ANUSHA RAMZI

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif is aware of the fact that education is a prime factor in economic and social well-being of any nation. It is a strategic tool in nation building through skill development and vision enhancement; and it also directly contributes towards economic growth. Hence, no aspect of life merits more urgent attention and greater investment of resources today than the eradication of illiteracy and improvement in the quality of education. Punjab Government, under the stewardship of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, has taken many steps for the promotion of education. In his previous stint as chief minister, he had started Punjab Education Reforms Roadmap. In the new education roadmap, the targets have been set for achievement up to 2018. Addressing a high level meeting on Saturday, Shahbaz Sharif said that Punjab Schools Reforms Roadmap should be fully adopted and implemented.

One has to agree with Shahbaz Sharif when he says that “promotion of education is of paramount importance for overcoming problems like terrorism, extremism, poverty and unemployment being faced by the country”. He reiterated that resources of billions of rupees were provided for the improvement of education sector, and will be provided in future as well. He stressed the need for making untiring efforts for achieving educational targets.

He directed the education minister and Schools Education Secretary to visit the districts, and take steps for further accelerating the pace of implementation on Punjab Schools Reforms Roadmap in the districts. Chief Minister rightly said that a coordinated and effective teachers’ training programme is of vital importance for capacity-building of teachers, which will be helpful in achieving educational targets even earlier than the timeframe set for 2018.

Educating the citizenry has not been the pursuit of inept governments in the past. And the worst hit was the schooling that in any educational pyramid makes up the base and so gets all the primacy and import in the education systems of advanced polities. The main reason why our mainstream is under such a grave assailment of extremism is arguably the raw deal that education got from the state.

 In fact, the nation is reaping the fruits of a folly. Had we been not so negligent of education, we would not have seen the spectre of extremism. When the state is so negligent about schooling, what more could you expect from it for keeping the polity as a predominantly moderate and tolerant entity? This is the reason that Punjab government has developed cost-effective model to raise the level of education across the massive schools network.  

Despite unprecedented increase in population, the ratio of students attending government primary schools declined. Surveys showed that the drop in enrolment ratio in government schools was due to substandard education, inadequate and untrained teachers and lack of other facilities. It is an established fact that investment in human capital reduces poverty. On the contrary, illiteracy and ill health are obvious impediments to progress and prosperity in a competitive global economy.

Today’s industrialised and developed countries had once invested in human capital to achieve the present status. In the West, it is the state that steps in proactively in establishing and running strong networks for children’s schooling. They too have elitist private schools for the privileged and the well-off. But it is the state-run schooling, catering primarily educational needs of the commoners’ children, that receives all the official focus, attention and patronage.

It has to be mentioned that about 80 per cent of British children go to state-run schools. The state provides schooling at all stages of education; however if parents desire, they can send their children to private schools. In the US, the states are responsible for education but most of the states transfer management of educational institutions to local districts. In eighteenth century, France started developing an education system under which all children attended schools, financed and regulated by the state. No wonder, it is today one of the most developed countries of the world. Germany and Japan having been destroyed in the Second World War, could quickly rebuild their countries only because of the fact that their earlier governments had laid solid foundation for a sound education system. Their education system had produced engineers, architects, professionals, managers and entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, schooling had remained an ignored orphan, and the Punjab government had taken many initiatives like establishment of Danish schools for the talented students, and also realised that all school going children should attend government-run schools by 2018 in Punjab, as poor and lower middle classes cannot afford to send their children in private schools.

 The main reason why our mainstream is under such a grave assailment of extremism is arguably the raw deal that education has got from the state in general. Shahbaz Sharif is resolved to provide education to each and every child of school-going age in Punjab.

During the meeting, Special representative of Department for International Development (UK), Sir Michael Barber said that under the leadership of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab Schools Reforms Roadmap is being implemented successfully.