PUNJAB REVOLUTIONISES EDUCATION SECTOR

KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Feb 22 - 28, 2010

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led Punjab government under the sagacious leadership of chief minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has laid foundation of a revolution in education sector through various revolutionary measures including setting up of computer labs in more than 4000 schools of the province.

Over 3.4 million students across the province will benefit from computer lab project annually and gain latest knowledge for playing their due role in national development. The policies initiated by the Punjab government in education sector need to be followed by other provinces. The chief minister Punjab is showing personal interest to improve education standard, which is a commendable.

The Punjab government has also set up Punjab educational endowment fund for the first time in the history of the country to provide scholarships to poor and talented students to enable them continue their studies. Now, no talented student will have to abandon studies due to financial constraints in future. Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) is providing quality educational facilities to as many as 0.8 million poor students in the different districts of the province.

Further, the PEF has provided on job training to as many as 80,000 teachers of 13,000 public and private sector schools of various districts under Continuous Professional Development Program (CPDP) for the enhancement of content knowledge delivery in most effective and efficient way. The initiative has been taken by PEF for the development and capacity building of PEF-Partner School Teachers to ensure quality education by strengthening their pedagogical skills. Under the CPDP initiative, capacity building of head teachers/principals of low cost schools is made for catering to the needs of marginalized segments of the society. Under this program, two days training in administration, management & leadership, child psychology, assessment & teaching techniques is arranged by the PEF. Besides this, PEF has also decided to provide five PCs along with UPS and a printer to each of the partner schools, he added. It will help to provide free I.T education to students who otherwise have no access to computer learning. PEF is already imparting free education to as many as 800,000 students in the province.

The government has also promoted good governance and merit in the province and 37 thousand educators in education department have been recruited purely on merit in a transparent manner. The project of 'Danish School System' of the Punjab government, is also a revolutionary step that will herald quality education for the children of poor families who otherwise cannot afford this facility of their own.

The Punjab government is regularly awarding cash prizes to position holders of different boards. The talented students are also being sent abroad for higher studies. Punjab education foundation is like an educational motorway, where innovative ideas help in nation building as no nation can progress and prosper without a vibrant educational system commensurate with the changing needs to develop future leaders capable of leading the country well.

According to chief minister's taskforce chairman for elementary education, Raja Muhammad Anwar, the Punjab government is giving top priority to the encouragement of excellence in school education while elementary education is the foundation on which the whole edifice of the society rests. In this regard, plenteous amounts have been provided to different educational projects, in different areas, to ensure quality schooling for the deprived students. Younger generation is the pride of the country, as they are main driving force and the future leaders. He said that educational policies of the provincial government have stimulated positive changes in the educational system.

About PEF, Raja Muhammad Anwar said it has launched phase-6 of foundation assisted schools (FAS) program in ten new districts for promoting quality education among the poor segments of the society. A total of 1337 PEF-Partner schools are already imparting quality education, under the FAS program, in remote and less developed areas of the province. It has helped open the door of education for the out of school and child labourers of slum areas.

"PEF has taken on this mission with full zeal by opening the door of education for the poor students at their doorsteps and this is the largest of the altruistic achievements of the Punjab government as PEF is providing free education in 29 different districts," he said.

Raja Muhammad Anwar said FAS program has been launched in Rahim Yar Khan, Pakpattan, Okara, Sargodha, Attock, D.G Khan, Jhelum, Mandi Bahauddin, Layyah and Rawalpindi districts to enable the poor students of these areas to equally gain from the agenda of providing quality education without any cost.

Raja Anwar said that Rs. 350 per student for elementary classes and Rs. 400 per student for secondary classes are provided under the program. Now, no indigent child will be deprived of education as the government is ensuring that each child gets quality education, he added. Further, he said the PEF planned to provide free education to 2.62 million destitute students through 5544 PEF-Partner schools in Punjab under the FAS program to ward off ignorance and to open doors of education for the children of unprivileged strata. "PEF has already spent Rs. 5 billion during the current financial year for the purpose," he added.

Raja Muhammad Anwar further said that besides providing free education, PEF is also building capacity of low cost private sector school teachers & administrators at their door steps and help them improve pedagogical skills, content knowledge & school improvement plans. He disclosed that PEF planned to provide five PCs per school working in public-private partnership with the foundation.

"This initiative is important to provide awareness about IT and its use in the educational institutes will bridge the digital divide in the society," he added.

According to the Punjab minister for education, Mian Mujtaba Shuja ur Rehman, solid measures have been taken for the promotion of quality education in the province and standard of Danish schools initiated from Southern Punjab will be at par with the most prestigious educational institutions of the country.

He said that this project will help polish the talent of the student of backward areas to enable them play their role in national development. He said that the project of setting up of IT Labs in more than 4000 schools of the province has helped students gain latest information about the global situation. He said that process of awarding scholarships to students studying at LUMS, who are facing financial problems, has also been started while scholarships would also be given to the students of NUST and FAST. He said that such projects are necessary for national development and progress.

In another revolutionary step, all schools in Punjab under school education department have been converted from Urdu to English medium from the next academic year.

The decision of the Punjab government is a wise step to compete with the globalized world, educationists believe. With a view to enabling the teachers to teach English medium books, all the headmasters/headmistresses and senior teachers have been designated "master trainers" and have already undergone six day training course in spoken English. They will train the other teachers in 12-day courses as master trainer.

Giving the details of conversion of government schools to English medium, sources in Punjab Education Department told Page that government had already approved in the curriculum-2006 that the subjects of mathematics, science and social studies would be taught in English. In the first phase, some of primary, middle and high schools have been selected for teaching the above mentioned three subjects in English. From April 1, 2010, some more schools have been added in this programme and from April 1, 2011, all the schools will be converted into English medium schools.

According to them, training programme is aimed at improving the teaching skills of the teachers. The teachers have to pay nothing for this. On the other hand, the government has taken many steps for the welfare of teachers and has approved heavy package for the financial benefits of the teachers. Moreover, Punjab chief minister dedicated the newly constructed science building of the Forman Christian College University (FCCU) to the rector, Dr. Peter H. Armacost in a function in Lahore.

The chief minister said on the occasion that knowledge was such a valuable asset through which Almighty Allah has taught to His creature to respect humanity and lead life in a peaceful environment by understanding the stance of each other. He said that it is the responsibility of learned persons to play their role for introducing every civilization and society with these high values. American Consul General Carmella Conroy, President FC College Alumni Association, Ch. Ahmad Saeed, Chairman Board of Governors FCCU Jamshed Rehmatullah, Rector Dr. Peter H. Armacost, Vice Rector, Dr. C.J Dubash and Mission Director of USAID, Robert Wilson also spoke on the occasion. Bishop of Lahore, Dr. Alexander John Malik, Sayed Babar Ali, prominent lawyer Akram Sheikh besides former students, teachers and parents of students were also present on the occasion.

The chief minister while lauding the academic services of FCCU, announced an immediate allocation of grant of 50 million rupees for the proposed endowment fund of the university while an additional amount of Rs. 25 million would be released during next financial year. He informed that the Punjab government has already provided Rs. 250 million for the construction of new science building in FCCU. He said that there was never a greater need for imparting quality education to the people of Pakistan than there is today. He said that in a world that is agonizingly torn between adherents of progress through peace and those who are determined to wreck this dream by driving the world to violence and extremism, it is education that can truly instil the ingredients of co-existence and brotherhood among different and differing people of the world. He said that it is only through education and by imbibing and assimilating its glorious principles that we can still hope for guiding the conflicting opinions of world on a path of mutual understanding and respect of each other's appraisals and evaluations. He said this need was never more visible than today. He further said that the responsibility for carrying its message of hope and peace to the aspiring leaders of the country, and the world, rests more on the shoulders of the teachers and guides of today.

Earlier, Rector FC College University, Dr. Peter Armacost and Chairmen Board of Governors Ch. Ahmad Saeed, welcoming the education policy of Punjab government described setting up of educational endowment fund with four billion rupees as a revolutionary step. They expressed the hope that with a view to success of four years' tenure Baccalaureate Programme, coming up to American standard and launching of M. Phil programme in Public Affairs, Chemistry and Biochemistry in FC College University Lahore, outstanding students of FC College University will also benefit from Punjab educational endowment fund.

Director USAID Mission, Robert Wilson informed that his institution has given an assistance of five million dollars to FC College University for its different multipurpose projects while scholarships have also been given by USAID to 14000 intelligent students so far. He said that this process of assistance of FC College will be continued in future as well.