Saturday, 2 April 2011

Education Emergency Declared in Pakistan

Education Emergency  Declared in Pakistan
Figuring out the 18th Amendment to the Constitution –
Article 101 -Amendment of Fourth Schedule to the Constitution
Pakistan has declared an Education Emergency in 2011! The Pakistan Education Task Force (PETF) co chaired by Mrs. Shahnaz Wazir Ali , Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Social Sectors and Sir Michael Barber on behalf of the British Government have put out an advocacy document titled Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 as part of a campaign March on Education ( The publication is articulated as juxtapositions on myth and reality on a number of critical dimensions of education backed by evidence to inform the public for urgent debate and suitable actions.  The document is a well researched advocacy piece and it concludes with a series of campaign actions including a signature campaign to be sent to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and Parliamentarians for raising the budget from 1.5% to 4% and taking neccesary steps that are critical to halting the emergency through relief, recovery and rehabilitation measures and perhaps more!  
The call for education emergency has been fuelled by the ongoing debate on the extent, jurisdiction and  process of devolving education to the provincial levels in the wake of the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment o the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

For education, the bonus of the 18th Amendment are two critical articles viz. Articles 25 A and Article 19-A.  Whilst Article 25 A makes education for the first time a fundamental justice-able right and obligates the state to provide free and compulsory education for all children of the age five to sixteen, Article 19- A or the Right to Information  is guaranteed as a fundamental right! 
The 18th Amendment has also led to new configuration of domains of legal responsibility. What  were earlier seen as federal, concurrent and provincial jurisdictions have been shifted. The 18th Amendment[1] in its article  101. Amendment of Fourth Schedule to the Constitution highlights two major shifts.
1)      under 101 – 3 it states that 
The Concurrent Legislative List and the entries thereto from 1 to 47 (both inclusive) shall be omitted
Entries 38 and 37 have been thus removed from the concurrent list of the 1973 Constitution[2]. Entry 38 entailed curriculum, syllabus, planning policy, centres of excellence, standards of education.  Entry 39 covers Islamic education.  Both have been transferred to the provinces.  &
2) Under 101. 2 Part II the federal lists retained and re-numbered are  entries 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 shall be renumbered as entries 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17,
Thus the federal list entails the following:
  1. All regulatory authorities established under a Federal law.  
  2. National planning and national economic coordination including planning and coordination of scientific and technological research.  
9.    Census.  
12.  Standards in institutions for higher education and research, scientific and technical institutions. 
13.Inter-provincial matters and co-ordination.
Furthermore the retained renumbered areas in the Federal Legislative List (Part I)  Legislation Vide Article 142(a) is that of

Entry 3.  External affairs; the implementing of treaties and agreements, including educational and cultural pacts and agreements, with other countries…”
Entry 15. Libraries, museums, and similar institutions controlled or financed by the Federation
Entry 16. Federal agencies and institutes for the following purposes, that is to say, for research, for professional or technical training, or for the promotion of special studies
Entry 17. Education as respects Pakistani students in foreign countries and foreign students in Pakistan
Entry 32. International treaties, conventions and agreements and International arbitration. 
Entry 57. Inquiries and statistics for the purposes of any of the matters in this part.

This interplay of legal and technical provisions has created opportunities and confusion for many citizens of the country as a legal mine field open to interpretation for designing new configurations across federal and provincial levels. Some may well argue that it is for indeed worthwhile to redefine new provincial and federal roles and responsibilities for addressing the education emergency to the benefit of its 180 million citizens, of which 45-47% are below the age of 18.   
Sadly for many at this point it has thrown up more controversial issues than offered a convincing line of action to handle the education emergency. This dilemma needs to be quickly overcome through mobilization of specialists and indeed common citizens in demystifying options and way forward.    

The 18th Amendment has also deleted/omitted the federal government to legislate and administer the key areas of education policy, planning, curriculum standards, centres of excellence and Islamic education. This has put the future role of the federal Ministry of education along with the higher education Commission is being decided as one  writes this piece in terms of its existence, scope, size and jurisdiction. In the ongoing discussion there are concerns about:
-           Is it wise to completely devolve standards, assessment, curriculum, school equivalence issues and policy to the provincial levels without any consolidating agency at the centre?
-          It is necessary or sensible to disband the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for tertiary education support? Both provincial and federal government may  bolster this segment. 
-          Is there a capacity issue at the provincial/federal levels for which a transition phase needs to be put in place across the federating units and the federation?
-          What will happen to the role, space and support for private sector providers in the implementation of the article 25 A for All?
-          What will be the future of the National Education Policy 2009 which was designed with bold assumptions about governance structures  that are no more as a result of the 18th Amendment?
-          What will be the future of the current Private Education Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) established for the regulation of the Private Sector institutions in the federal areas under the Ministry of Education (MoE), which technically ought not have been under the MoE as the latter cannot concurrently be an administrator and a regulator?

There are multiple concerns that need to be unpacked and debated at this juncture if the education emergency has to be understood across all its complex elements and halted through sensible actions.  The bonus of Articles 25 A and 19 A under the  18th Amendment may sadly  be wiped out prematurely if there is a blind simplistic adherence to the immediate implementation of the ending of the concurrent list without adequate rationale for retaining or devolving critical functions across all sub-sectors of education to the provinces.  The devil is in the details of figuring out the interplay between parts 2 and 3 of  101. Amendment of Fourth Schedule to the Constitution
The timing could not have been worse for the education sector. On the one hand, the floods in July/August 2010 have affected over 10,000 institutions across the country and 1.3 million children, whilst the resource crunch has left little else for building capacity and consensus to re-imagine education with stakeholders which is the most exciting challenge of the 18th Amendment! 

[2] - Look at the Powerpoint presentation by the MoE

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