The writer is an
analyst and the
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By Kashif Mirza
The two-day Pakistan Learning Conference 2023; Building Foundations organized by the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training held in Islamabad. Gathering global educators, policymakers, and experts, this eagerly awaited conference is delving into vital topics of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and foundational learning. Speaking at the Inaugural session, the Chief Guest for the occasion Federal Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain said that Pakistan has a constitutional commitment to deliver ‘free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 5 to 16’. The minister said that the government intends to go beyond it as Pakistan is committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) to provide ‘lifelong learning opportunities for all’. Earlier, the Secretary of Education Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary welcomed the participants and said that the gathering of passionate international and national level educators, policymakers, and donors at the conference was a unique opportunity to collectively work towards transforming the landscape of early childhood education and foundational learning. The secretary of education informed the attendees about the Human Capital Review Report and shed light on how addressing learning poverty is crucial for socio-economic progress. Mr. Waseem shared with the participants that a fund of Rs 25 billion had been established specifically for Out of School Children (OOSC) and added that a significant portion should be allocated for Early Childhood Education (ECE). He provided reassurance on behalf of the Prime Minister, affirming the government’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that out-of-school children were enrolled in schools. He further added that through the flagship initiatives of MOFEPT which include Out of School Children enrollment drive, foundational literacy through ASPIRE, the establishment of classrooms in primary schools & kindergarten important steps are being taken for transforming early childhood education. Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary added that MOFEPT was looking forward to creating a Combined Action Plan in the Conference through synergies, collaborations, and experience sharing that will positively impact the future of early childhood education in Pakistan. Secretary Education, Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary talked about carrying the spirit of this conference forward through fostering innovation, inclusivity, and equity in early childhood education. He spoke about translating the event into the “Pakistan Learning Movement”. The secretary said that with the movement, the education ministry could create an educational landscape to empower the children, equip them with essential skills, and nurture their curiosity and love for lifelong learning. He informed that MoFEPT would receive feedback and inputs for aggressively contributing towards the movement. He thanked all the international and national participants for their dedication to advancing early childhood education and foundational learning. He also appreciated them for their commitment to shaping a brighter future for children. The two-day Pakistan Learning Conference 2023: Building Foundations organized by the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training concluded with a comprehensive action plan to transform Early Childhood Education (ECE) and foundational learning. The diverse gathering of global educators, policymakers, and experts delved into crucial topics, fostering the development of a bright future for children. Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal congratulated the Education Ministry for addressing the crucial topic of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and foundational learning. He emphasized that we were currently in an era of knowledge revolution, innovation, and creativity, and highlighted the significance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life as the most productive period for skill development. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of combining both formal and informal education within ECE and the strong connection that existed between early education and the nation’s progress.
Featuring 9 international and 37 national speakers across diverse educational disciplines, the Conference offers a rich tapestry of perspectives. With their expertise and experience, the speakers are sharing invaluable insights, inspiring ideas, and global best practices, enriching the conference experience for all attendees. On both days, insightful panel discussions on Progress and Challenges: ECE as the learning foundation, Right to Education, Financing, Delivery at scale, and technical sessions on enabling structures and PPP as delivery models were carried out. Notable speakers included Rehmat Salam Khatam (KPK Minister), Kashif Mirza President All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, Saima Anwar Senior Education Advisor, Baela Raza Jamil (Idara-e-Taleem o Agahi), Abigail Barnett (Cambridge International Assessment), representatives of provinces, World Bank, FCDO, UNICEF, USAID, International donors & policy makers, educationists etc. The other notable speakers included Mark Hubert (British Council), Meredith McCormac (RTI), Toby Linden (World Bank Group), Mohiyuddin Wani (Chief Secretary-GB), representatives of provinces, educationists, policymakers, etc. Innovative approaches were explored through interactive stalls by the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), PTCL, National Book Foundation (NBF), and Robotmea, fostering engagement and learning. These stalls provided the visitors an opportunity to see the novel methodologies and ideas in early childhood education and foundational learning. Overall, Pakistan Learning Conference shed light on key issues being faced in childhood education by uniting renowned speakers and visionaries. Emphasizing innovation and enhanced practices, this event is sparking insightful discussions, fostering idea exchange, and facilitating collaborative efforts to advance education in Pakistan. Mr. Kashif Mirza President All Pakistan Private Schools Federation emphasized sharing knowledge and experience during the conference and pushing hard for these goals. He further said that through this event Pakistan could come closer to the vision of an educated, confident Pakistani youth, supported from the moment they are born, and equipped with the foundational learning to achieve their dreams. The APPSF President highlighted that a country’s future was reliant on the extent to which creativity and innovation were integrated into the classroom and laboratory. He also emphasized the importance of fostering observational skills and critical thinking abilities in children. Kashif Mirza stressed that Pakistan needs more than 200,000 schools and 25 million teachers by 2025 to cater to over 25 million currently out-of-school children (OOSC). The Millions of children in flood-hit Pakistan are in dire need of help, school education is at risk for millions of students. Before the closing session, Gailius Draugelis (World Bank Group), Jo Moir (FCDO), and Salman Naveed Khan (PAMS) spoke about the next steps and conference reflections. Their collective emphasis highlighted the importance of working together to address issues with regard to ECE and foundational learning. They stressed adopting the recommendations that were devised during the conference and incorporating them into approaches at the national scale for taking meaningful strides towards ECE. Jo Moir said that Foundational learning could keep children in school and put them on different learning.
The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training under the leadership of its Secretary of Education Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary aligned all its programs to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-4). The Government of Pakistan has formulated the first-ever National Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy 2015, which aims to cater to the needs of our industrial sector by adding value to human capital through imparting requisite training and skills. To ensure minimum National Standards in education, National Curriculum Council (NCC) has been formed with membership from all provinces. The initiatives of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training surely will improve the state of Education in the Country and will ensure holistic development and economic growth. It is indeed the primary responsibility of any civilized nation to provide its children with a balanced and well-rounded education, develop them to their full potential, and nurture them into good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities to family, society, and country. This right of the citizens of Pakistan is protected under Article 25-A of the constitution. After the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the MoFE&PT is directly responsible for the provision of education services only to the extent of Islamabad Capital Territory. However, the Ministry is playing its role of coordination among the federating units. The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ Conference has been very actively playing its role in this regard. This fact was amply demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the MoFE&PT played a leadership role and spearheaded the response. Within a fortnight Tele-school and other interventions were launched in order to mitigate the learning losses suffered due to prolonged school closures. No doubt, The Ministry is aggressively working to end the education apartheid which has plagued our country for many years. This can only be achieved if we raise the quality of education in the public sector institutions as well as those private institutions which cater to the disadvantaged section of our society. The development of the Single National Curriculum is a major pillar of this strategy. Other initiatives include the introduction of Ed Tech and the latest interventions in schools located in ICT, which would be a replicable model for the Provinces and Area Governments. Now, It is high time that we re-shape our education service delivery and structure all initiatives that allow our learners to compete and thrive in the face of new realities. Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training (MoFE&PT) along with all its associated entities, provincial education and training departments, is striving to develop and implement effective educational plans and strategies for rectifying learning losses, and sustainable student retention mechanisms to ensure no child is left behind. A few of the recent flagship initiatives include: Re-envisioning the ‘Pakistan Education Policy 2021’; Developing a ‘Single National Curriculum’ so that all children have fair and equal opportunity to receive a high-quality education; Introducing reforms in educational assessments by creating Relative Grading System at the Federal Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education along with modernizing the examination processing systems through digital technologies. Reorganization of key departments of ‘The Higher Education Commission to support further integrated and effective planning, promoting research and online education; Launching ‘Hunarmand Pakistan’ under the ‘Prime Minister’s Kamyab Jawan National Youth Development Programme’; fostering skills education in the country to reduce the skill gap and unemployment; and Setting up of Pakistan Institute of Education, as a premier institution which would function as a think tank for future policy-making and evidence-based decision making. Education is the basic right of every child and a very important aspect of the progress of any nation. In the modern era, no nation can survive without quality education. Human Resource Development is the central pillar of government policy, and education plays a fundamental role in the formation of human social capital.
A fund of Rs 25 billion had been established specifically for Out of School Children (OOSC), a significant portion should be allocated for Early Childhood Education (ECE).
All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF), the only largest representative Federation for All Pakistan private schools included Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Baluchistan, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir with more than 300 registered Associations; 207,000 private schools; 15,00,000 teachers and 26.9 million students presented Education Recommendations for Budget 2023-24. APPSF recommended to Federal & Provincial governments allocate and spend a minimum of 5% of GDP on education and research for schools and the higher education sector in the new budget keeping in view the effects of COVID-19, the pandemic, recent devastated floods, and high inflation rate. That 25 percent of the education budget should go to higher education and the rest 75 percent be spent on schools, colleges, and technical education. APPSF further recommended Government should announce tax amnesty and the exemption for 5 years for investing in the education sector so that 200,000 new schools, colleges, universities, and technical and vocational institutes can be established. Unless steered with a purpose, the rapid advance of science and technology may widen inequities, exacerbate social fragmentation and accelerate resource depletion. The federal and provincial governments should include a separate statement with the budgetary documents, for the government policy for girls’ education; policy measures to be taken for improving girls’ education in terms of resource allocation and its effective utilization, a detailed break-down of the current and development budgets allocated for girls’ education, level-wise enrolment of girls in public schools and state of basic facilities in girls’ schools. Our efforts must be that no child should be out of school. No child must be deprived of education due to poverty or any other reason. An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. I congratulate Federal Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, and especially the Secretary of Education Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary, that the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training under their leadership aligned all its programs to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-4). It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it, so I can say that education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world. We should treat education as an honor and not as a burden.