Devolution woes: Ministry of education renamed for fourth time in three years

Focus on name rather than responsibilities hurting education sector.


Riazul Haq June 11, 2014
The issue surfaced in 2012, when a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) saw stiff resistance from the provinces, especially the Sindh government.PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


For the fourth time in three years, the name of the education ministry has been changed after criticism from Sindh and senior legislators.


The Council of Common Interest recently approved the renaming of the ministry after discussions in a committee formed to address issues emerging in the aftermath of the passage of the 18th Amendment and subsequent devolution of the education ministry, among others.

On November 25, 2011, the Supreme Court maintained that under Article 25-A of the Constitution, the federal government could not absolve itself of the responsibility to provide education.

On November 8, 2012 a committee was set up to ‘Rename the ministry of professional and technical training as ministry of education and trainings’. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar headed the committee and reached a consensus in March this year over a new name — Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training.

The issue surfaced in 2012, when a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) saw stiff resistance from the provinces, especially the Sindh government. The federal government at the time promised to change the name of newly-created education ministry. However, it vowed to retain the subjects on the basis of recent ruling by the apex court and to “restore the confidence of non-governmental organisations and donors in the education sector”.

The council, in a meeting held in May 2011, had decided that the financing of provincial universities and population welfare would be the responsibility of the federal government till the next National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, which is due in 2014. Meanwhile, the provinces would also be responsible for capacity building of universities by providing them with funding to meet the standards.

The CCI renamed the education department as the Ministry of Education, Trainings and Standards in Higher Education in June 2013 the third name change since its establishment in July 2011.

Legislators including Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Raza Rabbani and Awami National Party Senator Afrasiab Khattak — both vocal proponents of the 18th Amendment — have opposed the existence of a federal level ministry of education.

“We’re just assisting the provinces, but the ministry should stay within the federal government as it is unlikely that international donors will contact the provinces to make commitments within the education sector,” said an officer in the ministry while requesting anonymity.

Pending possession

Last year in July a summary was sent to the Cabinet Division for awarding administrative control of the National Book Foundation, National Institute of Science and Technical Education, Polytechnic Institute for Women Sector H-8/1 and other education affairs of capital, which “should be under the ministry.” The reply was that it would be discussed in a secretaries meeting in October 2013, but no development has emerged. Meanwhile, Capital Administration nor Development Division nor any other body is ready to own them.

An official of the ministry told The Express Tribune that it was a dilemma as instead of focusing on education issues, the government is still preoccupied with the name of the office.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2014.

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