CSJ and PCMR Host Major Conference to Address Educational Disparities in Pakistan

In Lahore, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Peoples Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) held a pivotal conference titled “Fulfilling the Dream of Free & Compulsory Education (Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan),” where distinguished speakers advocated for significant reforms in Pakistan’s education system. They called on the government to integrate insights from independent education experts to forge a robust educational policy that bridges current gaps.

The conference featured an array of education specialists and activists, including Peter Jacob, Dr. A. H. Nayyar, Dr. Baela Raza Jamil, and Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, who discussed various challenges and solutions concerning educational policies in Pakistan. Punjab's Minister for School Education, Rana Sikander Hayat, assured attendees of the government's commitment to enhance the educational landscape by significantly increasing funding, which would be channelled towards improving early childhood education, integrating technology in classrooms, and upgrading teacher training.

Peter Jacob, CSJ's Executive Director, emphasized the urgent need to address the policy vacuum and the fragmentation across institutional roles that hinder the effective implementation of education reforms. He heralded the government’s declaration of an educational emergency as a positive step but stressed the necessity for actionable strategies to surmount the structural barriers to quality education.

Dr. Baela Raza Jamil raised concerns about the educational setbacks children face due to insufficient funding and legislative inaction, which undermine the enforcement of laws ensuring the right to free and compulsory education. She highlighted the critical importance of prioritizing early childhood education to enhance learning outcomes across the country.

Dr. A. H. Nayyar criticized the prevalence of religion-specific content in textbooks, which he argued contradicts the secular mandates of Pakistan’s Constitution. He advocated for the abolition of textbook boards in favour of a more decentralized and diverse textbook provision that encourages critical thinking and creativity among students.

Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh pointed out the discord between policy goals and actions, which he believes dilutes the educational content's quality, steering it away from fact-based and balanced curricula. He called for a reversal of these regressive educational policies to realign the curriculum with factual accuracy and comprehensive coverage.

Adding to the legal perspectives, Saqib Jilani Advocate announced plans to petition the Supreme Court to enforce the fundamental right to education, asserting that the state should provide comprehensive educational support, including free textbooks and transportation.

Raza Ali Advocate criticized the Single National Curriculum (SNC) for being crafted by an unauthorized body, the National Curriculum Council (NCC), instead of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) as stipulated by the 18th Amendment. This critique is part of an ongoing legal challenge against the SNC's constitutionality.

The conference concluded with a unified call for inclusive educational reforms that ensure equitable learning opportunities for all segments of society, stressing the need for legal actions and policy revisions to combat the educational disparities that persist across the nation. The insights and recommendations discussed aim to mould an educational framework that truly reflects the needs and rights of Pakistan’s diverse population.