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Uniform, quality education stressed

ISLAMABAD, Aug 3: Access to quality education for all under a just economic and democratic political system is the only way to rid the country of poverty, destitution and terrorism.

This was stated at a 'citizens consultation' jointly organised by the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) and the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) here on Thursday.

The speakers resolved to explore the innate link between the weakening of the social order, rise of religious militancy and lack of a proper education system in the country.

Harris Khalique, chief executive SPO, said when Pakistan turns 60 this year its citizens are going through a deep sense of insecurity, hopelessness and social trauma due to internal and external political situation, growing injustice against the poor, women and minorities, and the absence of a credible system of education.

He said in stead of criticising madressahs alone, the whole education system needed to be critically looked at and then redesigned. He said the presence of numerous class-based and conflicting systems of education was tantamount to fossilising the gruesome class divide between the rich, the very rich, the poor and the very poor.

Saqib Akbar, chairman Ukhuwat Academy, focused on the real and perceived division between the worldly and religious education. He highlighted the factors and reasons behind the increased enrolment in madressahs. He said mostly the poor sent their children to such places because of the free education and accommodation. He said each Muslim must know what his or her religion says and be able to practice deen without depending on the clergy.

Dr Shahid Siddiqi, professor at the Lahore School of Economics, mentioned US policy about funding madressahs during the Afghan war against the then Soviet Union and now spending millions of dollars to rein in these places and revamp their curricula.

Executive director of Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy, Shahnaz Wazir Ali said the improvement in the country's educational system without the formulation of a new governance paradigm was impossible. Social, economic and political systems need to be redefined. She said we should learn from nations like China who have struggled for years to attain a good quality system.

Prof A.H. Nayyar, leading physicist and educationist, defined acquisition of communication and reasoning ability as the tools to be given to students through a modern and inclusive education system. He said critical thinking should be developed if we want a creative society to nurture. Dawn
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