Consultation Findings: Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA)
In 2010, the Government of Pakistan introduced Article 25-A in the Constitution of Pakistan which declared that the “state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age 5-16 years in such a manner as may be determined by law.” While this was a very positive step in the right direction, roughly five years later, the government is still struggling to make good on its promise – the commitment levels are high but spending remains low.
Even though the government is cognizant of its responsibilities to provide free and compulsory education – reflected in its longstanding target, first set in 1992, of spending 4% of GDP on education – it is a mammoth task, one that they are not fully equipped to take on by virtue of inefficient resource allocation and lack of sufficient funding for the education sector. The lack of funding continues to remain one of the main obstacles to ensuring quality education for all in Pakistan.
Recognizing the challenges of education in Pakistan, particularly due to the funding gap, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) held three rounds of global consultations on behalf of the Education Commission. These discussions took place at the University of Peshawar, Khyber Paktunkhwa; Federal College of Education, Islamabad; and Punjab University, Lahore. The aim of these consultations was to start a discourse about innovative means of financing education to fulfill Pakistan’s national and international commitments to education and inspire and persuade stakeholders at all levels to take necessary action.
For each of these consultations, ITA laid out the framework by presenting in detail the current status of education in Pakistan and its shortcomings in providing quality education. It further highlighted the gaps in education financing in Pakistan and potential innovative methods to fill this gap. The presentation was followed by breakout group discussions and recommendations for the way forward by each of the students and youth groups.
The students and Education Youth Ambassadors (EYAs) participating in the consultations presented some insightful recommendations for innovative financing for education. They pushed for the need to exploit the country’s vast natural resources, for example the Reko Diq and Saindak gold and copper mines, as potential sources for education financing. Public-private partnerships were highlighted as a means to not only bridge the funding gap, but also as a viable option to help create third-party monitors and evaluators for public education institutes to tackle the crisis of education in Pakistan. Other recommendations included debt-for-education swaps for education, i.e., a bilateral agreement to cancel debt in exchange for better education outcomes; taxation on items deemed harmful for society such as tobacco and caffeine, revenues from which could be used to fund education; and merit-based scholarship programs aimed specifically at women as part of gender-responsive budgeting in Pakistan.