ISLAMABAD: A committee on education reforms formed by the Supreme Court has said that 25 million children between five and 16 years of age in the country are out of schools.
The committee was headed by Federal Ombudsman Tahir Shahbaz and the provincial secretaries, Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJSC) secretary and vice chancellors of various universities were its members.
After a number of meetings, the committee prepared a report with recommendations that will be shared with the federal government for implementation.
The report recommended declaring an education emergency to address the countless problems faced by the education system in Pakistan.
It highlighted that quality and uniformity of education system, skill development and children out of school were the challenges that needed to be immediately addressed.
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It recommended that a substantial increase in the education sector budget was required from 2.2 per cent of GDP to four per cent at the national level.
The report proposed an increase in the construction of new schools in the public sector, recruitment and training of a large number of teachers and making the ghost schools functional.
Referring to the Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17, the report said that private educational institutions were serving a considerable number of students (36 per cent). It recommended that the government should bind private schools to rationalise the fee structure and enrol at least 10 per cent children who belonged to poor families under corporate social responsibility.
The committee strongly recommended a review of the curriculum. It proposed that a special think tank with experts be constituted at the national level for this purpose.
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The report also recommended a strong regulatory system for private schools. It said that parents and students were affected by malpractices of private schools.
The report said the superior courts were approached since the regulatory bodies were unable to protect the interest of the parents and students.
The committee proposed that each housing society should be bound to allocate plots for government.
With regard to the enforcement of Article 25-A of the Constitution, the report said a paradigm shift was required to prioritise education in terms of financial and human resources along with sufficient empowered institutions to monitor the development.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar has sought the audit report of private schools’ accounts within a week.
A three-judge bench headed by the CJP also decided to form a special committee led by the federal ombudsman to propose guidelines about the private schools fees structure.
During the hearing, the CJP said education is not a commodity that can be sold. He added that there was a need to establish a regulator for monitoring private schools. The CJP said he wants one book, syllabus and school for all students.
A lawyer claimed that private schools were earning 20 per cent profit, which was higher than any other industry, including the oil sector. Advocate Faisal Siddiqui appeared on behalf of the parents and called for forensic audit of the private schools’ accounts.