—Timely steps taken by incumbent govt has reduced number of out-of-school children from 26m to 22.6m in four years, minister claims
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Engineer Balighur Rehman said that though there are several loopholes in Pakistan’s education system, the increase in annual education budget from Rs550 billion to Rs850 billion is one of the most important initiatives taken by the incumbent government, as a result of which the number of out-of-school children has witnessed a decrease from 26 million to 22.6 million during the years 2013-17.
He made these remarks while addressing the ground-breaking ceremony of the new campus of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Engineering (CASE) here at sector B- 17 on Wednesday.
The minister said the government was on the path to progress and was looking to increase the economic growth rate to six per cent while also adding around 10,000MW of energy to the national grid by the end of this year.
He said that Pakistan had been gifted with a young population which would prove to be a valuable asset for the country in the future, provided their energies were utilised on productive pursuits.
“The establishment of such institutes would be a big opportunity for the youth to get enrolled with this institute and enhance their capabilities further,” he added.
While recalling some problems faced by CASE due to non-fulfilment of criteria set by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Rehman said these obstacles ultimately proved a blessing for CASE which got possession of a huge chunk of land to build a vast campus on.
The minister further said that a large number of students were the direct beneficiaries of the public-private partnership programmes being successfully run in the country.
Talking about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and many other mega projects, he said, “I know many projects were long-running and could not be completed overnight during the present government’s tenure as some of them are scheduled for completion by 2030.”
“The social action projects are student-led initiatives that tackle issues related to local communities, ranging from environmental actions to issues of social justice and gender abuse. These projects help develop leadership and team building skills among students and also to enhance their understanding of local issues,” Rehman said.
While recalling the past, he said that in 2012 there were rumours about the country’s breakup but nowadays almost all think-tanks were saying that Pakistan was being developed at a steady speed and if it managed to continue with the same pace, soon it would be enlisted as a developed country.
Similarly, he added, that in the past, there were around 26 per cent faculty members in the universities with PhD degrees, which had now increased to 40 per cent. This number should be further increased to 100 per cent to ensure the provision of quality education.
Replying to a question by a reporter, the minister claimed that his party had always respected the constitution. “I fully endorse the view that no one is above the constitution. Unfortunately, some elements misused the constitution throughout our history for their personal gains,” he regretted.
The minister exercised refrain and refused to comment on the recent meeting between the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar and Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Education and Professional Training Chairman Amirullah Marwat said that many local leaders of his party urged him to give approval to the CASE bill, adding that he always rejected such requests on the condition that “the set legal criteria could not be ignored in this connection”.
He said that the country needed creativity instead of producing more PhDs. “Without a link between the industry and the academia, no country can be developed on modern lines,” he suggested.
On the occasion, an official from CASE briefed the participants that so for the institute had produced over 50 PhDs and over 1,850 graduates, adding that it also offered 10 per cent merit-based scholarship for each academic programme.
“Now the institute has diverted its focus towards cybersecurity system and has received around 12 awards for showing best performance in the information technology sector,” Rehman claimed.