OSLO - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that despite challenges, Pakistan has been able to reduce the number of out of school children by six hundred thousand, literacy rate has gone up further by 2 per cent and net enrolment ratio has improved by four per cent.

He was addressing Oslo summit on Education for Development. The PM said education remains top priority of his government. He said the provinces are now spending even more than quarter of their annual budgets on education. The federal government too has also doubled its spending on education.

The PM said spending on education as a percentage of the GDP would be increased from two to four per cent in the tenure of the present government. He said their priority in education is to reduce dropout rate, improve quality of education and ensure good governance in education. It is also their priority to improve quality of teacher and provide technical and vocational training to students. The PM said, “We must unit to fight illiteracy and ignorance to make the world a better place for humanity.”

He said Pakistan in its quest for universal education during the last decade had braved numerous challenges including devastating earthquakes, floods, terrorism and displacement of refugees. He said Pakistan in a short time was able to establish schools for displaced people after floods and a massive earthquake. He said thousands of schools were wiped out during 2005 earthquake, whereas during the 2010 floods, about 9,088 schools were destroyed and 5,790 school buildings were used as shelters.

The PM said Pakistan had spent millions of rupees on the reconstruction of schools and added that more billions of rupees were required for the rehabilitation of displaced persons back to their home. He emphasised that children and youth caught in conflicts and humanitarian crisis must not be denied their right to education and said Pakistan continued to provide learning opportunities to Temporarily Displaced Persons during recent war against terrorism in tribal areas.

In Pakistan, he said the government was facilitating schooling in refugee camps and other displacement situations. He also referred to the 3.5 million refugees from Afghanistan and urged upon the international community to enhance humanitarian funding for education.

The PM called for giving purpose-oriented education to children and equipping youth with technical and vocational skills for jobs and businesses. He also stressed focus to be laid on teachers’ training, curriculum development and educational technologies. He said though education was now a provincial subject, but the federal government was acting as an influential catalyst to promote education in all parts of the country.

The PM said the provincial governments in Pakistan were now spending more on education.

Other panellists included Elias Bou Saab, Minister for Education of Lebanon; Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of International Development of Canada; Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid; Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF and Ms. Tove Wang, Secretary General of Save the Children Norway.