The Punjab government has moved towards legislation for free and compulsory education of children between the ages of five and 16. A week ago the cabinet approved a draft, including strategies for educating out-of-school children and the inclusion of non-formal education, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Article 25-A of the Constitution provides the right but after the 18th Amendment making education a provincial subject there has been no provincial legislation. School Education Department Secretary Abdul Jabbar Shaheen said the draft for the constitutional provision had been approved by the cabinet. He said it would be sent to the assembly very soon.
“This legislation will make it the government’s legal responsibility to ensure that every child gets free and compulsory education”, said Shaheen. Shaheen said the draft, which is not public yet, was based on a proposal of the Education Commission Punjab (ECP).
The ECP draft was handed over to the provincial government in November 2012. The proposed draft had called to repeal the Punjab Compulsory Education Act of 1994. The commission, headed by Justice (retired) Khalilur Rahman Khan, had also included stringent control mechanisms to ensure education standards for both government and private schools. It had recommended that the government make legislative amendments within three years.
The ECP draft also binds private schools to provide free education to 10 per cent of their enrollment. Private schools’ associations, particularly the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, have expressed reservations about it.
APPSMA President Adeeb Jawedani has called the rule “undue and unfair”. He has said the association would challenge the bill in the court if the provision is included. The issue arose after provincial government formulated a commission to regulate private schools. A bill for private school regulation in the province is pending approval in the cabinet.
SED Deputy Secretary Finance Qaiser Rasheed said “non-formal education is being used globally to ensure a wider age-group in the education system. This may also include vocational training”.
This is the second time a draft for compulsory schooling legislation has made its way to the provincial assembly. Earlier, the draft was sent to the assembly secretariat in March 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2014.