ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Saturday unveiled his government’s plan to launch a countrywide literacy movement to ensure enrolment of every child in the school, by introducing a package of incentives.
“Our effort is to achieve the targets set by Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within the next three years,” he said.
“A key target, set by Unesco, is to increase resources for the education sector to reach four per cent of the GDP by the year 2018,” said the prime minister. He was inaugurating an international conference titled “Unfinished Agenda in Education: the Way Forward” arranged by the Ministry of Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education.
The conference was also attended by Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General on Education Gordon Brown, CEO of Global Partnership for Education Alice Albright, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Governor Punjab Chaudhry Sarwar, Governor KP Engineer Shaukatullah and Minister of State for Education Baligh-ur-Rehman, as well as cabinet members, UN officials and parliamentarians.
The prime minister said the government’s objective was to develop an educational system that was compatible with the requirements of a knowledge-based economy.
He stressed to focus on science and technology and modern skills in the education system, besides calling for prioritisation of female education in the education policies, effective participation of women in the decision-making process, and to protect their respect and dignity.
“Education is not merely a matter of priority for Pakistan; it is the future of the country, which lies in its educated youth,” he said.
“It has, in fact, become a national emergency. More than half of the country’s population is below 25 years of age. With proper education and training, this huge reservoir of human capital can offer us an edge in the race for growth and prosperity in the age of globalisation. Without education, this resource can turn into a burden,” PM Sharif said.
He said the primary concerns in education were low allocations in the budget for education, a very high number of out-of-school children, high drop-out rates, gender disparity, low literacy rates and realising the MDGs and EFA targets.
The premier said that despite education being a provincial subject, there was a national consensus on the need for reform and modernisation of the country’s educational system in order to bring it at par with national priorities and international standards.
He further said that the federal education ministry had recently launched a National Plan of Action, in collaboration with the provincial governments, which provides a framework for accelerated progress towards achieving the MDGs.
“I believe that education is not an expense but an investment into the future. Rather, it is the best investment that an individual, a parent or a nation can make,” the prime minister added.
The prime minister said that he had directed the Planning Commission to give top priority to education in the prospective plan known as Vision 2025. He said the private sector too, was playing an increasingly important role in the field of education.
“Out of the 14.4 million enrolments at the primary level, 4.8 million or 34pc are enrolled in private sector schools. The private sector share is much higher at the lower middle and secondary levels,” he added.
Lauding the role of UN agencies, NGOs, the civil society, religious institutions, delivery agents, and the donors’ community, PM Sharif invited all to join the government in its mission to educate and train Pakistan’s youth.
“I have no doubt that they can turn around all our challenges into opportunities. They also have the potential to contribute immensely and positively to world peace and prosperity,” the Prime Minister added.
Thanking Gordon Brown for helping Pakistan devise and implement its short- and long-term strategies in the field of education, the PM said that the conference would provide a unique opportunity to develop effective coordination mechanisms to generate powerful synergies for accelerated progress in achieving the targets, including the MDGs.
While sharing his views on the successful democratic transition in Pakistan, PM Sharif said that he envisioned a Pakistan where every citizen receives a good education, and thereby, contributes to the development of the country.