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Punjab Private Educational Institutions watchdog

Proposed watchdog on private schools bothers owners
Lahore, Aug 20: Concerns of the private sector are increasing as the Punjab government is rapidly moving towards establishment of a proposed Punjab Private Educational Institution Promotional and Regulatory Authority, a body to oversee working of private schools in the province.

Recommendations in this regard have recently been sent to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who had formed a special committee to deliberate and present solid recommendations so that affairs of private sector institutions, especially schools, could be streamlined.

The setting up of an independent regulatory body for private sector educational institutions has been a major demand of the stakeholders who argue that the existing Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984 is not "enough" to handle affairs of private schools.

Academic circles believe that one of the major issues is related to fee charged by private schools about which the said ordinance is silent. They argue that the government is unable to cap fee of private schools while evaluation and monitoring are the other important issues related to private sector involved in education.

They further argue that collection of funds under different heads by private schools, mandatory purchase of stationery items and uniform and books etc from prescribed stores are the other concerns of the stakeholders.

One of the members of the committee, constituted by the chief minister, when approached said that there was a dire need of the regulatory body. He said that there was no other option because neither the school department nor could a single minister watch over such a big sector.

Talking about recommendations sent to the CM, he said the body would be keeping an eye on the faculty and the facilities provided against the fee charged by the private sector. However, there would be no fixed fee structure designed for all schools, he said. He said there should be one window in this regard in which no separate charges would be taken from the parents other than the tuition fee.

He said the proposed body would register and affiliate the schools with examination boards for different exams and train the teachers of private schools.

To a question, the member said the government would also facilitate the private sector by waiving different taxes, adding these schools would be categorized in different groups according to the fee structure.

Talking further about formation of the body, he said it would comprise eight members from the private sector for three years, claiming that the chairman would also be elected from amongst these members.

Academic circlers also believe that the Punjab Schools Department alone cannot monitor the private schools as it is already overloaded with almost 63,000 government schools in the province. With hundreds of thousands of students and around 0.35 million teachers, the Punjab Schools Department is one of the largest public organizations of the country.

It is important to mention that the previous Punjab government had also claimed to have established a regulatory authority for private sector educational institutions but it failed to do so. Last year, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had formed a committee to review the 1984 Ordinance and suggest and recommend ways to set up a regulatory body.

It is generally believed that most of the private schools are now built in the name of business where they charge hefty amount apart from the tuition fee. However, neither they provide sufficient salaries to their teachers nor facilities which could match the fee. It is, therefore, argued that there is a dire need to check the working of the private schools.

Ishrat, whose son is a 9th grader, told this scribe she was not satisfied with the quality of education his son was getting in a private school.

"Despite paying Rs2,500 per month we send our son to an academy", she said, adding "These days almost every private school is busy expanding its branches at the cost of quality."

Sameera, a mother of a 15-year-old daughter, said the element of grooming was missing in her daughter's education. She said because of the burden of an extremely difficult syllabus her daughter found no time for recreation and thus lacked in terms of confidence.

Arshad, a banker with a moderate salary, complained that he had to bear a lot of expenses other than his son's tuition fee.

Tabina, a student who got a scholarship in A-levels, said that everyone could not afford quality education nowadays. Either you are an outstanding student or you are financially strong to study at a good institution, she said. Representatives of private schools associations, however, expressed concern over the proposed regulatory authority. "If the regulatory body fails to take us into confidence, we will protest and raise our voice against it."

Adeeb Jawadani, President of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said only two percent of the private schools were charging extraordinarily, adding only those who could afford send their children to these schools. "The rest are charging affordable fees", he claimed. He said various kinds of taxes were being imposed on private schools by the government which ignored the fact these were sharing its load as far as promotion of education was concerned.

Interestingly, the total number of private schools stills remains a mystery as the figures claim by government and private organizations do not match.

According to Lahore's EDO Education Dr Arshad, the total number of private schools, including unregistered, is around 6,000 in Lahore alone. On contrary, the association claims 18,000 private schools exist in Lahore while another association official says the number is 7,000.

Academic circles and stakeholders also believe that the establishment of the proposed regulatory authority would not only provide relief to the people but it would also help resolve the mystery about total number of private educational institutions.

-AISHA ABDUL RAHMAN

(The writer is an intern and studies in the Punjab University). The news


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Class-based education is mother of all ills
Lahore: Former federal finance minister Sartaj Aziz has called upon the public and private sectors to make joint efforts to expand and improve country's educational system.

He was speaking at an annual dinner of the Trust for Education and Development of Deserving Students (TEDDS) held here. The subject of the discussion was "Beginning of a new Pakistan through Education."

Mr Aziz said that over a dozen education commissions and high-level committees had studied the educational system since the inception of Pakistan and they had submitted their recommendations after thoroughly examining the system but these were never implemented and shelved in government archives.

He said the present system had three types of schools; the English medium, Urdu medium and madressah. The English medium schools mostly catered to the rich and the upper class of society whose children were later sent abroad for higher education and most of them never returned to Pakistan.

He said the Urdu medium schools, which included government schools, were for the children of lower classes of society and their standard of education, teachers and administration was far from satisfactory.

While the madressah schools, which mostly imparted religious education to the children of the poor, were poles apart from the previous two categories as they had a different mindset and world view, he said.

The former minister said that all the three categories were based on the class system and rich-poor divide, which was dangerous for country's future.

He said that it was a great challenge to have a uniform system of education in the country, adding that the syllabi of the three categories of schools should be revised and improved.

Former LUMS vice-chancellor Syed Zahurul Hasan said that education was considered the main source of an individual's social and financial development in other countries while in Pakistan it was other way round.

He said the access to education should be the main aim of one's development and progress in life.

Mr Hassan said that all out efforts should be made by the government and the private sector to expand the education and improve its quality and standard.

Special efforts, he said, should be made to produce best teachers because they alone could provide quality education to students.

He said that well-to-do families should undertake to bear expenses of at least one student up to the higher secondary level like the TEDDS.

Journalist Mujibur Rahman Shami said the present education based on class system portended very dangerous future and if this gulf between the rich and the poor was not eliminated it would be disastrous for the country.

"The islands built by the rich in the form of their separate colonies, educational institutions and even graveyards would be swept away by the sea of the poor around them," he warned.

TEDDS secretary-general Tahir Yousuf explained the progress made by the schools it had set up in Lahore during the past 14 years.

He said the main purpose of the trust school was to provide quality education to the deserving students of the less privileged class by persuading the rich to contribute voluntarily to their education.

Mr Yousuf said half of the children of school-going age number about 20 million now had no schools to go and those had schools lacked the quality education.

The result was increasing menace of unemployment, child labour, use of drugs, violence and the gun culture. If this trend of denying the education to the children continued it would prove disastrous, he said.

Students obtaining high marks in the matriculation examination this year were awarded merit certificates and special prizes by Sartaj Aziz and other distinguished guests.

Fahad Umar, who stood first in TEDDS schools in matric examination securing 1002 out of 1050 marks, was given a special prize of Rs100,000. Dawn


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GCU produces PhD scholar
Lahore: Dr. Shazia Khurshid Lecturer Department of Chemistry Government College University Lahore has been awarded the Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of Chemistry. Her topic was "Microbial Production of Glucose Oxidase and its Commercial Applications". She completed her research under the supervision of Dr. Muhammad Akram Kashmiri Chairman, Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Lahore. F.P. Report


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