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PTI government’s first 60 days: Education minister still not able to set direction for policy reforms!

Report: By Samra Arooj

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education and Reforms Shafqat Mahmood remained unable to set a direction for policy reforms during the first 60 days of the government to implement education agenda of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as promised in the party’s election manifesto. A direction for Tabdeeli (change and reforms) is not yet visible, however, the minister formed some committees and chaired important meetings during this period, The Educationist found while following the activities of the minister since he assumed his office on August 20, 2018.

Reduction in budgetary allocations announced by the PML-N government, especially in the higher education by the PTI government are being criticized in the education circles.

As many as 10 vacant key seats in the Higher Education Commission (HEC), where appointments were pending for many years, have been filled after a formal approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The new appointees include Dr. Bhawani Shankar Chowdhry, Dr. Sania Nishtar, Dr Shams Kassim Lakha, Lt-Gen (r) Muhammad Asghar, Dr Naveed A Malik, Lt Gen (r) Asif Mumtaz Sukhera, Prof Dr Javaid Iqbal, Engineer Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Ms Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Dr Faisal Bari.

Earlier, these appointments were neglected by the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz government for many years. The PTI government, as per its election manifesto, confronts the challenges to increase education budget but the federal education minister couldn’t convince Finance Minister Asad Umer to announce any additional budgetary allocation in the revised budget proposal. Rather reduction in higher education budget by around Rs 4 billion is a question mark. The promised establishment of a uniform education system, bringing reforms to madrassa education and decreasing fees of private institutions are other serious challenges, although the prime minister chaired a meeting for madrassa reforms by inviting stakeholders including religious scholars.

Following is the chronology of minister’s meetings and statements:

  • 19th-Aug-2018: “By the grace of Allah, it is a great honor to be named as the Education Minister of my beloved country, Pakistan. I am grateful to Prime Minister Imran Khan for reposing trust in me and hope to come up to his expectations.”
  • “Education is a huge challenge in a country with low literacy and higher education in great need of reform but INSHALLAH with determination and commitment I hope to make a difference
  • 20th-Aug-2018: “On the directive of PM Imran Khan I formed a committee to advise on the future public use of heritage buildings”
  • Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister for Education & Professional Training, assumed his charge on 20 August, 2018. The Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood recommend strongly that work shall be the priority and therefore upcoming SATURDAY wouldn’t be off, instead a comprehensive presentation of Ministry was called on SATURDAY
  • 27th-Aug-2018: The Federal Minister greet with the country director of ADB and State that Pakistan is currently facing various challenges in Education sector and that the Government is fully committed to resolve these challenges.
  • 30-Aug-2018: Federal Minister for education, Training and reforms Shafqat Mahmood with HEC chairman Dr. Tariq Banuri, AIOU Voice chancellor and others during his first visit to higher education commission secretariat.
  • “The current government has a target to provide 22.8M out of school children education. Pakistan current literacy rate 58% which is not tolerable. Education minister state that ministry of education will fully support to transform the education system of Pakistan. The Federal minister highlights the role of such competition in the raising quality of education.”
  • Shafqat stated that “The government is committed to supporting higher education sector so that the Pakistan youth can succeed in the job market and play their role in country’s socioeconomic uplift and become valued members of the society “
  • “All vacant positions at the ministry and its attached departments will be filled on purely merit and in transparent manner. He also directed all attached departments to facilitate Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir, along with other provinces.
  • 1st -Sept-2018: Shafqat Mahmood chaired his first meeting with National History and Literary Heritage Division for a better and possible use of heritage buildings.
  • The buildings will be convert into public friendly institutions like museums, hotels, cultural complexes or any research institutes included Prime Minister’s House, Islamabad, Governors Houses in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Murree and Nathia Gali, Chief Minister’s Office Lahore, State Guest House in Lahore and Karachi, Shahi Mahman Khana in Peshawar, Punjab House in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Murree, Qasr-e-Naz Karachi and Chamba House, Lahore.
  • Shafqat Mahmood formed two different committees for preparing a detailed report on different identified state buildings in the main cities of the country and submit within the time period of two weeks.
  • 7th- Sep-2018: Prime Minister Imran khan, Federal Minister of Education Shafqat Mehmood, Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Dr. Tariq Binori , Professor Muhammad Mujahid and Rashid Khan were present in the meeting.
  • 27th-Sep-2018: Shafqat Mehmood said that Pakistan’s urgent needs in Education and how Global Business Coalition for Education partnerships can contribute through innovative resources.

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