The writer is an
analyst and the
President of All
Education is the basic right of every child and a very important aspect for 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. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MoFEPT) has aligned all its programs to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-4). The Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub is an initiative of the MoFEPT tasked to drive systemic improvements in foundational learning in Pakistan and launched the Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub. The Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub has been set up with the generous support of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office and the World Bank. The Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub will become a keystone in Pakistan’s Learning Movement, working with all partners to enable quality learning opportunities for all by providing evidence-based strategies and support to policymakers across Pakistan to make tangible improvements in foundational learning. The launch was attended by the Federal Minister of Education, Madad Ali Sindhi, Federal Secretary of Education Waseem Ajmal Chaudhry, UK High Commissioner Jane Marriott, and a range of key educational leaders, including provincial Ministers and Secretaries of education, civil society, and development partners. Foundational learning is the right of all children. No doubt, Federal Secretary of Education, Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhry is committed to ensuring that all children will enjoy their right to a quality education, and under his leadership, the Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub, within the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training will achieve this mission. , Mr. Madad Ali Sindhi, Federal Minister of Education, is also committed to The Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub and will be a key contribution to this effort, working with all provinces and key partners to drive learning improvements across the country. British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ms. Jane Marriott ensured her commitment to this initiative of the federal ministry, and the British High Commissioner presented a Letter of Support to the Federal Minister in establishing the PFLHUB. The UK is proud to support the Foundational Learning Hub, helping children with basic literacy skills which we know makes them more likely to stay in education. On the other side in a message, the President of All Pakistan Private Schools Federation Mr. Kashif Mirza appreciated the launch of PFL HUB and showed his expectation for the betterment of the quality of education in across the country, and assured, that APPSF is running the STEAM Pakistan program and will support Ministry’s initiatives to mainstream learning especially ensuring that each STEAM partner school commit to additional learning hours and support to provide technical resources to the private schools and Government to deliver on Education goals, especially for girls education. Mr. Kashif Mirza further assured that APPSF will assist with technical assistance to the Hub to support the provinces to deliver and keep track of their commitments to Foundational Learning.
It has been over a decade since the state made a promise to every child between the ages of five and 16 years of free and compulsory education. The compulsory range of school-going age is stipulated as five to 16 years under Article 25-A of the Constitution. However, Pakistan is facing a serious challenge to ensure all children, particularly the most disadvantaged, attend, stay, and learn in school. With an increasing population and a burgeoning youth cohort, Pakistan now has more than 75 million children between five and 16 years old. Currently, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 25 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 35 percent of the total population in this age group. Of these, the public schooling system only caters to 24 million and the private schooling system caters to 26 million, with over 25 million currently out-of-school-children (OOSC). Pakistan is facing a serious challenge to ensure all children, particularly the most disadvantaged, attend, stay, and learn in school. While the percentage varies, this age-specific statistic provides an insight into what is needed to ensure that the over 50 percent of five-year-olds who are not enrolled, or the 48 percent of 16-year-olds who have dropped out or never enrolled, are provided an appropriate educational platform. Almost 3.8 million children, with 2.5 million between 14 and 16 years, enrolled in an educational institution but dropped out. While enrollment and retention rates are improving, progress has been slow to improve education indicators in Pakistan. In the 5-9 age group, 5 million children are not enrolled in schools and after primary school age, the number of OOSC doubles, with 11.4 million adolescents between the ages of 10-14 not receiving formal education. Disparities based on gender, socio-economic status, and geography are significant; in Sindh, 52 percent of the poorest children (58 percent girls) are out of school, and in Balochistan, 78 percent of girls are out of school. Nearly 10.7 million boys and 8.6 million girls are enrolled at the primary level and this drops to 3.6 million boys and 2.8 million girls at the lower secondary level. Gaps in service provision at all education levels is a major constraint to education access. Socio-cultural demand-side barriers combined with economic factors and supply-related issues, hamper access and retention of certain marginalized groups, in particular adolescent girls. Putting in place a credible data system and monitoring measures to track retention and prevent drop-out of out-of-school children is still a challenge.
At the systems level, inadequate financing, limited enforcement of policy commitments, and challenges in equitable implementation impede reaching the most disadvantaged. A discouraging decrease in recent education budgets has been observed in the total GDP, which is already well short of the 4 percent target. In order to accelerate progress and ensure the equitable expansion of quality education, the Government of Pakistan should make more efforts to significantly reduce the number of OOSCs at pre-primary, primary, and lower secondary levels. Pakistan’s education program should focus on Early Childhood Education (ECE) to improve school readiness; expand equitable and quality alternative learning pathways (ALP) at basic education levels; and nurture school-community linkages to increase on-time enrolment, reduce drop-outs, and ensure completion and transition for all students. At systems levels, we should contribute more equity-focused provincial sector planning and budgeting; strengthening data and assessment systems; and evidence-based policy advocacy. Investment in quality early learning and pre-primary education is important so that young children are ready for school has high positive impacts on primary school enrolment, survival, and learning, and is cost-effective. Given the limited reach and inequities in the provision of pre-primary education, Pakistan is increasingly recognizing early learning as a policy priority, and several provinces have already developed ECCE policies, plans, and standards. While several models exist for ALPs, these are still scattered and limited in scale. Pakistan must address the issue of OOSC through studies, supporting provincial sector plan development, development or review of non-formal education policy, and direct program implementation. Socio-cultural demand-side barriers combined with economic factors drive education deprivation for certain groups of children in Pakistan, particularly girls. These barriers are further exacerbated by a lack of parental awareness of early learning, the importance of on-time enrolment, and the lack of social protection schemes. However, there is ample room for improvement in large-scale enrolment campaigns during the early years. Like other provinces, the age group of nine and above are vulnerable to dropouts. Enrolment drives targeting younger OOSC should be complemented with strategies to improve retention towards the end and beyond the primary school level. The necessary steps to address the situation include radical improvements in early years enrolments and first-time enrolments for fast-track programs for children between the ages of 10-16. Building on these the subsequent approach should be to target at-risk students in higher age groups to improve retention.
It is high time that we must re-shape our education service delivery and structure all initiatives that allow our learners to compete and thrive in the face of new realities. 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.
There is a hope that under the leadership of its Secretary Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhry the Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub will become a keystone in Pakistan’s Learning Movement, working with all partners to enable quality learning opportunities for all by providing evidence-based strategies and support to policymakers across Pakistan to make tangible improvements to foundational learning. The Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub will establish a sustainable mechanism through which federal and provincial ministries are measurably improving foundational learning as a national priority. 3 out of 4 children in Pakistan cannot read a simple sentence by the age of 10. Learning poverty is counted at almost 79% in Pakistan, and it can only be fixed through a stronger foundational learning movement in the country. The MoFEPT is committed to tackling the learning crisis in the country by launching the ‘Pakistan Foundational Learning Hub’ – a dedicated unit to drive improvements in foundational literacy and numeracy together with all the federating units. The Hub is initially supported by the FCDO and the World Bank. It will endeavor to provide quality learning opportunities to marginalized sections of society, particularly girls. Partnerships with UKaid, the World Bank, and Government of Pakistan, the Provincial Govts, All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF), and civil society part underscore the collaborative effort towards this critical goal, and together committed to reshaping the future of education in Pakistan. Evidence-based strategies and support will empower policymakers across Pakistan, enabling tangible improvements to foundational learning. This initiative addresses a national priority, bridging gaps and ensuring a brighter future for our children. The PFLH establishes a sustainable mechanism for federal and provincial ministries to measurably enhance foundational learning. This is a game-changer, solidifying education as a top-tier national focus. Under the leadership of Federal Secretary of Education, Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhry the 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, sustainable student retention mechanisms to ensure no child is left behind. Developing Pakistan as a progressive and prosperous country by providing all citizens a fair and equal opportunity to receive quality education and skills to achieve optimum potential, to develop human resources by ensuring equal access and educational excellence across Pakistan. 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. 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. It is high time that we must reshape our education service delivery and structure all initiatives that allow our learners to compete and thrive in the face of new realities.