugated the communities to an idealistic narrative on education. The study witnesses “Education Governance and Accountability” as the most underreported area in the media. While the literature reviewed does speak volume of increasing public spending on education little does it discuss the possible Educational Governance Models. This underreporting further positions the growing need for a dialogue to essentially build mechanisms that streamlines the transparency and utility of existing budgetary allocation for primary and secondary education.

Mishal Pakistan is the partner institute of the Center for International Media Ethics and the Global Competitiveness and Benchmarking Networks of the World Economic Forum. Mishal assists the forum in creating soft-data on Pakistan, identifying Pakistan’s competitiveness challenges including primary health & education and higher education.

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