Though the provincial government has postponed the establishment of the District Education Authority (DEA), the Punjab Teachers’ Union remains in doubt over the government’s intentions and wants the body to be abolished. They termed the DEA an attempt to privatise the education system as the real stakeholders’ interests who are the teachers are ignored.
Talking to The Express Tribune, members of the union including Provincial General Secretary Liaqat Rana said the DEA will comprise 21 persons from Education Department and councillors. The DEA will have the authority to generate funds and privatise a school if its performance is poor.
Liaqat said it will be headed by a chief executive officer who will be a grade-18 officer. The DEA will also have a government-appointed chairman.
“What advice on education issues can illiterate councilors or a politician offer a college principal,” said Raja Shahid Mubarak, a former PTU officer bearer. He said the idea to set up the DEA has been imported from England, where the government has introduced a similar body called County Education Authority. “In Pakistan we have different problems and implementing the English system here is impossible,” he said.
Referring to the fake degree issue, he said if an authority is dominated by government cronies who are “mostly incompetent”, what will be status of education. He said the government did not identify any mechanism for accountability and monitoring and if implemented, the fake certificate issue will become more serious.
We are already fed up with political interference in our education system and setting up the DEA will increase interference, he added.
“The government will elect a chairman who may be an educationist or a political figure, while 11 councilors will be members of the authority,” said Imtiaz Abbasi, district chapter general secretary.
Abbasi said each district has six to 10 grade-20 officers and over 200 grade-19 ones who will never accept dictation from a junior grade-18 officer. The DEA will be responsible for increasing salaries, fee, transfers and postings, hiring and firing of teachers, pensions and recruitment of teachers and can privatise a school if its performance is poor. He said the real stakeholders — teachers — have been sidelined. The PTU threatened to launch drive if the decision was not declared null and void.
However, a senior Education Department official rejected the teachers claim and said the provincial government wants to improve the education system and bring it in line with international standards. He said the government deferred setting up the DEA but it will be implemented after deliberations with other stakeholders including teachers.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2014.
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