National education emergency on the cards

By Jamila Achakzai
April 19, 2024
Federal Education Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui meets with the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott on April 19, 2024. — Facebook/Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Pakistan

Islamabad:A plan is in the works to declare a national education emergency to get all stakeholders on the same page to further the cause of formal learning in the country, said federal education secretary Mohyuddin Wani on Thursday.


"All donors and NGOs are operating here in silos and compartments, so we're making a concerted effort through an education emergency to ensure that a single platform is there to align and channel the effort of all stakeholders in our education sector," Wani told federal education minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott during a meeting at the ministry. British Council country director James Hampson was also in attendance.

Dr. Siddiqui and Ms Marriott discussed the challenges and opportunities that emerged in Pakistan after the devolution of the subject of education to the provinces. The minister said the number of out-of-school children in Pakistan was ballooning, and the only way to address the critical issue was by declaring it a national agenda.

He said slums were propping up in major cities due to rapid and uncontrolled urbanisation but they're ignored in every education policy. Dr. Siddiqui said there was a need to ensure all children's easy access to formal learning. He encouraged the UK to support Pakistan in addressing the issue of out-of-school children.

"We need to bring all stakeholders, especially donors, on the same platform so that all educational efforts can be channelled and streamlined," he said. The minister said the ministry was striving to ensure that the cause of education becomes one of the main agendas of the national effort towards progress.

He said the ministry had set the target of training one million youth in information technology. "I hope that in the medium term, Pakistan will become one of the biggest suppliers of IT professionals to the world," he said. Dr. Siddiqui urged the UK to help Pakistani IT professionals attain international certification to get their education and skills recognised globally.

He also said the mental health of students should be catered to by professionals. "We [the education ministry] aim to establish mental health awareness and support desks in all of the colleges in Islamabad," he said. The minister also said serious efforts were under way to address what ailed the country's education sector, but "more efforts and better focus" were required.

He said a nutrition programme had been launched in Islamabad to increase enrolment in schools. "The money spent on education is investment and not expenditure," he said. The British high commissioner said her country encouraged the expansion of its green programme which could lead to an increase in the enrolment of Pakistani students in its universities via distance learning.

She said Google Education was highly interested in supporting Pakistan in its bid to address the issue of access to education. The British Council country director said after China, Pakistan had the largest British Council Programme.

He said the global chief executive of the British Council would visit Pakistan in May. The minister welcomed the initiatives of the British Council for promoting international cultural and educational opportunities in the country and said it should enhance collaborations with Pakistani government and organisations, especially for increasing educational outreach programmes for slums in the metro­politan cities of the country.