Honorable Chief Minster and Cabinet Members,
The recent 2020 election evolved into an unprecedented event in the political history of Gilgit-Baltistan in terms of the high voltage and intensified election campaign launched by the national mainstream political parties. This was a blessing in disguise as the social, economic, political, and constitutional issues of Gilgit-Baltistan were well highlighted by the national media. This election was contested around the national popular political slogans with a flavor of local issues however, youth empowerment and education received minimum attention especially basic education which is the foundation of youth development.
School education is the fundamental element and the cornerstone for the shaping and reshaping of the personalities to be inducted into the future societies. The countries with strong, meaningful and goal-oriented school education have swiftly changed their societies and are rapidly marching towards prosperity, social cohesion and nation building. The successful nations in this regard, have followed a comprehensive approach of continuous self-examination, followed by meaningful corrective measures, ensuing a rapid pace evaluation rather than revolutionary changes. In the context of Gilgit-Baltistan, we need to have a robust mechanism of introspection on our existing school educational practices and design and implement a series of step by step, but calculated corrective measures in our governance and management procedures, resource allocation and distribution patterns, integration of modern technologies and human resource development. This goal oriented and gradual approach will lead us to a sustainable change (Tabdili) in our school education with a potential of significant value addition to the system aimed at lasting impact on the future of these mountain communities. In this regard, we can start with;
- Focusing on the governance and management aspect of school education by separating the academic processes from financial and administrative procedures. The public sector school education has the potential to shine, if the academics has its own independent operations and made responsible through a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism.
- Trusting the teacher community and empowering them to initiate innovative academic processes at the grassroot level that are result-based, and outcome focused. My decades long experience helps me to claim that the teacher community of Gilgit-Baltistan has the potential and are capable to deliver.
- Ensuring the equal and equitable distribution of resources among the schools irrespective of regions, grade levels and status of the schools. I believe that a more efficient and effective mechanism of the distribution of resources can bring significant changes whereas, polling of additional resources will be a blessing.
- Addressing the acute teacher shortage in our schooling education is alarming especially at the primary level. This challenge can be addressed through a combination of short-term and long-term approach. In the long-term we need to fill out the vacant teaching positions as soon as possible. However, in short-term we can deliberate on creative options like community-government partnerships which are evolving in different regions in different forms where community is contributing teachers in the public sector schools. In certain regions of Gilgit-Baltistan there is a potential of rationalization of primary schools on short walking distances specially after the inclusion of SAP schools which can ease the pressure of teacher shortage in those areas and result into an improved quality education.
- Discouraging the system of unapproved upgradation of schools which is further contributing to the challenges of the school education system both in terms of teacher shortage and quality of education. Upgradation should be made only when structures, material resources and human resources are made available to the system.
- Integrating the ECED and ICT in our school education is the need of the time. This should be the priority agenda for school education if we are aiming to provide a sound and goal-oriented education to our future generation.
The school education in Gilgit-Baltistan has the potential and capability to induct a vibrant, chunk of youth fully prepared for a modern competitive professional education if the above-mentioned challenges are addressed. The digital and technological advancements have squeezed the physical distances in the world which is rapidly revolutionizing the global economy making it extremely technical and skill-based leaving less space for normal education. Even within a single profession, multiple skills are required to survive in the highly competitive global economy. Therefore, it is extremely critical to focus on widening and expending the professional education opportunities for the youth of Gilgit-Baltistan. In this regard we can start with;
- Strengthening and further increasing the reserved seats in the professional colleges in other provinces and increased the capacity in Gilgit-Baltistan by establishing quality professional institutions in the traditional fields like medicine and engineering
- Exploring and establishing online professional learning platforms for creative professions connecting with national and international institutions. Virtual podiums can be established at least one in each district headquarters to provide an opportunity of connectivity with professional universities across the globe.
- Establishing digital hubs with required facilities across Gilgit-Baltistan to help our youth to tap on to the international online earning market. Many of the developing nations have established themselves in this market and every year their youth are earning huge amount of foreign exchange.
- Focusing on technical and vocational education is equally important for our semi-educated youth. We need to establish such vocational and technical institution at our district levels, offering a wide range technical education in accordance with the emerging demands in the international labor market.
Education, economy and youth empowerment are integrally linked in a logical order. A purposeful and sound school education not only contributes to the personality development of the youth but also serves as a launching pad for meaningful professional education. The availability of traditional and non-traditional quality professional education opportunities helps the youth to navigate their life voyage into a successful professional career leading to an affluent life. A young professional equipped with knowledge, skills and attitude for international market will aim at being job creator rather than job seeker. The perception, attitude, and action of this professional will emanate from rationality and logic and will pay back to the society where she/he has been nurtured. This should be our vision for youth empowerment!
A Faculty Member at
Aga Khan University
Institute for Educational Development (IED)
Professional Development Center (PDCN) Gilgit