It has been a painfully slow process for representatives of key political parties to agree on a minimum reform agenda for the education sector and demand special attention from both the provinces and the federal government. The task of improving the quality of education is overwhelming enough when one considers other huge challenges such as enrolling over 23 million out-of-school children in the country. It requires both sound strategy and proper enforcement to address those challenges as well as coordinated steps for the provision of quality education to all children. This involves a national resolve to improve learning outcomes in schools and devising mechanisms for delivering on the state’s obligation to provide compulsory and free education to children, especially those aged between five and 16 years.
Only since 2013 we have seen our provincial governments prioritising education as never before. Punjab claims to have been a trend-setter among the other provinces, citing its renewed focus on quality education over this period of time. If Pakistan is facing an education emergency, it is still entirely possible to come out of that — through courageous political commitment and will and of course implementation of reform strategies. Effective management of teachers and principals can spur the spirit of reform.
We must however give more time for reform to settle into place. Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, for instance, is banking on initiatives that will pay dividends in the long term, say, up to 10 or 15 years. But the strategy can only be successful if the education budget is raised substantially. The higher the investment, the greater will be the gain. In the coming years the country must enforce a minimum reform agenda which envisages a sustained increase in provincial and federal education allocations. By signing the charter for education and pledging to include it in their manifestoes, political parties have taken the first giant step towards reform.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2018.