Roundtable Discussion on Education Reforms and Inclusion in Pakistan
October 04, 2023
The Roundtable Discussion on Education Reforms and Inclusion in Pakistan convened on October 4th, 2023, was a significant event that brought together political leaders, policymakers, educators, activists, and experts. The event, a collaborative effort of the Society for Access to Quality Education (SAQE), Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA), the Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), and Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), aimed to shed light on the critical issues concerning education in Pakistan ahead of the 2024 general elections.
Chaired by Hon. Senator Farhatullah Babar, the discussion focused on the pressing issues facing Pakistan's education system. The meeting was marked by passionate and informative contributions from various participants, including Zehra Arshad, Executive Director, SAQE; Areebah Shahid, Executive Director, PYCA; Hon. Ms. Asiya Nasir, former MNA, JUI (F); Hon. Ms. Fawzia Arshad, Former MNA, PTI; Hon. Ms. Shahida Akhter Ali, former MNA, JUI (F); Hon. Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja, former SAPM and MNA, PML (N); Hon. Senator Sana Jamali, Convener, Senate Education Caucus; Mukhtar Ahmed, Executive Director, CPDI; Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research), PIPS; Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director, PIPS; Dr. Abdul Hameed Nayyar, a physicist and education expert; and Dr. Bashir, a psychologist.
Key Takeaways from the Meeting
The participants' perspectives and solutions proposed highlighted several critical issues in Pakistan's education system:
- Hon. Senator Farhatullah Babar emphasized the need to address the 22.8 million out-of-school children and advocated for improved teacher training, inclusive curriculum, and optimized resource allocation.
- Areebah Shahid, Executive Director of PYCA, focused on disability inclusion in education and underlined the need for inclusive leadership and teacher training.
- Hon. Ms. Fawzia Arshad discussed the Single National Curriculum, rural-urban education disparities, and the private sector's role. She advocated for bipartisan collaboration in addressing school dropout rates and improving education quality.
- Hon. Ms. Shaza Fatima Khawaja advocated for mainstreaming marginalized communities and promoting technical and vocational skills in education.
- Hon. Ms. Asiya Nasir of JUI (F) drew attention to the dire shortage of school buildings, emphasizing the critical need for infrastructure development. She advocated for comprehensive data systems to ensure accountability and transparency.
- Hon. Ms. Shahida Akhter Ali mentioned that their party's manifesto previously lacked elements related to persons with special abilities. She committed to including education for persons with special abilities in their party's Manifesto for the upcoming general elections.
- Hon. Ms. Sana Jamali convenor of the Senate Education Caucus emphasized the need for ownership and responsibility in addressing the Out of School crisis.
- Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed emphasized the need for increased budget allocation, efficient project completion, and a fair tax system.
- Dr. Abdul Hameed Nayyar raised concerns about the commercialization of education and advocated for teacher training, an inclusive curriculum, and the eradication of child labor.
- Dr Bashir highlighted the link between inclusion and teacher training. He also shared his valuable experience in curriculum development.
Charter of Demand
Zehra Arshad, Executive Director SAQE presented a comprehensive Charter of Demand that offers a strategic roadmap for revitalizing Pakistan's education sector. It addresses marginalized groups, educational infrastructure, resource allocation, and education delivery.
The discussion led to a consensus on key steps forward:
- Prioritizing education in political agendas for the 2024 general elections.
- Addressing the out-of-school crisis, improving teacher training, and making schools inclusive.
- Empowering local governments to enhance primary and secondary education.
- Implementing equitable resource allocation based on provincial spending.
- Ensuring inclusivity in curriculum development.
- Focusing on quality education improvements for all, particularly in rural areas.
- Strengthening the private sector's role in education.
- Establishing transparent poverty alleviation mechanisms.
The Roundtable Discussion provided a comprehensive perspective on challenges and potential solutions in Pakistan's education sector. The commitment of political parties to prioritize education in their manifestos for the 2024 general elections is a promising step toward meaningful reform. By addressing the identified challenges and implementing the recommended solutions, Pakistan can ensure every child receives a quality education, regardless of their background or abilities, paving the way for progress and prosperity.