ISLAMABAD - Setting ambitious target of enrolling each and every child in the school by year 2018, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledges to divert more resources for achieving this end by gradually increasing allocation for this sector to 4 per cent of GDP.
Inaugurating the international conference titled ‘unfinished agenda in education; the way forward’ organised by Ministry of Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education, Premier Sharif expressed his commitment for achieving the target education for all (EFA) and millennium development goals (MDGs) by enhancing allocation for education sector in the upcoming budget.
The conference was also attended by Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Education Gordon Brown, CEO of Global Partnership for Education Alice Albright, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Governor KP Engineer Shaukatullah, Minister of State for Education Baligh-ur-Rehman, Cabinet members, UN officials and parliamentarians.
The prime minister said the government’s objective was to develop an educational system that was compatible with the requirements of a knowledge-based economy.
He stressed to focus on science and technology and modern skills in education system, besides calling for prioritisation of female education in education policy, effective participation of women in the decision-making process and to protect their respect and dignity.
He said, “For Pakistan, education was not merely a matter of priority, but, it is the future of Pakistan, which lies in its educated youth.”
“It has, in fact, become a national emergency. More than half of the country’s population is below 25 years of age. With proper education and training, this huge reservoir of human capital can offer us an edge in the race for growth and prosperity in the age of globalisation. Without education, this resource can turn into a burden,” Sharif said.
He said the primary concerns in education were low budgetary allocations for education, a very high number of out-of-school children, high dropout rates, gender disparity, low literacy rate and realising the MDGs and EFA targets.
He said despite education, being a provincial subject, there was a national consensus on the need for reform and modernisation of the country’s educational system to bring it at par with the national priorities and international standards.
He said the federal education ministry had recently launched a National Plan of Action in collaboration with the provincial governments providing a framework for accelerated progress towards achieving the MDGs.
“I believe that education was not an expense but an investment into the future. Rather, it is the best investment an individual, parent or nation can make,” he added.
The prime minister said he had directed the Planning Commission to give education top priority in the prospective plan known as Vision 2025.
He said the private sector too, was playing an increasingly important role in the field of education.
“Out of the 14.4 million primary stage enrolments, 4.8 million i.e. 34 per cent are enrolled in private sector schools. Private sector share is much higher at the lower middle and secondary levels,” he added.
Lauding the role of UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, religious institutions, delivery agents, and donors’ community, he invited all to join the government in its mission to educate and train Pakistan’s youth.
“I have no doubt that they can turn around all our challenges into opportunities. They also have the potential to contribute immensely and positively to world peace and prosperity,” he added.
Thanking Gordon Brown for helping Pakistan devise and implement its short and long-term strategies in the field of education, the prime minister said the conference would provide a unique opportunity to develop effective coordination mechanisms to generate powerful synergies for accelerated progress in achieving the targets, including the MDGs.
Sharing his views on successful democratic transition in Pakistan, the prime minister dreamed a Pakistan where every citizen gets educated in the real sense and thereby contributes to the development of the country.
Addressing the conference, Gordon Brown lauded the performance and commitment of the government to meet literacy targets by doubling the education budget, and unveiling a national action plan.
He said the passage of pre-requisite laws by the provincial assemblies was a good step and added that the international community also received and responded the government’s message showing its resolve to get every child in school by 2015.
He said Global Partnership for Education had committed $100 million, the USAID $140 million and the European community $100 million, besides support from Saudi Arabia, United Nations and other countries.
Brown asked the government to chalk out a plan to meet literacy target by 2015 and assured all-out support from international community. It should not be hampered due to lack of funds, he added.
He said the government should draw a timetable showing the world its achievements in education sector and he would persuade the international community to extend maximum possible support to accomplish the task.
Minister of State for Education Balighur Rehman said the government and international community were resolved to ensure enrolment of every child of school-going age.
An education atlas had been launched recently, which would help policymakers to set priorities to achieve the literacy targets.
Chief Executive Officer of Global Partnership for Education Alice Albright also addressed the conference.
Agencies add: Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Saturday said that international donors have pledged to provide Pakistan with about a billion dollars over the next three years to help it provide education to millions of out-of-school children.
Now a United Nations special envoy on global education, Brown said in Islamabad that the global community will partner with Pakistan in financing the biggest education expansion in the country’s history.
“The money has been pledged by number of international organisations and friendly countries,” he said while speaking at a press conference.
Brown says the goal is to provide education to more than 55 million people over ten years old who are illiterate in Pakistan.