ISLAMABAD - All parties agreed unanimously to increase the education budget to 5-7 per cent of GDP in next five years, introduce uniform education system in Pakistan, and increase capacity of teachers for improving education system in Pakistan as one of key party agenda during and after elections.

The civil society gave slogan of ‘Vote for Education” during the roundtable discussion with political parties organised by Pakistan Coalition for Education and Oxfam GB Tuesday.

The following political representatives made it to the forum: Syed Bilal from Jamaat-e-Islami, Jalil Jan from JUI-F, Salahuddin Sheikh from MQM, Fauzia Naz from PML-Q, Shehla Raza from PPP, and Hina Manzoor from PTI. Representatives of ANP were not able to participate and PML-N despite several entreaties and a letter requesting Nawaz Sharif to send representatives, regretted to participate in the dialogue.

Zehra Arshad, National Coordinator from PCE, said unfortunately, education is never the priority of any government. Evidence reflects that official literacy is still 56 per cent with wide gender and rural-urban disparities, high dropout rates across the country, 30 per cent of children receive secondary education and most importantly, the lowest budget (less than 2 per cent of GDP) among all the South-Asian countries are some of the examples of deteriorating status of education in Pakistan.

Harris Khalique said that all parties should focus on uniform education system, medium of instruction, availability trained human resource and teachers, effective utilisation of allocated budget and increase in GDP and appointment of female teachers at primary level.

Dr Shehla Raza, Deputy speaker Sindh Assembly and active member of Pakistan Peoples’ Party said that education is like a back bone of the economy in each country. There are high dropouts from class1-2 and then class 5-6 due to poverty, no access to school due as there are one third of middle schools as compare to primary, among dropout majority of them girls. She stressed the need of collaboration between executive, CSO and political representatives to deal with issues related to education.

Bilal stressed the need of one strong education policy according to constitution which cannot be upheld during any political government’s regime, he said that if there party comes to power they will work to bring 100% literacy during their 5year tenure.

He said that these dialogues help to multiply effort of all stakeholders who are working for the public policy domain

Mr. Abdul Khalil Jan and Ms. Banori from JUI stressed upon the uniform education system in Pakistan. They also suggests that and madrassa education should also be included in the minimum common agenda for education

Salahuddin Shiekh from MQM said that there should be one school in the community 5000 population. He said that MQM will also work to raise education budget upto 5% of GDP.

Fozia from PML-Q said that there party is focusing on increase number of trained teachers, aopeing up of new schools, increase in GDP by 5% and training of teachers in upcoming election manifesto.

Hina Manzoor from PTI said that there should be no political interference in transfers, appointment and other related issues to education. She said there party has drafted a comprehensive paper to improve the status of education if they will come into power.

The representatives of the parties agreed that the center and provinces should coordinate their capacity development initiatives in respect of textbooks development, assessment standards and quality assurance, teachers’ standards, school infrastructure, learning aids et al.

The also pledged to form an interprovincial committee/ commission responsible for monitoring and evaluating the progress of education policies, plans and implementation of Article 25(A). This should have federal and provincial government representatives along with legislators, educational experts and civil society representatives as concerned stakeholders.

It was also agreed that all parties would meet the national commitment of increasing allocation to education to 4 percent of the GDP and progressively raise it up to 7 percent with in next five years as promised in National Education Policy 2009.

‘Ensure gender parity and equality in teachers’ recruitment, salary structure, incentives and continuous professional development. Women should be preferred as teachers at the primary school level, gradually increasing their numbers to 100 percent. Political parties must take measures for uniform education system in the country to meet quality standards’ they suggested.

It was decided that the political parties should adopt girls’ education as a core priority area in their political manifestoes with time bound commitments and prioritise higher allocation to Girls Education in budgetary provisions and make visible efforts to achieve gender parity in education.