LAHORE - The proposal to levy GST on private schools that are charging more than Rs 5,000 fee per student has been deferred until next budget, said Provincial Minister for Finance, Excise and Taxation Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman at a conference held by All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association at Hamdard Conference Centre on Sunday.

He made these comments while answering question of representatives of Private Schools who criticised the government for what they called unjust taxes. The representatives criticised the ordinance according to which all private schools which are charging more than Rs 5,000 fee per student will have to impart free education to 10 per cent of enrolled children.

The minister replied that that those private schools which earn a lot of money by charging heavy fee should pay taxes.

The minister also shed light on the government’s efforts to provide affordable education facilities to the public at large, saying that in line with public-private partnership, the Punjab Education Foundation has initiated the process of what he called ‘adopting’ private schools whereby it pays for the fee of a certain number of deserving students, provide them free books and also arranges for training of teachers.

This programme has now spread to 36 districts across Punjab incorporating over 3,500 schools where more than 1.5 million students are being given free education, he said adding that this year the Punjab government intends to jack this number up to two million.

Saying that in Lahore there are 1,200 government run schools and 5,000 private schools, the minister explained that rather than building up new schools from the scratch, the government was focusing on helping the private schools through helping students financially.

There are 800 non-functional government schools across Punjab which are in the process of being restored, he said.

He also said that because of provincial setup’s attention towards existing government-run schools across Punjab, the teachers’ presence has risen up to 80 percent, which he hoped would further increase in the days to come. He added that the government has recruited 140000 teachers to improve teacher-student ratio. He was of the view that teacher-student ratio should not be more than 40 students per class.

The minister also said that the government had been able to control the drop-out rate from class one to grade five.  He also clarified that there has not been any decrease in the number of government schools explaining that this impression has generated because the government has been merging primary and middle schools existing in the same locality so as to facilitate the students and families.

There are a total of one crore and thirty lac students studying across Punjab while there are 97,000 schools to cater to them, he said.

He said that by 2018, the government intends to raise the education budget to 4 per cent of the GDP, saying at the same time that since the subject of education has been devolved, the provincial government is also increasing the budgetary allocation.

He also dispelled the impression that education funding provided by the UK government has absolutely no bearing on curriculum.  However, he added that efforts are underway to centralize the curriculum so as to establish uniformity across Pakistan.

Regarding other questions raised by the private schools representatives such as the problems faced by the schools in obtaining fitness certificates, and the fact that the registration fee for schools has been raised, the Minister assured them that these problems will be resolved through consultation.