LAHORE: The Punjab government on Friday unveiled its five-year programme, titled ‘The New Deal 2023’, to transform school education with a focus on learning, access and equity and governance.

Punjab Minister for Schools Education Dr Murad Raas and Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan jointly held a press conference at the Directorate General Public Relations to shed light on the 100-day achievements of the school education department and its plans for the next six months.

Schools Education Secretary Zafar Iqbal, Additional Secretary Ghulam Fareed, Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board Managing Director Abdul Qayyum and others were also present on the occasion.

Minister Raas said that a comprehensive plan had been finalised to achieve the goals of the schools education department. Under the 2023 plan, they would introduce short-, mid- and long-term strategies to reform government schools. He said the government had recognised that reforms in public schools were required in learning, access and equity and governance.

He further said that more than 70 per cent students left schools after completing primary education and did not enter middle classes. “We are working towards starting afternoon classes in 20 districts in March to provide access to children to middle and high level classes,” he claimed.

The minister said they were launching the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) to foster data-driven decision making and devising data-based performance management system, adding that its PC-1 was ready. The IMIS would connect 450,000 teachers with the department, who would get promotions by pressing a button.

Mr Raas said that permission will not be granted to open substandard schools in every nook and corner, adding that the hitherto unregistered private schools should immediately get themselves registered with the department. Education in primary schools would be imparted in Urdu and English taught as a subject, he added.

He said compulsory sports will be introduced and the programme to provide bicycles to students in 20 districts will be extended besides construction of girls-friendly toilets. Similarly, a health programme is being launched in 1,700 selected schools. Weak school structures were also being restored in flood-affected areas of the province, he added.

Talking about the austerity measures during the first 100 days, Raas said the government had saved Rs580 million by starting open bidding of Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board for the procurement of textbooks for 2019-20. Similarly, Rs20 million had been saved by merging the three offices of Punjab Education Foundation in Lahore.

The minister said that drafts of Punjab Educational Professionals Standards Council Bill 2018, Punjab Private Education Reform Bill 2018 and Punjab School Truancy and Compulsory Admission Bill 2018 had been prepared with the objective to regulate the school system and improve matters pertaining to schooling. Work was also being done on a performance management framework for education managers at tehsil, district and provincial levels, he added. He further said the government was adopting rationalisation to address the shortage of teachers.

To a query, the minister said Daanish School System was not a viable project as Rs18,000 per month was being spent on one child, while millions of other students had no access to basic facilities in public schools.

Information Minister Chohan said that for the first time any government had laid out a 100-day plan and formulated future strategies. All the departments and ministers were briefing the nation about their 100-day plans to provide a roadmap of their future course of action, he added.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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