Islamabad - Investing in young children is one of the smartest investments that developing countries can make. In this regard the role of private sector, especially in provision of quality early childhood education and care, is crucial and the government endorses and recognises this role.

These views were expressed by Engr Baligh-ur-Rehman, Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training, at the opening of a 3-day training workshop on ‘Concepts and Methodology of Early Childhood Education for Low Cost Private Schools of Islamabad Capital Territory’ organised by Parwaan E9 ECED Centre of Excellence in collaboration with the Ministry for Federal Education and Professional Training, and Private School Network on Wednesday.

He said that in developing countries, nearly 40 per cent of all younger than five are stunted or living in poverty. “These children are more likely to demonstrate lower academic achievements and exhibit poorer cognitive ability. These multi-risk factors can lead to poor physical, socio-emotional and cognitive development and set children on a path of lower achievements.”

The minister lamented that 200 million children under 5 years of age in developing countries are not meeting their development potential due to absolute poverty and malnutrition. Pakistan accounts for 8 million of these children and sadly loss of human potential is associated with 20% deficit in future earning potential.

In Pakistan, over 6.5 million children are not enrolled in primary education, in other words 3 out of 10 primary age children are not enrolled in school. Dropout is highest in grade 5 indicating that many children do not transition to lower secondary education and don’t complete basic education. “We are mindful that these children need to be provided best services that will provide strong and lifelong foundation to be productive citizens of Pakistan.”

With this vision and commitment, the federal ministry of technical education launched Parwaan, E9, Centre of Excellence, for early childhood education and care, said the minister. This centre housed at Academy for Education Planning and Development serves as a platform for all four provinces as well as Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK and FATA.

It would serve as a platform for all stakeholders – government and private sector - and especially the low-cost private sector. “Moreover it would be a centre of coordination among provinces; provinces have already designated focal persons in their respective provinces to coordinate with us.”

Earlier Mehnaz Aziz, President Parwaan E9 ECED Centre of Excellence, in her welcome address said that there are no serious facilities and commitments for ages 0-5. Parwaan is a public private collaboration and guides the public sector and recognises and works with private sector.

There are approximately 70,000 registered low-cost private schools in Pakistan and they have not received support in capacity building and this is for the first time that such an activity is taking place for the private sector.