Lahore - The Punjab government has formally launched the E-learning programme which will usher in a new era of easy access to knowledge and learning in the province and enable millions of talented students to benefit from on-line sources of information and awareness.

Under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif this is yet another radical step for marching with pace of time which has enabled us to join the ranks of advanced nations.

This great stride towards the spread of education will definitely be instrumental in achieving the objective of an educated and enlightened nation and promoting education in a more interesting and easy to comprehend manner. E-Learn Punjab would provide a platform that has made learning more fun-filled and interactive. It will enable students to understand subjects in greater detail and would supplement course content with captivating audio-visual resources and educational games.

It will also provide opportunity for self-assessment, via online MCQs for spontaneous feedback, enabling our youth to shun rote-learning (ratta).

Internet is, undoubtedly, a successful vehicle for bringing together learners and educators. Presently there are more than 2.4 billion internet users worldwide.  Almost half of them are in Asia. Eight new people start using the Web every second and on average, 139,000 websites go live each day.

Online access to quality content, that was traditionally limited within the bounds of universities and libraries, is now available beyond time-zones and borders. Several countries are putting their entire K-12 curriculum online. According to some estimates, Asia has the highest growth rate for eLearning in the world. The Chinese government’s goal is to have their entire K-12 population of over 200 million students online by 2020. In South Korea, all primary and secondary schools will be totally digitized by 2015, and every child will have a personal learning device.

Despite limited resources and competing demands, Punjab has taken several steps to support the use of teaching and learning technologies in the province.

As many as 4,280 IT labs have been set up in schools across the province and qualified IT teachers have been hired at school level. Distribution of 210,000 laptops computers to talented students has been ensured during the past two years.

The Punjab government has also initiated a plan to introduce interactive text books and reference material for the over two million students who take matriculation exams each year.

The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) must be commended for making available this important and time-relevant platform for the children of Pakistan.  Online versions of the matriculation level textbooks that have been made available as a first-step, contain almost 2000 pages of digitized content, with over 4,000 supplementary resources in English and Urdu.

The Punjab Government has taken a number of other steps as well for promoting education. It has setup several focused entities to support and monitor enrollment and teaching at its vast network of almost 60,000 schools across the Province.

The School Education Department and entities, such as Punjab Education Foundation (PEF), Punjab Education Endowment Fund (PEEF), Punjab Examination Commission (PEC), Directorate of Staff Development (DSD), and PMIU, work closely with these schools to monitor and improve enrollment, as well as quality of teaching and learning.  

In a short span of just about two years, Punjab has successfully enrolled an additional 1.5 million children in schools, via its comprehensive School Reform Program. Daily student attendance is now over 90% and 81,000 school teachers have been hired on merit.

Teacher guides, with lesson plans for each day, in the basic subjects, have been distributed to all 60,000 government schools, while almost 200,000 primary teachers have been trained to use them. The percentage of schools visited each month by administrators has increased from 22 percent to 97 percent. This is, indeed, just the beginning of a long journey towards an educated Punjab. With a deep sense of urgency, we must continue to take innovative and purposeful steps to help our youth build a better Pakistan.–The writer is Punjab DGPR