Saturday September 18, 2021

Experts call for equal education opportunities

August 01, 2021

LAHORE : Experts and educationists on Saturday observed that the government needed to prioritise broad reforms in order to realise the constitutional promise based on right to free and compulsory education for all children.

They were speaking at a conference held to pay tribute to the late IA Rehman (1930-2021) by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The discussion focused on the way forward on implementation of Article 25A of the constitution of Pakistan, academic freedom and Single National Curriculum (SNC). Senior human rights activists, intellectuals, educationists, students in person, and hundreds of participants attended the conference online.

According to a press release, Peter Jacob, executive director, CSJ, said the Article 25A establishes free and compulsory education as a fundamental human right. Several steps have been taken by the federal and provincial governments. However, the issues of out-of-school children, low enrollment rate, drop-outs, lack of teacher training, limited budget allocations, violation of Article 22(1) and absence of wide and inclusive consultations still remain the core concerns, he said. Dr Kaiser Bengali, an economist, researcher and policy expert, stressed the need to move away from asking the same power elites for better outcomes and struggle for an egalitarian power structure.

While discussing the policy direction in the light of Article 25A, educationist and policy expert Dr Baela Raza Jamil elaborated that the National Education Policy 2021 was an opportunity to frame education challenges through a dynamic lens and the constitutional provision was given in Article 25A. Dr A H Nayyar, noted educationist and researcher, evaluated the state of academic freedom in educational institutions in the country. He pointed out that a true academic work was unthinkable without freedom to think and to express.

Dr Ayesha Razzaque, an educationist and researcher, presented findings of her recent assessment “The Constitutionality of Textbooks under Single National Curriculum.” Dr Tania Saeed, associate professor, shed light on the right to education in relation to problems on ground exploring questions of who had access to education, the kind of access, and who was left behind, while sharing narratives from local communities. Noted advocate Saqib Jillani assessed the legal framework on the right to education. He emphasised that Article 25A was not a stand-alone right, it was part of fundamental rights specified in the constitution. He pointed out the importance and need for the federal and provincial education departments to comply with the rights guaranteed to all in the constitution. The participants urged the federal and provincial governments to devote adequate resources and potential to make education compulsory and available to all, outline specific guidelines in National Education Policy for the provincial education departments and textbook boards. A short film based on the life and struggle of late IA Rehman was also screened in the conference.