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.