ISLAMABAD - Calling for the implementation of a uniform education system in the country, the teaching fraternity urged the governments to refrain from meddling in educational departments.

They said the appointments of the teachers should be merit-based and politics and education should be kept apart. They were of the view that there is a need to upgrade the socioeconomic status of the builders of the nation.

For the first time more than 500 government schoolteachers gathered in the capital to talk about education reforms.

The Qaumi Asataza Conference (National Teachers' Conference), organised by the education advocacy campaign, Alif Ailaan, brought together government schoolteachers, politicians, educationists and religious scholars to discuss new ways to address an old and intractable problem.

The 500-plus delegates collectively represented 80 per cent of all government teachers in Pakistan. Besides, the four provinces, teachers' union representatives from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) were also in attendance.

Various parallel systems of education have been going on and there is no unified system that is the dilemma of this country, said Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal. He opined that the children should be taught in their mother tongue so that they can express their ideas and follow their creative instincts.

Talking about the educational situation in Balochistan, Head of Government Teachers' Association Balochistan, AN Sabir said like poor law and order situation has affected every aspect of life in the province education is no different.

"Teachers in Balochistan are overburdened as they were involved in polio vaccination campaigns and census as well by the government. Many lost their lives during such campaigns but never compensated as promised by the authorities. Besides, they have not been upgraded for the last 12 years."

He demanded that the books should be provided to the students with the start of the academic sessions and educational institutes should be established in nearby areas. He also asked for establishing another examination board in the province so that two academic sessions can be run seeing the climate conditions of the province. Currently there is only one board for the whole province and one academic session does not suit to different zones of different climatic conditions.  

The purpose of the conference was to begin a process of positive engagement with government schoolteachers, provide them with a national forum to discuss the issues they face, and allow teachers the opportunity to become leaders of reform.

The delegates endorsed Meesaq-e-Ilm (Charter of Knowledge), a manifesto for teaching in Pakistan at the conference, marking the first time that teachers have come forward as leaders for positive change in the education sector. The Meesaq-e-Ilm is a groundbreaking statement on the part of teachers to bring about fundamental and meaningful reform of the teaching profession.

In a motivational talk by Qaiser Abbas, participants were given an opportunity to articulate what they hoped would come out of the conference. Religious scholars, in a session moderated by Saleem Safi, spoke of teachers and their role in Pakistan's faith traditions. Educationist Dr. Arfa Syeda Zehra boosted the morale of the teaching fraternity and advised them not to compare themselves with bureaucracy and other fields and think beyond monetary benefits, as this is the profession of prophets and Sufis.