Pakistan plans Rs3b STEM schools project

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STEM schools, Fawad Chaudhry, education in Pakistan

Dubai - The plan is to upgrade 5,000 government schools into STEM schools.

By Muzaffar Rizvi

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Published: Mon 27 Apr 2020, 10:49 AM

Last updated: Mon 27 Apr 2020, 12:52 PM

The Pakistan government will launch a Rs3 billion STEM schools project this year to promote digital education in the country, its top official said.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the first-of-its-kind project in Pakistan aims at bringing STEM schools for the grade six, seven, and eight in the country.

STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

"This year, we abstracted 464 schools at the federal level from all the provinces that we are turning into a STEM school," the minister said.

While sharing the details at an international webinar "Future of (online) education in Pakistan" on Sunday evening, the federal minister said digital education was the only way forward to secure a bright future for the country.

"We want to take up about 5,000 government schools. We want to upgrade them as a STEM school," the minister said.

The webinar was organised by Coded Minds Pakistan, a global iSTEAM and leadership company. Leading national and international educationists participated in the webinar and discussed the challenges and opportunities of the future of online education in the country. According to Chaudhry, his ministry was already working on establishing digital education, much before Covid-19.

"Digital education is the future of Pakistan," he said.

The federal government supports education by providing about 8.5 per cent of the funding to K1 to grade-12 schooling through loans and grants to students and offers favourable tax regime to education institutions. However, average spending on education is still very low as only less than 3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product is being allocated in budget for education sector.

Education canvas

Dr Ahsan Feroz of Pakistan Science Foundation, who is working on the STEM school project, said that STEM schools would be the education canvas of the country.

"The project is right now in the approval stage," he said.

"As soon as the budget is approved, we will immediately start working on the project," he said.

Dr Feroz said that research and development (R&D) is one of the major components along with teachers training and upgrading the technology infrastructure in the school.

Dr Murad Rass, Education Minister of Punjab, said that lack of penetration of the internet is a major challenge to promote online education in the country.

"Only 37-38 per cent people in Punjab have internet in the urban areas. And if you go into the rural areas, it's only 18 per cent. Same way with computer availability. You go in urban areas, it's only 44 per cent of Punjab," the minister said.

Dr Rass said Punjab has only 18 per cent of computer availability. "While smartphone penetration is only 17 per cent," he said.

Keeping this reality in mind, the minister said Punjab government has started a distance learning through national TV, which has 91 per cent of penetration.

Excellent opportunity

While concluding the discussion, Omar Farooqui, founder, and president of Coded Minds, said that Covid-19 had given an excellent opportunity to strengthen public-private partnerships.

"We opted to start our operations in Pakistan not just because there is a huge opportunity to work on education but also because there is support from the government at every level to work together for a better future of Pakistan."

Hunaid Lakhani, founder and chancellor of Iqra University; Wali Khan of Digital Pakistan; Dr Mukhtar Agned, former chairman HEC; Dr Naeem Ahmad, head of Innovation from Azad Jammu Kashmir University; Dr Mark Sorensen of USAid Pakistan; Lucy Hayer of Tony Blair Institute; Seema Mughal, vice-chancellor of Greenwich University; Hassan Syed, founder of Ideagest; and Abeer ul Haq of Haq Foundation; and many others participated in the crucial discussion.

muzaffarrizvi@khaleejtimes.com



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