Status of education & voluntary national review report on SDG4 | By Nazakat Hussain

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Status of education & voluntary national review report on SDG4

PAKISTAN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as early as 2016 and started mainstreaming into the main policymaking and development dialogue.

However, the global system including Pakistan has experienced numerous socio-economic changes, especially during 2019 -2020 with the advent of COVID 19 pandemic.

SDGs offered a unique opportunity to improve the well-being of millions of people through policy coherence and integrated planning.

Since the beginning Pakistan has taken the agenda of SDGs very seriously. Awaz CDS has appreciated the incumbent government’s presentation of official voluntary national review (VNR) at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York on July 17, 2022 showing progress on the 2030 Agenda.

The VNR preparation process was led by the federal government. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives (MoPD&SI), being the reporting entity, steered the whole process of the VNR preparation.

After the VNR inception meeting, federal ministries, provincial and area governments planning and development departments prepared a detailed stakeholder engagement plan for the VNR consultations.

In this process, civil society was also made part of to get the real on-ground situation. But a more inclusive representation of civil society with meaningful voices and concerns was missing from the process.

There still are some reservations and room for improvement on critical sustainable development goals (SDGs) priorities in the absence of policy coherence, efficient implementation and review mechanisms.

Talking about SDGs, the GoP selected some targets of each SDG to focus on a priority basis but if we track the performance on those targets and indicators, Pakistan is lagging behind in achieving those targets and the overall performance is much lower than required.

Addressing the reported regressions and stagnation on critical goals including inequalities, hunger, justice, education, gender equality and climate change needed more focus.

The most marginalized like the poorest, women/girls, transgender community, religious and sexual minorities, farmers, labourers and persons with disabilities were the subjects needed to be covered properly in public sector development programs In the report, The Government of Pakistan has shown its commitment towards achieving SDG-4 which stipulates equitable education, removal of discrimination, provision and upgradation of infrastructure, skill development for sustainable progress, universal literacy, numeracy and enhancement of the professional capacity of teachers.

Light has been thrown on various aspects such as the provision of missing facilities, improvement of the physical infrastructure, establishment of IT/Science labs, upgradation of girls’ and boys’ primary schools to the middle, high and secondary levels, construction of new schools and colleges, provision of scholarships, Early Childhood Education (ECE) and strengthening of Provincial Institutes of Teacher Education (PITE).

The report also mentioned budget aspects that the total expenditure on education as share of GDP for Pakistan stood at on average 1.96%.

More attention needs to be paid to this factor. This particular element holds the most importance as provision of budget and financials is a major prerequisite for further steps.

In Pakistan, especially in Punjab, there is no adequate allocation of budget for the education sector.

There is an immediate need to address the widening inequalities in the country in the field of education.

Previous government initiated the “Single National Curriculum” to minimize disparity in the country’s education system but it could not be implemented throughout the country due to its various shortcomings and bottlenecks, hence we could not see the expected results.

Issues of Out-of-School Children (OOSC) needed more focus as what are the factors contributing towards school dropouts, especially for girls, and what steps were taken by the government to address those particular issues.

It was heartening to find out the overall education sector performance based on key indicators which showed significant improvement in Pakistan.

Total number of enrolments increased by 4.9 % in 2019-20 on a year-on-year basis. Referring to the bigger goals ahead of us, this number is not that satisfactory.

There are still many children who don’t go to school or if they do they are not getting quality education.

Special attention and measures need to be taken to ensure gender equality in the education system by taking steps for girls’ education and reducing drop-outs from schools at secondary levels.

Quality of education is a very important factor to determine the future of these children and the report needed to focus more on the parameters of quality of education and facilities provided in the schools.

Training of teachers plays a huge role in setting high quality education standards and this whole aspect is missing from the report.

Over 22 million children are out of school, and it needs holistic planning, equitable financing and stronger political will to enhance the educational outcome prioritizing the millions left behind.

At least 4-6 per cent of GDP or 20-25 per cent of public expenditure must be ensured to protect peoples’ fundamental right to education, as per Article 25-A of the Constitution.

Gender equality requires multi-sectoral gender-sensitive planning based on comprehensive vulnerability assessment for achieving gender-responsive social protection, health and education outcomes, protection from violence and disasters and protection of right to inheritance, employability and political participation.

For the protection of civic spaces and democratic accountability, CSOs’ meaningful inclusion across agenda-setting and planning processes to avoid tokenistic representation is the need of the time.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

 

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