LAHORE: - Breaking the taboos and taking a lead over other provinces, Punjab is in the process of opening transgender schools across the province. While three schools are already functional, one is going to open in Lahore next month. Punjab Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas has been the moving spirit behind this idea which is going to be materialized soon.
This week, The Nation spoke exclusively to the education minister about issues relating to school education.
Q:Why has our education not been upgraded according to global standards?
Answer: The simple answer to this question is that education was never taken seriously by our political elites since the creation of Pakistan. Specifically speaking, the progress in education was halted during the tenures of PML-N and PPP as they deliberately neglected this sector to keep masses illiterate so they remain ignorant of their constitutional rights.
Can you believe that even today floppy disks are being taught in our computer books which may not even exist in any home today. In order to keep pace with the development of the world, it is inevitable that modern world sciences and phenomena should have been taught to the children in our educational syllabus. Our educational syllabus should also have been upgraded according to the modern innovations of the world.
Just imagine, if our education system had been updated according to international standards in the last 20 years, our system would have been much better today. Unfortunately, our predecessors never took education as a tool of global success.
Q: Since taking office what new initiative have you taken up, and how do you plan to uplift the standard of education?
Answer: First of all, I am focusing on uplifting the teaching standards. If the teacher is good, then children can be taught even while sitting under the tree. When I took charge here, I realized that the focus of teachers was on maintaining good ACRs, getting postings of their choice and not on education. In order to keep teachers focused on educating the students, we took advantage of the technology and all the issues concerning them, such as transfer, retirement, pension, posting, ACRs have been made online so that they do not have to go anywhere.
Also, as many as 18 other initiatives have been taken in the last four years. In the coming few coming days, I am going to inaugurate a transgender school in Lahore. Three schools are already functional in Multan, Bahawalpur and DG Khan where transgenders get education in the second shift from 2 pm to 5 pm in the existing school buildings.
One of the greatest achievements of mine was the introduction and implementation of a single national curriculum across Punjab schools.
Q: Do you think digitalization in our education system can help in resolving numerous challenges our education has been and is facing today?
Answer: Yes indeed, so far we have introduced many important initiatives utilizing technology. With the help of digitalization, our department has been able to overcome the corruption of more than 10 billion rupees annually in the school education department. We have established our own data center which is fully functional today. We introduced an e-transfer system for the transfer of teachers thanks to which thousands of teachers have benefited till date. Moreover, alongwith the development of an online retirement certificate system, an online leave and ACR system for teachers has also been established.
Just recently we have launched the Insaf Academy, which will give access to thousands of students. This E-learning platform will help people belonging to different remote areas of the country to access modern educational content instead of traditional one as thousands of pre-recorded lectures are available on it and students can take evaluation tests as many times as they want.
Q: How are you planning to control the surging fees of private schools?
Answer: The summary to establish a regulatory authority to regulate matters related to private education has been approved by the provincial cabinet and sent to the chief minister for signatures.
The draft law will soon be presented in the Punjab Assembly for legislation. “Unfortunately, since 1984, the Private Schools Act has neither been reviewed and updated by previous governments nor has any legislation on the matter been enacted in the public interest. This authority will resolve all issues related to private schools including fees. The authority will listen to the complaints of the parents and take action accordingly.
Q: What’s the current status regarding the recruitment announcement of the 16000 educators in Punjab.
Answer: I am well aware of the fact that there’s a dire need of new educators in our education system. I would like to inform all those who are waiting that the summary regarding the recruitment of 16000 new educators has already been sent to the finance department. After sorting out the financial implications, it will be sent to the CM and the cabinet for approval.