Islamabad, October 04, 2023: Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) organized a roundtable along with the collaboration of Society for Access to Quality Education (SAQE), Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) and Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA). The roundtable was attended by more than 27 participants including six Members of Parliament (sitting Senators and former MNAs), researchers, academics and members from civil society. The MPs who attended the roundtable discussion were Hon. Senator Farhatullah Babar; Hon. Senator Sana Jamali, Convener Senate Education Caucus; Hon. Senator Ms. Fawzia Arshad; Hon. Ms Shahida Akhter Ali, former MNA; Hon. Ms. Asiya Nasir, former MNA; and Hon. Ms Shaza Fatima Khawaja, former SAPM and MNA.
The event started with the Tilawat Quran. Ms. Zehra Arshad, Executive Director SAQE, explained the agenda of the roundtable discussion. She highlighted the importance of inclusive education in Pakistan and requested the panelists to prioritize this very important subject in their election manifestos. She introduced the panelists to the audience. Mr. Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director PIPS, gave the welcoming remarks and stated the importance of inclusion of marginalized communities in the education sector.
Ms. Areebah Shahid, Executive Director PYCA, delivered a full-fledged presentation highlighting the challenges faced by children with disabilities in accessing quality education and recommended the strategies for promoting inclusive education and accommodating diverse learning needs. Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Executive Director CPDI, presented on the political economy of education in Pakistan. He gave an overview of the current state of education in Pakistan and analyzed the budget allocations and spending on education.
Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research) PIPS, moderated the session titled “Perspectives/Remarks by the Political Parties Representatives (Former and/or Present Honorable MPs) Parties. The key points of this session was to discuss the legal framework for education as a fundamental right in Pakistan and pitch the ideas, priorities and policies for education reforms in Pakistan. Honorable Ms. Shaza Fatima joined the discussion on Zoom call. She highlighted the important articles of Constitution of Pakistan ensuring free and compulsory education for all. She also mentioned achievements done by PML N government in the education sector. She recommended that regular schools should enroll transgender in order to ensure inclusivity and skill training, technical training and vocational training need to be mainstreamed. Honorable Senator Farhatullah Babar chaired the session. He highlighted the gaps in the teaching training and skill, which needs to be addressed and fill in and the quality of education should be improved. He highlighted that exclusivity of Non-Muslims is worse than exclusivity of other marginalized communities. He suggested that there should be equal distribution of finances on the basis of education provision. Honorable Ms. Shahida Akhter Ali also highlighted the problems in the education sector of Pakistan and gave set of recommendations to solve those issues. Honorable Ms. Fawzia Arshad highlighted the need of nationalism in Pakistan which can assure the continuity of education policies regardless of governmental changes. She also informed the participants about the policies taken up by PTI government regarding education. She suggested that there should be balanced and single curriculum and gap should be reduced in the urban and rural schools’ education system. Teachers training as well as teachers’ recruitment on merit were also stressed by her. Honorable Ms. Asiya Nasir said that the able children should be sensitized about the disable children and for that, they should be enrolled in the same regular institutes. She suggested that civic education and promotion of ethical values should be included in the curriculum and private sector institutes should be regularized. She also said that she will include many points of Charter of Demand in the party mandate for next elections. Honorable Ms. Sana Jamali suggested that Masjids should be used for educational purposes as they are empty from Fajar to Zuhr prayer and the house helps should be educated by the people who hire them.
“This roundtable comes at a time when education indicators in Pakistan are witnessing a recession. It is now up to Pakistan’s elected representatives across a spectrum of parliamentary parties to uphold the constitutional pledge of free and quality education for all, ensuring that 10% quota for students from downtrodden backgrounds are admitted to reputed private schools” said Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General Research at PIPS. He also reiterated the need to guarantee merit in inducting the best teachers who should be trained and conferred with respect in society to ensure inclusive schools open to minorities, students with special abilities and downtrodden communities.
The Chair of the Roundtable, Former Senator Farhatullah Babar stressed the need for a nationally owned political agenda for education, “In line with the spirit of Article 25-A of the Constitution, the political parties need to come together and develop a joint charter to combat the state of education emergency confronting Pakistan.” Reiterating this point, Senator Sana Jamali, Convenor of the Senate Education Caucus, said, “There is a need for joint political ownership and responsibility to address the issue of 25 million out-of-school children. A call to action to proactively tackle this critical educational challenge is urgently needed.” Lamenting the state of education in Pakistan former MNA Ms. Asiya Nasir of JUI-F candidly acknowledged, “Public representatives have fallen short in their duties to uplift Pakistan’s education system. We will play our role to ensure that JUI-F’s manifesto reflects the urgency of diverting 5% of the GDP for education.” Former MNA Shahida Akhtar, also representing JUI-F at the round table pledged to have the agenda of inclusive and disability-friendly education included in their party manifestoes.
Prof Dr. A.H. Nayyar and Dr. Bashir A. Shah gave recommendations in order to improve the quality of education, ensure inclusion of marginalized communities in education sector and pursuing better practices for understanding of democracy to the students. Ms. Zehra Arshad discussed and explained the Charter of Demand to the panelists and requested them to include such points in their election manifestos. While giving concluding remarks, Honorable Senator Farhatullah Babar stressed on having Charter of Education, where every party should join hands for the sake of betterment of education sector of the country. He took the vote of thanks. The event was ended with a group photo. Mr. Muhammad Anwar, Executive Director; Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research); Mr. Qaiser Iqbal, Director (Library); Ms. Fakiha Mahmood, Deputy Director (Research); Mr. Rizwan Manzoor, Assistant Director (Research), and Ms. Ayesha Tariq Khan, Assistant Director (Research) attended the roundtable from PIPS. The Director Gen (Research) Mr. Zaka presented vote of thanks for PIPS IT and Admin wings for support to team research while ED PIPS Mr. Muhammad Anwar eulogized the effort of PIPS Research wing comprising DG R Mr. Zaka, Mr. Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor and Ms. Ayesha Tariq, who took the minutes also.