ISLAMABAD, Sept 9 After months of foot-dragging, the federal cabinet approved on Wednesday the national education policy which sets ambitious goals of raising the annual budgetary allocations for the sector to seven per cent of the GDP and increasing literacy to 85 per cent by 2015.

Grades 11 and 12 (intermediate education) will no more be part of college education but will be merged into the school system. All primary schools will be upgraded to the middle level.

The government also plans to increase enrolment in higher education from the present 4.7 per cent to 10 per cent by 2015 and to 15 per cent by 2020.

At present the allocation for the education sector is about two per cent of the GDP.

In the first week of April, a draft of the national education policy was submitted to the cabinet, but its approval was deferred for want of inputs from relevant quarters.

Education Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani said that the inter-provincial forum of education ministers had been given a supervisory role in the new policy. It will meet on a regular basis to address provinces' concern.

Education is a provincial subject and the federal government only takes policy decisions.

He said the four chief ministers also attended the meeting which unanimously approved the policy. “The main thrust of the policy is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015.”

Mr Bijarani said the government had decided to separate academic and administrative cadres and set up district education boards to promote education at grassroots level.

The provincial governments will set up the boards in collaboration with local representatives.

Syllabus of public sector schools would be improved in consultation with private sector schools to reduce disparity between the two sectors.

The policy envisages a regime of strict uniform examination system across the country.

The minister said that teachers with matriculation and intermediate level education would be gradually phased out and replaced with qualified teachers.

The government has also decided to improve the salary structure of teachers.

The policy lays special focus on gender equality and bridging urban-rural divide.

The government has decided to launch a project called 'Apna Ghar' residential schools to provide free education to poor students.

“At present we have set up such schools in every provincial capital and the project would be extended to the district level,” the minister said.

He said that a national merit programme would be introduced to reward bright students.

“Improvement in coordination with national and international donors and effective private-public partnership has also been highlighted in the new policy,” the minister said.

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