ISLAMABAD: Provincial education ministers on Thursday agreed to adopt minimum standards for quality of education.

Following a two-day “Interprovincial education ministers’ conference”, minister of state for federal education and professional training Balighur Rehman launched the draft copy of the standards which, according to him, would be adopted by all the provinces.

Except Sindh, the education ministers of other three provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan attended the conference.

The state minister said all the provinces were working together to bring an improvement to the education sector.

He said the federal and province governments had increased their education budgets significantly but there was still a need for making more allocations. “The education budget should be four per cent of the GDP,” he said.

The draft of the minimum standards is based on seven components - curriculum, textbooks, teachers, assessment, school learning environment, early learning and development.

“We are lagging behind in the education sector. In my province, only 1.1 million students are enrolled and an alarming 1.2 million children are out of schools. All the provinces have to work hard to improve the sector,” said the education minister Balochistan, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal.

Atif Khan from KP said: “The country is confronting multiple issues which can be resolved through education.” He said there was a dire need for investing in public sector schools.

Early learning and development standards

The document stated that there should be special focus on personal, social and emotional development of child in which they will be given training to gain self-confidence, play local games, respect others’ opinion and handle emergency situation etc.

The standards for child’s language development, cogitative, conceptual and logical thinking, moral and physical developments and standards for health, hygiene and safety were also finalised.

“Early learning is the most critical period in a child’s education and plays an important role in his mental and physical development. So, without investing in this sector, the goal of providing quality education to children cannot be achieved,” Rafiq Tahir, who was part of the team which finalised the standards, told Dawn.

“Early childhood education plays the main role in personality building. A good foundation makes acceptable and refined personalities. Unfortunately, we have been ignoring this important sector,” said Dr Nabi Bux Jumani, the head of the education department at the International Islamic University Islamabad.

Speaking to Dawn, he said since the government never invested in this sector the country was facing a culture of intolerance and different kinds of social evils.

Assessment

The state minister said in order to get the results, the examination system should be based on conceptual and critical thinking rather than rote learning.

The draft policy stated that a standardised assessment process would be adopted to ensure uniformity in exams so that all students are assessed against a similar benchmark.

Curriculum

The report suggested that curriculum should be developed with a view to promote national harmony, unity, social cohesion and global citizen-based religious philosophical, cultural, psychology foundations of the nation.

“Bring forth innate faculties/inbuilt potential of learners in order to make them active, productive, reflective, collaborative and democratised citizens.”

HEC chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, AJK minister Matloob Inqilabi and minister of education Gilgit-Baltistan Mohammad Ibrahim Sanai also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2016