CHIEF Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah speaks at the event.—White Star
CHIEF Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah speaks at the event.—White Star

KARACHI: A major public-private initiative to improve quality of education in government schools in Sindh was launched on Wednesday under which initially a government college in Hussainabad would be revamped to launch a four-year teachers’ training programme with assistance from a leading Finnish university.

A ceremony in this respect was held in the Shamsher-ul-Haidri Auditorium of the National Museum where Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and representatives of Durbeen and Zindagi Trust (ZT), both non-profit organisations working to improve quality of education in the public sector, announced their partnership and expressed their commitment to reform education.

“It’s something we all know; giving our children an education that could help them compete in a competitive world is the only way to progress,” the chief minister said, recalling how he got in touch with the ZT and agreed to have a collaboration for teachers’ training.

Describing it as a flagship project, the chief minister underscored the need for working together and said that the health-education emergency announced by the government in 2016 wasn’t yet over and required more focused efforts.

Referring to some challenges in the education sector, he said that the government initiative to introduce biometric system at educational institutions to record teachers’ attendance put it into financial trouble when thousands of teachers started taking premature retirement.

Highlighting some other problems, Education Minister Sardar Ali Shah said that only nine per cent of the total government schoolteachers in Sindh had studied science subjects. He, however, negated the opinion that the public education system had been completely destroyed, arguing that most students who opted for civil services exams were from government educational institutions.

“The major problem has been of ownership. Unless we have good people and those with influence in the system, there won’t be any change,” he remarked.

Earlier, Salma Ahmed Alam, the chief executive officer of Durbeen, informed the audience that under the partnership the campus of Government Elementary College of Education, Hussainabad, would be revamped with state-of-the-art facilities where candidates would be enrolled for an undergraduate four-year teachers’ training programme.

“This initiative is a series of firsts. We aim to deliver an outstanding quality of education in government schools across Sindh by staffing them with professional teacher graduates,” she said, adding that the ZT which had led the way in government school reform would act as a parent organisation of Durbeen.

About the reform process, she said that the college management and teacher education curriculum would be improved apart from recruiting qualified faculty, enrolling talented students and upgrading existing facilities.

To bring about this transformation, she pointed out, the NGO had signed an agreement with the University of Helsinki in Finland to enrich the college’s teacher education curriculum and build the capacity of the faculty.

“Finland’s education system is one of the best around the world. Not only will this initiative be a leading Finnish university’s first education intervention in Pakistan, but also, never before has any government in Pakistan undertaken such a partnership in higher education,” Ms Alam said.

President of ZT Shehzad Roy spoke about the challenges he and his team faced when they decided to transform two government-run schools into model schools as well as the positive response students gave through their remarkable achievements when they received quality education.

He appreciated the government for introducing life-skills-based curriculum after the Zainab tragedy.

“We can never really progress unless the poor, the marginalised sections of society received quality education,” he noted.

Minna Saade representing the University of Helsinki expressed the hope that the collaboration would achieve its objectives and get strengthened in coming years, adding that work on the project had already begun.

Chairman Tabba Foundation Ali Tabba also spoke.

Under the partnership, Durbeen has been authorised to take over the management of the teachers’ training college in Hussainabad for 10 years where students would only pay fees for registration and exams.

The Karachi University would award degrees to graduating students who would be offered jobs at Durbeen-adopted schools.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2019