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To address the issue of Out-of-School Children (OOSC) in Pakistan and maximize the enrollment of school age children across the country, the Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiatives, the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training, and all provincial governments have agreed to prepare a National Action Plan for OOSC.
The decision was made in a high-level consultative meeting addressing Pakistan’s OOSC crisis. Under the Chairmanship of the Federal Minister of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal, the meeting was attended by the Additional Secretary Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training, Provincial Secretaries of Education Departments, Director General, Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Member Social Sector & Development of Planning Commission and other stakeholders.
Over the years, Pakistan has made considerable progress in providing access to education to its school age population. However, the pace of improvement has been slow compared to other developing countries. With an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 years out of school, Pakistan has one of the highest number of Out of School Children in the world. However, the incumbent government is committed to resolving this critical issue. Since the current government has assumed charge, several steps have been taken to counter Pakistan’s OOSC challenge. The upcoming PSDP 2023-2024 will also institutionalize several key initiatives to achieve universal education in Pakistan.
A model Universal Enrollment Pilot Project in ICT will attempt to ensure that there are no OOSC in ICT. After piloting this in Islamabad, the learnings may be replicated to produce similar results in other areas across the country. The Planning Ministry will also identify Pakistan’s districts with the highest concentrations of OOSC.
Furthermore, a National Out of School Children Fund will be created to provide performance-based cash grants to provincial governments for improving education outcomes in the most affected districts. Additionally, to reduce dropout rates, especially for girls who face mobility issues, the government will launch a comprehensive virtual schooling system.
Earlier, the provincial representatives briefed about the situation overview of OOSC in their respective provinces and shared their approaches to ensure maximum enrollment in the province.
The Planning Minister also directed FDE to establish a birth certificate-based admission system in collaboration with NADRA. As soon as a child reaches school-going age, he/ she should be enrolled in a nearby school by the state. The Federal Minister also highlighted the importance of adult literacy and directed to set up programs to facilitate adult literacy.
Member (Social Sector & Devolution) Planning Commission Rafiullah Kakar also highlighted the importance of data-driven need assessment for all projects targeting OOSS. The Member apprised that the Planning Commission is also developing a national Education Index to monitor progress on education outcomes and encourage healthy competition among provinces.