LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has advocated “original thought” in the country’s education system where English does not become a status symbol but a tool to seek higher education.

The prime minister blamed a lack of character-building of children for the Minar-i-Pakistan case and other incidents of violence against women, and later directed the chief secretary and the police chief to take measures to check the increasing cases of assault on women and asked the police to respond promptly in such cases.

Seeking improvement in the quality of education as well as equal opportunities to learn English language in public schools besides implementing the Single National Curriculum (SNC), PM Khan said this initiative would serve as a turning point and people would realise its impact in the days to come.

Speaking at the Punjab Education Convention 2021 at the Governor House on Wednesday, the premier said the British had introduced English-medium education to the sub-continent to cultivate some “brown men” that matched their mindset and rule the region. The English-medium system made people in the undivided India subservient to the British, he added.

Blames lack of character-building of children for Minar-i-Pakistan incident

Ideally, he said, Pakistan should have introduced an indigenous education system soon after independence, but it allowed development of three separate systems – madressahs, Urdu medium and a small segment of English medium. He regretted that the English-medium system did not focus on developing the nation.

Regretting the reaction of certain people that the government through the SNC was pushing the nation back, Mr Khan stressed that only those countries progressed that developed their indigenous curriculum and evolved as a nation. The previous rulers never paid attention to this aspect, he remarked.

“The public school system gradually deteriorated as the elite system was developed, and public schoolteachers either opened up their own schools or joined private schools themselves,” he lamented.

Acknowledging that the existing flawed education system could not be fixed easily, the prime minister lauded the federal and Punjab education ministers for implementing the SNC, adding that there was no doubt there would be problems in finding English language teachers to cater to all the students.

“Instead of teaching English to a few, let’s teach it to every student in the country, but don’t make the language a status symbol,” Mr Khan said while citing how proceedings of various events were conducted in English though the audience was Pakistani. Similarly, he said, some legislators speak English in parliament just to impress others.

Lauding Punjab Education Minister Dr Murad Raas for introducing the e-transfer policy, the PM said the federal cabinet had also adopted the e-governance and paperless regime. However, the Federal Bureau of Revenue had so far failed to adopt automation, he regretted, adding that he always got excuses and requests for more time.

In the same breath, he also said advancement in technology has had a serious impact on children, who had access to all kinds of content on mobile phones that otherwise they did not. This “unchecked advancement” was the root cause of incidents like the one at Minar-i-Pakistan and other sex crimes, he claimed.

Mr Khan was of the opinion that women were given more respect in Pakistan than in the West, but a lack of proper upbringing led to the crimes against them. He highlighted the need to teach children about Islamic society and the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at the middle and matriculation levels.

Speaking at the event, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the provincial government would recruit over 31,000 schoolteacher interns in phases to overcome teachers’ shortage in government schools. The recruitment of over 33,000 educators would also start soon in different categories. “Recruitment rules have been relaxed to overcome the teachers’ shortage in 10 under-developed districts and locals are being recruited under the hardship policy,” he added.

At the convention, Punjab Assembly lawmaker Nazir Chohan met the premier and apologised for leveling allegations against PM’s aide Shahzad Akbar. Sources claimed the prime minister pardoned Mr Chohan, telling him to be careful in the future.

‘Smart Forest’

Earlier, Mr Khan inaugurated a ‘Smart Forest’ — a project of the Ravi Urban Development Authority — by planting a sapling at Rakh Jhok Forest in Sheikhupura.

Speaking at the tree plantation ceremony, the premier said technology would be used to monitor the growth of trees and sensors installed there would alert the authorities about the felling of trees in the forest.

Regretting that the no previous ruler focused on maintaining natural resources and controlling pollution, Mr Khan said the pollution levels in Lahore had reached dangerous levels jeopardising the lives of children and the elderly.

Eventually, he said, the PTI government launched the Ravi Riverfront project that could not be taken up by either former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf or “Punjab speed” Shehbaz Sharif. The prime minister said he was confident that the Usman Buzdar government in Punjab would complete the project.

He said only 640 million trees had been planted in Pakistan till 2013. “Now, the target is 10 billion trees to transform the fate of Pakistan in terms of environment and seasons,” he said. This plantation would help solve the problem of depleting water resources and melting glaciers, he added.

He said three barrages in the Ravi city project would hold clean water and help improve the underground water level. It would also offer around a million jobs and inject $40 billion in the country’s economy, he claimed.

The PM also told CM Buzdar that he, his team and the administration would face massive problems in completing this project but they should maintain their resolve and move ahead.

Later in the day, Mr Khan held one-on-one meetings with the CM and provincial ministers at the Governor House.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2021

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