islamabad - Members of the civil society, academia, government functionaries, and political party representatives, who banded together to demand free and quality education, advocate reforms called for making education an electoral priority and give greater media coverage to matters related to education in Pakistan.

A one-day national conference on education reforms took place in the capital on Tuesday. The conference aimed to unpack various issues effecting education in Pakistan on Tuesday. The conference was organised by the Pakistan Coalition for Education in collaboration with Ilm Ideas and the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services and featured multiple panel discussions taking into account various stakeholders perspectives on education. At the conference, government functionaries touched upon the Provincial Education Sector Plans, highlighting the work their governments were doing towards ensuring educational attainment. “While we are aware of the budget deficit, we are working hard to bring all children in school and ensure they receive access to quality education,” Idrees Azam from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elementary Department was quoted as saying. At the conference, a report was also launched which unpacked the legislative aspects of the Right to Education bills across the nation.

The Right to Education, which was added to the Constitution of Pakistan as part of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010, obligates the state to provide “free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law” but has not yet been implemented in any of the major provinces or territories of Pakistan. “25 million children are out of school. It is time we ask ourselves which way we are headed,” Faisal Bari was quoted as saying on a panel featuring prominent civil society experts. “It is time to work towards ensuring greater media coverage of matters related to education in Pakistan. “This would be the most important reform,” argued Amir Jahangir, CEO of Mishal and served as the CEO of CNBC Pakistan.

Political parties were also present at the conference and participated in a panel which called for making education an electoral priority. The party representatives signed a resolution, urging all education stakeholders to push for education reforms in Pakistan. The representatives included Jan Muhammad Khan Achakzai, Nafeesa Inayatyllah Khattak, Aasiya Nasir, Meraj Humayun Khan, Engineer Qamar Ul Islam Raja, among others – who represented various political parties. The political party representatives unpacked various issues in their constituencies and elaborated upon the parts of their party manifestos that deal with education, as well as highlighted achievements in education done by their parties.

At the end of the conference, a joint declaration to implement Article 25-A was signed by parliamentarians representing Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Muslim league (PML) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Article 25-A was added to the Constitution of Pakistan as part of the 18th Amendment in 2010, and obligates the states to “provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years, in such a manner as may be determined by law”. However, the amendment also devolved power to legislate on education issues to the provinces, and thus far, no province or territory has fully implemented the Right to Education Bill.