The ministry of education has placed a draft of the proposed "new" education policy on their website and has invited people to comment on the draft policy before it is finalised and adopted. This gesture, towards listening to people and taking on their inputs is a welcome gesture. Whether people comment on the policy and whether the comments are taken seriously remain to be seen. The draft policy states that the older policy, that was supposed to be good for the period 1998-2010, was not achieving its aims and this was clear by 2005 and so a new look at national education policy was needed. Then the draft policy goes ahead and gives us the new policy: a 60 plus document that says a lot while not saying much. It would be interesting for someone to do a comparative analysis of differences between the old and the new policy. Our presumption would be that apart from stylistic issues and issues of emphasis, there are likely to be few differences between the old and the new: the more the things change, the more they stay the same. Is it really the case that we need a new education policy? Or is it that we, the people, the government, the political parties and the policy makers, need to take the lessons from the older policies and from our everyday realities more seriously. We know that education is and should be a basic right. We know this is acknowledged in the constitution, however obliquely, even though neither the government nor the courts have done much to enforce this right. We know that functionally also, education is important: it enhances economic growth and it has social benefits as well. We know poverty traps can sometimes only be broken through education and vocational training (skill acquisition). We know as international competition (globalisation) gets keener, education is going to be even more important and we are, due to low educational achievements in the country, already behind other countries. We know that for the last 60 years and more government after government has told us about all of the points made above and then done exactly as the previous governments did: neglected education despite the "imperatives" mentioned above. We know every government has said that we need to spend a lot more on education, we need to universalise education at the primary and secondary level, we need to improve the quality of education throughout the system - yet policies have fallen short in terms of allocating the right amount of capital, attention and priority to declared objectives. Government after government has dealt in hypocrisy. On the implementation side, we know that governments have not only allocated less than needed amounts for education, we know most governments have not even spent what they had initially allocated for education (except for one five year plan, in plan history, we never utilised 100 percent of funds allocated for the education sector), we know no government has tried to give education sector a high enough priority to curb sector level problems: corruption, poor condition of education sector professionals, state of infrastructure in schools, demands for better curricula, demand for minimum standards and monitoring of better quality. Even when governments have engaged with the sector, it has been at the behest of one or another international agency or donor or international commitment. It is sad to see the same things repeated in the draft policy: talk of dj vu. The policy takes 60 plus pages to tell us that though we have made some progress in the last 10 years or so, we are still, on most counts, behind even the countries in our neighbourhood. We have more children out of school, we have more drop outs, we few fewer completions in levels, we have a smaller percentage going to higher level, and our quality of education is poorer. It goes on to tell us that "now" it is established that education is important for us. It is not only important because it is a "right" of people to have access to quality education, it is functionally important as well. It is interesting that even after all these years this policy continues to mix the two justifications for provision of education and cannot decide which it wants to push. If education is a "right," it does not need a functional importance defense: the state has to ensure "rights" of the people irrespective of other demands on their resources. If rights cannot trump other considerations and cannot accord lexicographic importance to what is a right, what is the point of acknowledging something as a right then? The policy goes on to tell us about all the points that previous policies have also talked about. But in the end it leaves substantive issues in the same place as it finds them. The policy acknowledges that the quality of education needs to improve, but it does not really tell us how it is going to be done. We are told that the discussion on the medium of instruction is important: English is important as an international language, Urdu as national language and mother tongue as cultural and heritage language, and the policy creates space for all three, but it is not clear how the languages are going to gel together, what the medium of instruction should be in public sector schools, what the latest research argues for, and so on. In some way the policy just passes the buck on to provincial governments to make these decisions. There is acknowledgement that we have multiple systems working in the country, and these systems are creating socio-economic problems for us, but there is no real solution proposed for addressing the issues. The education system is divided along private-public, medium of instruction, rural-urban, ideological non-ideological lines. Although the policy acknowledges that a) 30 percent plus students now go to private schools, b) provision of schooling is the responsibility of the state, c) quality of schooling is bad in the public sector, and d) this forces parents to choose private schools over public, there is no real discussion of how the private-public issues need to be addressed. In fact, and quite strangely, the policy says that the state should try to build schools in areas where there are no private schools and the public system should look at provision of private schooling as a complement rather than a substitute. All of this confuses the issues further. If public schooling is the responsibility of the state and this schooling should meet minimum quality standards then irrespective of whether there is a private school in the area or not, the government needs to provide public schooling in all areas. Is there any country in the world, with decent school system, where the state does not bear the responsibility for provision? The policy is also quite unclear about the notion of Uniform Education. It talks of the need for a uniform system across Pakistan, but also allows that the private schools will continue to provide the kind of education they see fit. One way to address the issue would have been through some notion of "minimum" standards that the state would impose on the entire system. This could be in terms of both minimum standards of quality as well as minimum requirement for curriculum and coverage. But the policy does not explore this option in any detail. It talks of uniformity and standards, but does not go far enough to connect these. The draft policy has 10 chapters, including chapters on higher education and a chapter coming from Vision 2030. These seem quite misplaced in an education policy that needs to focus on primary and secondary level provision. It would probably have been better for the policy to focus on setting out the main goals of education policy and then on formulating strategies to achieve these goals. The issue is not lack of knowledge about the dismal state of education in Pakistan or the many faux pas that we have been making. The issue is whether we can learn from these mistakes and find ways of addressing the political and social problems in according education the importance that it deserves. Of course we need research in many areas to find appropriate policy options, but that could come after the policy sets out the priorities of the government in clear and unambiguous ways. E-mail: