The Punjab government has decided in principle to phase out several of the previous government’s schooling initiatives, with the Daanish School system and the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) likely to be the first casualties of the reform road map.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to end the pet projects of former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in the education sector, who called the Daanish Schools the “Aitchisons for the poor”, a reference to Aitchison College Lahore, considered the most prestigious school for boys in the country. However, the project won’t end right away. As a first step, the Daanish School system will be barred from undertaking further expansion, while the upcoming budget would not have any development allocation for the Daanish School system.

Daanish Schools were mostly set up in the Southern parts of Punjab, where both literacy rates and access to government schools remains poor. Even the areas with a certain amount of government schools rank low in literacy. Daanish Schools aimed to correct this and were meant to give high-quality education in low literacy areas through a new set up that did not carry the red tape and baggage of government school systems. Daanish Schools were recently in news for other reasons as well. A student from a Daanish School in Rajanpur had secured the first position across Punjab matriculation examinations of 2018.

During his first press conference as minister the other day, Punjab School Education Minister Murad Raas was asked about the shutdown of Daanish Schools. The minister responded that no “school is currently being shutdown in Punjab”.

PEF To Get The Axe?

The other major project roll back would be that of PEF, as the government has decided that children enrolled in PEF partner schools would be shifted to government schools in major urban areas, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi.

The PEF is a body that partners with and finances small-scale private schools, who in turn provide free education to underprivileged children. The programme was initially meant to provide coverage of schools in areas where no government-run school was present. However, it was expanded later as a cheaper alternative to building more government schools.

Furthermore, the government is also looking into restructuring both the bodies – the Daanish School system and PEF. For the purpose, Murad Raas has been given a detailed briefing on the administrative structure and working of both the bodies by officials of the respective departments. The minister has also sought suggestions from the officials during the meeting.

Both initiatives of the previous government also faced their share of criticism from many circles. The Daanish Schools were dubbed an expensive venture where a lot of money was doled out by the government with very little returns. While the PEF was seen as an effort to completely privatize the public schooling setup in the province.

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