ISLAMABAD: The new government plans to take practical steps to enroll all out-of-school children. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training will play a leading role in overcoming this major challenge.

This was stated by Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood while speaking to Dawn after holding an introductory meeting with Secretary Education Arshad Mirza and other officers of the ministry on Monday.

On arrival at the ministry, the new minister was welcomed by senior officers. Secretary Mirza gave a brief presentation on the working of the ministry as well its attached departments. After the meeting, the minister directed the officers for a detailed briefing after the Eid holidays, said sources.

Later, the minister told Dawn that the country had been facing the major challenge of out-of-school children, and every possible step would be taken to bring these children to schools.

Shafqat Mehmood hints at bringing Islamabad’s educational institutions under administrative control of his ministry

The recently launched Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17 showed that there were 22.84 million out of school children in the country.

The minister said though education was a provincial subject, his ministry in collaboration with the provinces would take steps to ensure education for all children.

“Out-of-school children are a matter of grave concern,” he said, adding the ministry’s attached departments such as the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and the Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) could also play their due role for promotion of education.

Asked about the role of his ministry to tackle the issue of out of school children in Islamabad as schools and colleges in the capital did not fall under the administrative control of his ministry rather were supervised by the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), Mr Mehmood hinted that the government would put these institutions under the administrative control of the education ministry for producing better results.

The minister, who holds a master degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, said besides focusing on school education he had a vision and plan to bring an improvement to the higher education sector as well.

“We have very a competent chairman HEC and will work hard to bring changes to the higher education sector as education standard in our universities is not up to the mark,” he said.

Asked about the incomplete higher education commission, the supreme decision-making body of the HEC, Mr Mehmood said he would ensure early completion of the commission. A new education policy will also be launched.

During the last four years, the previous government did not take any action to complete the 18-member commission to. The members of the commission retired between 2013 and 2017.

The revision of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2009 is also delayed. Former education minister Balighur Rehman and his team worked hard on the revision of NEP and a draft policy had been finalised but it could not get final shape.

Officials of the ministry told Dawn that the new minister would have to pay special focus on launching the new policy.

The new minister will also have to focus on the delayed project of the skills university.

During the previous government, the National Institute of Science and Technology was upgraded as the first skills university of the city. But it has not been made functional properly.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018