Balochistan Express
Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Rs. 12.5 b sought for education sector: Zubaida

ISLAMABAD: Education Minister Zobaida Jalal said Tuesday that the education budget is expected to be further enhanced to Rs. 12.5 billion this year compared to last year and the shortage of textbooks would be over soon. "Our budget requirements are huge: We are talking about anything from Rs. 12.5 billion, yet it will depend on the resources of the government, she said speaking as the chief guest at the Euro 20 million (about Rs. 1.28 billion) grant signing ceremony between Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan and European Commission (EC) for the Northern Pakistan Education Project (NPEP). She said, "Whatever budget we get about 70% will go to the provinces, and 30% to the Islamabad Capital Territory, Azad ! Jammu and Kashmir, the Northern Areas and the tribal areas."

To a question on shortage of textbooks in the market she held the chairmen provincial textbook boards responsible saying, "They (chairmen) should have seen to it that books were in time and the number of books required" was met. The minister said, "I am really sorry for what has happened and it should not have happened." If there was a issue which was to be resolved by the Federal Ministry, she said, "they (chairmen) should have informed the ministry that we would not be able to produce so many books in time." Zobaida clarified that it is not the ministry that introduces textbooks, but the provincial textbook boards do so. She also directed the provincial textbook boards to expedite the matter and submit their report within a week. The minister said no action has been taken against any person yet, but all the chairmen have been directed to attend a meeting on May 10, to discuss this issue and to fix responsibility. She said the meeting would also discuss why the deregulation of printing of textbooks ordinance that was passed by the Cabinet had not been implemented yet. The private sector was also asked to print textbooks so that there were better quality books on cheaper rates for the students, she explained. Talking about the deregulation of the printing of textbooks, she said a "mafia" has been working there and it may take as long as five years to break it. Asked what steps were taken for making unified syllabus throughout the country, she said, "There is one curricula and the same text books, only the lessons could be different," for primary and 9th and 10th c! lasses. The unified syllabus would be introduced in other classes phase wise in two years, she added. Zobaida said that in the education sector reforms one of the thrust areas is the public-private partnership. About 40% of the education is being supplemented by private sector, which includes institutions such as Aga Khan Education Service Pakistan (AKESP).

Talking about the EC's Euro 20 million grant she said, "The today's agreement is in fact implementation of the government's education sector reforms." It would help the government in achieving its targets for accessibility, female education and quality education, she added. She asked the Aga Khan Foundation to look after about 500 community schools in the NAs till the government could support them. These schools were initiated by the World Bank. She also thanked European Union for its "untied support" in the education sector and the AKF for its services. Earlier, a Euro 20 million contract signing ceremony was held between Chairman Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan, Kamal Chinoy and Ambassador and Head of the European Commission Delegation in Pakistan, Ilkka Uusitalo.