Aug 22 - 28, 2011

The total size of the information technology sector is estimated at about US$2.8 billion in the country, which can reach to US$5 billion within one year, provided payment gateway facilities are available in Pakistan.

IT sector has made much progress during the last few years but still a lot of room exists for making further advancement.

The Punjab government has taken various measures for the promotion of information technology by equipping the youth with the modern knowledge.

The setting up of IT labs in more than 4000 schools of the Punjab province is expected to prove a milestone in the uplift of education sector while an information technology park (ITP) for promoting IT activities has been planned.

This IT Park would be a hub of IT activities while private sector would be offered all out facilities regarding establishment of the park.

Official sources in the Punjab government told PAGE that IT labs project in 4286 schools of the province has been completed at a cost of Rs5 billion. More than 3.4 million students would benefit from this project annually.

The PML-N led Punjab government is attaching top priority to education sector and apart from other initiatives it is going to distribute 100,000 laptops among the high achievers and like IT labs. This program of will hopefully leave a far-reaching impact on education sector and provide an opportunity to the students to benefit from the latest technology in their academic pursuits and research.

According to the sources, the project of setting up IT labs in more than 4000 schools of the province was completed transparently in a record period and now millions of boy and girl students from Attock to Rahim Yar Khan are benefiting from modern technology and gaining latest information about the changing world scenario and new inventions.

The Punjab Educational Endowment Fund has been set up first time in the country's history to help those talented students who are facing financial problems in continuing their academic activities. Scholarships are given from the fund not only to the students of Punjab but also of other provinces.

The sources claimed that the Punjab government is also taking solid measures for the elimination of poverty and unemployment from the province, and attention is also paid to the promotion of vocational education and development of livestock sector.

The projects like Aashiyana Housing Project, Daanish Schools, Punjab Educational Endowment Fund, and Mobile Health Units are revolutionary programs of Punjab government from which poor people are benefiting.

It may be recalled that the Punjab government has allocated Rs36.9 billion development budget for the education sector for the financial year 2011-12 raising it by only 6.034 per cent against the financial year 2010-11 development allocation of Rs34.8 billion.

The development budget includes Rs11 billion for special development initiatives - Rs3 billion for Daanish School System, Rs6 billion for Punjab Education Foundation, and Rs2 billion each for Punjab Education Endowment Fund and Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Tevta).

Overall, the Punjab government has allocated Rs63.9 billion for development and non-development expenditures in fiscal 2011-12, which is 15.76 per cent higher than the allocation of Rs55.2 billion in 2010-11. For mainstream education development, the government allocated Rs23.9 billion - Rs14.5 billion for school education, Rs6.5 billion for higher education, Rs1.6 billion for sports, Rs500 million for special education and Rs800 million for literacy.

Up to Rs1.5 billion will be spent on new women universities in Sialkot, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur and Multan as well as a new Ghazi University in Dera Ghazi Khan. For women's development schemes, the government allocated Rs6.949 billion for school education, Rs3.178 billion higher education, Rs218 million special education, Rs370 million literacy and Rs400 million for sports.

The Punjab will spend Rs2 billion on the provision of 100,000 laptops to the position holders of different examinations besides cash prizes and foreign educational trips.

SCHOOLS: Up to Rs1 billion has been allocated in budget 2011-12 for provision of quality science equipment to 1,000 higher secondary schools having highest enrolment in the first phase.

Up to Rs450 million was allocated for 515 IT labs in elementary schools and Rs1 billion to convert 1,000 high schools into model schools.

Under the Punjab Daanish School System and Centres of Excellence, the government plans to set up 15 Daanish Schools and conversion of 72 existing schools into centers of excellence. In Phase-I, three schools have been established in Rahim Yar Khan, Hasilpur and Chishtian, while three schools were under construction in Dera Ghazi Khan, Piplan (Mianwali) and Jand (Attock) with an allocated cost of Rs3 billion.

However, of other 61,000 schools in the province, the Punjab government has shown least concerns and only 1,500 schools will be provided facilities at the cost of Rs3 billion. It will also upgrade 400 schools to next level. Up to Rs540 million will be spent on the reconstruction of dangerous school buildings. The government will provide Rs2.2 billion free textbook to public school students and Rs1 billion stipend to girl students up to matriculation.

HIGHER EDUCATION: The government has allocated Rs1.46 billion to provide missing facilities to colleges, and Rs100 million to improve physical infrastructure of colleges under the Punjab education sector reforms program. The Punjab higher education department plans to introduce a four-year bachelor's degree program in public colleges across the province in line with the program launched in 26 colleges in 12 districts of Punjab.

The government plans to provide postgraduate facility to all colleges at district headquarters and for immediate execution, the government has identified three sites: Government Islamia College for Boys and Girls, Narowal; Government Degree College for Boys, Rajanpur; and Government Degree College for Boys, Lodhran.

A sum of Rs30 million will be spent on provision of computer labs in all colleges in the province.

The Punjab government has also demarcated land (worth Rs4 billion) for the setting of Knowledge City in Rakh Dera, Chahal. Following devolution of the Education Ministry in the wake of 18th Amendment, the Punjab will also implement the setting up of cadet colleges in Pasrur, Chua Saiden Shah and Essa Khel.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: In order to create a conducive learning environment for the students with special needs, the government has allocated Rs500 million. Of the amount, Rs35 million will be spent on establishment and strengthening of computer labs in 37 institutions of special education in the province. The Punjab government will also complete execution of four devolved projects coming under its jurisdiction after the 18th amendment with an allocation of Rs25.7 million.

LITERACY AND NON-FORMAL BASIC EDUCATION: The Punjab government has allocated Rs800 million to provide yet another opportunity for out-of-school population to return to education. The major literacy projects, including campaign for enhancement of literacy in four districts include literacy program in adult literacy centers (ALCs) and non-formal basic education (NFBE) schools in 31 districts; Punjab literacy and livelihood program; establishment of 300 ALCs and 200 NFBE schools at brick kilns; and non-formal education promotion project with JICA.

If these projects move ahead as planned it is expected that their completion will yield positive results in education sector and bring positive change in the country.