Education—goal 4 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—is one of the major drivers of development because of its strong linkages with poverty reduction and economic growth. Education provision without any discrimination is the state responsibility as according to the Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973: “State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 5-16 years in such as manner as may be determined by law.” Hence political parties’ promises in their manifestos are important to analyze as it depicts their future discourse of addressing the education issues and challenges in Pakistan. Currently, education sector of Pakistan is struggling with various challenges including education access, quality and retention. Globally low ranking of Pakistan in primary education is also evident of the fact as Pakistan stood at 129th position in the list of 137 countries in pillar 4 (primary education and health) of Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2017.
All the political parties proposed various measures to improve education indicators in Pakistan. Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is focusing mainly on higher education with fewer measures to improve education access and retention at primary and secondary levels. It does not appear a preferable strategy for education sector in Pakistan as still 22.8 million children (44%) of 5-16 years old are out of school. PML-N proposed generic ways to promote basic education such as achieve universal primary enrolment by 2023 and provision of early childhood education but without any clear points to make these promises real. Whereas Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is more elaborative on the making improvements in access to the basic education through various measures: targeting the districts with poor education indicators; improving the financial management system focusing the efficiency of public investment on education in marginalized and areas with poor education services; and strengthening the use of evidence in decision-making through developing disaggregated education indicators and introducing the performance-based incentivized system.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) focused on the public-private partnerships (voucher schemes and credit provision to the youth to teach in their communities) and promoting innovative solutions to education provision in remote area through creating Education Fund.
Gender disparity is another major issue of education sector in Pakistan that still remains despite various girls’ specific initiatives including girls’ stipend programs as 49% girls of 5-16 years old are out of school compared to the 40% out-of-school boys of the same age group. Similar situation exists at province level as out of total out of school children, 50% girls in Punjab, 53% in Sindh, 69% in KP and 51% in Balochistan are out of school according to the Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17. The dismal situation of girls’ education demands specific and concrete measures by the political parties to address this issue; unfortunately this aspect is neglected in their political promises. PML-N proposed only one solution to this issue that is equitable access to education for girls; by which means, the manifesto is silent about it. PPP and PTI are relatively more specific about the girls’ education. PPP mentioned the school up-gradation from primary to secondary level in order to retain the girls in schools along with girls’ specific resource allocations. Similarly, PTI proposed the stipend for girls’ students of secondary level and self-learning TV/radio and online programmes in addition to the school up-gradation strategy.
Education quality that is another major concern of education strategy is focused by all political parties. Curriculum development is the common measure in all manifestos to improve education quality. PML-N introduced the pedagogical revolutionary measures including compliance with the National Education Standards, digital pedagogy in classrooms, improve classroom instructions through reform assessment models, and enhance teachers’ training through establishing training academies, and promoting the broad-based curriculum. PTI also planned teachers’ training like other two parties. Additionally, PTI will establish a National Commission for Education standards to revise minimum standards of education for public schools and will provide talented teachers in public schools through Teach for Pakistan programme. Similarly, PPP proposed to follow standardized and institutionalized procedure to review the textbooks to maintain quality, promoting technological advancements in pedagogy, implementing a comprehensive teachers’ training programme, and creating a separate Management and Training Cadre in Education Departments.
Furthermore contextualizing the post 18th Amendment situation in service delivery of education, PPP mentioned to ensure the development and implementation of educational plans by all provinces in post devolution context.
To promote equitable education access and quality standards of education in public schools, adequate resource allocation is need of the hour. In this regard, PML-N and PPP clearly targets resource allocation i.e. 4% and 5% of GDP respectively unlike PTI. There is need to analyze and compare these promises with previous performances to capture the capability of these political parties to deliver these promises.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.