GOVT FOCUSING ON QUALITY EDUCATION
One of the key issues PTI promised to address in its election manifesto was the shambolic state of education in Pakistan. Shafqat Mahmood now handles a tough ministry that is vital to the future of Pakistan and its youth. Khadijha Tariq sat down with Mahmood to find out what change is in the offing.
Dr Shafqat Mehmood is a prominent political figure and currently holds two important portfolios, including the Ministry for Education and Professional Training and Ministry for National History and Literary Heritage, under the PTI led government. Born on February 19, 1950, Mehmood completed his early education from the Government College University and later got enrolled at the prestigious Harvard University and University of Southern California for graduate studies. He started his career by joining the bureaucracy in 1973 and served in various capacities. After quitting the civil service in 1990, Mehmood started his political career and joined Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). After resigning from this portfolio, he started writing columns for English-language newspaper, The News International and was a hard-core critic of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its chief Imran Khan. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, he quit PPP and joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in November 2011 and has been affiliated with this party till date. In an exclusive interview with Academia magazine the minister talked about the most pertinent and pressing issues in education sector. Following are excerpts of the interview
What was expected from PTI was revamping the system of education on a war footing. There has been a delay in announcing the education policy to ensure quality education for all. What are the hurdles and impediments?
Actually, this is not true because we have announced an education policy framework and that framework basically centres around four different aspects which include out-of-school children, single national curriculum, quality and skills development. But we have added a fifth dimension to it which is literacy and is now the centerpiece of the entire policy. The literacy rate is down to 58 percent
Our Education policy framework centres around four different aspects that include out-of-school children, single national curriculum, quality and skills development. But we have added a fifth dimension to it which is literacy and is now the centerpiece of the entire policy
so now we are in the midst of formulating a literacy policy in which we will put together all sorts of different mechanisms in order to push up the literacy rate. One of the things that we are considering is to make social work a compulsory subject. I would like to add that we are just considering it and it is not decided yet. We are proposing to make social work a compulsory subject after class 12 in colleges. Whether it is a medical college or a science college, or it is a government or private institute, we will make social work a mandatory subject. Every boy and girl who is studying would have to take classes of adult learning as a part of the social work course that he or she is supposed to complete. Students would be graded on it and hence it will work as an incentive for these students. So our target is to focus on adult literacy and for that we are planning to introduce social work, opening adult literacy centres and using technologies.
How do you intend to bring uniformity in the education system, as parallel systems are operational including Matriculation, Cambridge and Madrassa system?
This is precisely why single national curriculum is one of the major standpoints of our policy. I am planning to hold a meeting with all the stakeholders and we are going to talk about how we can create a single national curriculum. The idea of a single national curriculum does not mean that all the subjects would be taught similarly but there will be some core subjects which would be taught to all children through the same textbook which will have the same content. This is something that we are seriously considering.
After amendments in the constitution, education is now a provincial subject. Does your government intend to make it a federal subject again?
We are not thinking to change the constitution right now, but I am working very closely with the provincial governments. I will try that all our ideas should have support from them.
The idea is to work together for the cause of education as one united nation. Education is not a PTI issue or that of any political party, it is a pertinent national issue
Prime Minister Imran Khan has always emphasized on the importance of introducing reforms in the education sector. Considering the current financial crisis will you be able to increase the education budget?
We are in the process of formulating our plans. We should not just ask for money without any reason. What we need to do is to have the right plan and then ask for money. We are now in the process of finalizing our plans and we will In shaa Allah have money available.
What checks have you placed to ensure that the allocated budget for education is not embezzled or wasted in any way?
We have to employ safeguards, improve accountability, abide by PEPRA rules and if we follow them there will be no corruption. There is a saturation in the job market. Thousands of students who graduate are forced to work at underpaid jobs or are jobless after graduation. For instance, hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs while thousands of students are
At the moment, there are hundreds of PhD’s who have no jobs and that’s a real shame and it also means that something is seriously wrong with our planning
graduating in mass communication. What are the plans of your government to ensure the creation of new jobs, as promised by PTI in its manifesto? We are focusing on skill-based education which will have a very close link with the market. There is no use of doing a master’s or PhD if you can’t get a job. At the moment, there are hundreds of PhDs who have no jobs and that’s a real shame and it also means that something is seriously wrong with our planning. So we have to match our education with the job market and this is something that we are planning to do. Although the plans look promising and could prove beneficial for the education sector in Pakistan, the proof of the pudding will only be in its tasting. Here’s to hoping the PTI government gets the ingredients ready at the earliest and to the cooking part sooner.
Khadijha Tariq has a masters in mass communication and currently is a content editor for Academia Magazine. She has previously worked as a freelance academic writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @khadijhatariq.