PTI’s education reforms agenda in jeopardy

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The major component of the education reforms agenda of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ‘devolution of power to the school level’ was in doldrums as it would put additional burden of more than Rs1 billion on the provincial kitty annually, sources said.

They said that elementary and secondary education department was yet to justify creation of 2,110 vacancies in grade-16, mandatory for the devolution of power to the schools from the district level.

Besides other reforms, to be introduced in the education department, the formation of Schools Cluster System (SCS) was one of the plans that were prioritised by PTI government, officials said.

They said that with the formation of SCS, the principals of high and higher secondary schools would be empowered to supervise and monitor all the affairs of the government primary and middle schools in their localities, they added.

Sources said that in fact formation of SCS was an initiative of the Awami Nation Party-led provincial government, which had planned it in 2009 but couldn’t implement it owing to financial implications.

The PTI government, formed in the province at the end of May 2013, insisted on implementation of SCS owing to its effectiveness for monitoring of the schools, they added.

Under SCS, the administrative and financial powers currently exercised by a deputy district officer (DDO) would be transferred to the principals of high and higher secondary schools, officials said. Every district has one DDO each for primary schools for boys and girls.

The education department has already identified 2,310 clusters of the schools across the province. “Each cluster consists of 10 to 15 schools,” officials said.

They said that education department was seeking approval of finance department for creation of 2,110 posts of cluster support officers in grade-16. Those officers would be posted in each cluster to assist the principals of the high and higher secondary schools, being in-charges of the clusters.

The implementation of SCS would require more than Rs1 billion annually, an official in the finance department told Dawn. He said that the functions of the SCS and the recently established Independent Monitoring Unit were overlapping.

“Also the finance department has suggested that education department should launch SCS in a few districts on pilot basis because it is a new idea,” he added.

A senior official in the education department, when contacted, told Dawn that the finance department wanted to implement the plan without appointment of cluster support officers.

“If the implementation of the plan is possible without appointment of the officers, the education department would have done it years ago,” he said.

Currently each sub-divisional assistant education officer, working as subordinate of DDO, is responsible for supervising and monitoring 60 to 100 primary and middle schools. “It is next to impossible for a single person to supervise and monitor so many schools,” officials said.

The authorities in education department in 2009 decided to divide their responsibilities and share it with the principals of high and higher secondary schools to monitor primary and middle schools in their localities.

In-charge of a cluster would be responsible for sanctioning leave, conducting trainings, recommending disciplinary actions against teachers and repairing of the school buildings.

Source: Dawn News.