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LAHORE: Members of civil society on Saturday demanded that federal and provincial governments should allocate 8 percent of GDP to ensure compulsory education.

They were speaking in a discussion on Implementation of Article 25A of the constitution of Pakistan, Academic Freedom and Single National Curriculum.

They said that the government should encourage secondary education, including general and vocational education, and make it accessible to every child, besides taking incentive-based measures for the out-of-school children. They urged for specific guidelines in National Education Policy for the provincial education departments, and textbook boards about avoiding discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, sect, language and ethnicity.

The government should evolve a policy to provide a definition for terminology such as discrimination and hate-speech, they asked. Proper guidelines for authors, reviewers and teachers should be given to tackle religious and social intolerance, they urged.

The moot asked to ensure academic freedom at all levels in order to promote a knowledge-based society in Pakistan. It suggested that education boards should focus on teachers’ training, incorporating elements of analysis, critical thinking, human rights, social justice and peace building frameworks to sensitize the students on contextual issues of social cohesion, cultural and religious diversity.

Dr Kaiser Bengali, noted economist, researcher and policy expert, gave a presentation on “Education in Pakistan: Context and Commitment” He asked to address issues in context of relationship of education with key human development indicators: literacy, enrolment, immunization, reproductive health, etc. and the relationship of education to the unequal economic power structure, represented by unequal land ownership, and attributes the poor outcomes a lack of commitment to promoting equality. He also spoke on how it reflects on the pretentious language of the numerous education plans and programs.

Lamenting the failure of previous plans, Dr. Bengali said it is useless to ask the same power elites for better outcomes and struggle for an egalitarian power structure.

In the opening remarks, Peter Jacob, Executive Director Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) stated that the Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan establishes free and compulsory education as a fundamental human right. He said after the 18th Amendment several steps have been taken by the federal and provincial governments. However, the issues of out-of-school children, low enrolment, dropouts, lack of teachers’ training, limited budget allocations, violation of Article 22(1) and absence of wide and inclusive consultations remain the core concerns.

While discussing the policy direction in light of Article 25A, educationist and policy expert Dr. Baela Raza Jamil said that the National Education Policy 2021 is an opportunity to frame education challenges through a dynamic lens and constitutional provision given in Article 25A. “It is vital to recognize that education is a multi-sectoral activity which in its essence and purpose grants right to education to all without any discrimination. The policy in making, must address out-of-school children with prior focus on the education of girls, children with disabilities, minorities and the poorest by providing them with quality content, pedagogies that combine academic and life skills with well-prepared and trained teachers. It must be backed by resources to ensure supply-side, adequacy of facilities and procurement of service delivery to reach the most vulnerable,” she added.

Dr A H Nayyar, educationist and researcher, evaluated the state of academic freedom in educational institutions of Pakistan. He pointed out that a true academic work is unthinkable without freedom to think and to express.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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