Candidates commit to a charter of demands to lead quality-focused education reform in Lahore
Lahore: With a few days left to the General Elections, several contesting candidates from major political parties gathered to speak at a multi-party convention to discuss the state of education in District Lahore, and commit to citizen-led charter of demands to ensure quality education across the government-run schools.
The convention was organized by Alif Ailaan and Ilm Dost, in collaboration with Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, Shaur Welfare and Kafka Welfare Organization.
Politicians joining to speak at the event included Senator Dr Musadik Malik and Shaista Malik from PMLN, Zulfiqar Ali Badr, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asim Bhatti from PPP, Ameer Bahadur Khan Hoti (ANP), Zubair Niazi and Dr Nausheen Hamid from PTI, Zaeem Qadri (IND), Hafiz Salman, Jibran Butt, Zikr Ullah Mujahid and Ameer-ul-Azeem from Jamaat-e-Islami, Zeba Ahsan from PMLQ.
Analysis of the educational landscape in Lahore revealed that availability of schools beyond primary access and poor quality education are the two most important factors contributing to failing education standards in Lahore that set the tone for candidates’ plans to reform schools in their constituencies.
While speaking at the session, Dr Musadik Malik promised to introduce broad-based learning to equip children with knowledge and tools of all disciplines at school-level. He also stated that PMLN would now focus on improving quality as during the past 5 years their focus had remained on access given the sheer number of children out of school in Punjab. Dr Nausheen Hamid of PTI will have her party prioritise science education, train science teachers and upgrade science curriculum. She talked about the latest PTI manifesto that focuses exclusively on STEM education. Most of the candidates spoke of increasing budget allocation towards education and strict regulation and monitoring of both private and public schools. Pak Sarzameen Party’s representative promised to provide free education from Grade 1 till Matriculation.
The session also offered an opportunity for voters to ask their candidates of their plans to improve schools upfront. One speaker from the audience questioned the candidates over their party’s efforts to provide facilities for children with disabilities in schools. Another speaker suggested party reps to focus more on industry-academia linkages with schools and universities to improve quality of learning and increase job opportunities upon graduation.
As per Pakistan District Education Rankings 2017, released by Alif Ailaan, Lahore ranks 32nd nationally and 19th provincially on Education Score (that measures learning, retention and gender parity) with the learning score as low as 53.93.
Based on the learning assessment conducted by Punjab Examination Commission, Lahore ranks the lowest in learning outcomes in subjects of English, Math and Science. For both Classes 5 and 8, students have scored less than 50% in these foundational subjects. This can be attributed to a lack of functional science labs in 155 high and higher secondary schools.
Moreover, out of 1202 total public schools in the district, there are only 234 middle schools against 610 primary schools that make up half of all public schools in Lahore. Lack of schools beyond primary levels explains why there is a steep drop in the enrolment rates as we move up the higher classes and shift of students to private schools, especially from Class 10 (46,468) to Class 11 (3161). Less than 1 out of 5 schools in Lahore district are public.
A comparison of private and public schools also shows more private schools at every level, which means parents, have to pay more to private schools for their children’s education throughout.
For Lahore’s future elected representatives, providing affordable quality education through government schools in addition to enrolling all 290,000 out-of-school children in Lahore is the biggest challenge awaiting them.
All participants agreed to commit to a Charter of Demands that was based on the demands of parents, teachers and community members in Lahore to have the schools and quality of education improved in their respective constituencies in the coming months.
The demands are as following:
1. Upgradation of schools to primary to middle, from middle to high, from high to high-secondary schools.
2. Construction of science and computer labs for modern and quality instruction to students
3. Complete facilities in form of labs and equipment to be provided to schools to help students learn the latest techniques in biology, chemistry and physics
4. Construction of more government schools at every level and improvement in their quality so parents can provide their children with affordable, quality education.
5. Appointment of teachers for science and computers, and establishment of libraries
6. Training of teachers so they are able to teach according to modern learning practices
7. Introduction of biometric system to ensure regular attendance of teachers
8. Popularization of healthy co-curricular activities in schools
9. Increase in education budget and school principals to be trained for effective utilization of the allocated school budgets.
1. Introduction of scholarship schemes for needy students