Passed in 2014 by the Punjab Assembly, the Free & Compulsory Education Act is yet to be notified. At a recent roundtable of members of the Standing Committee on School Education, Punjab.organized by civil society organizations such as Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) and Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) the government was urged to notify and implement the Act. In a press release, Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) questioned why the law still had not been implemented. “What then was the point of passing a law that the government did not intend to implement?”

Chairperson of the Provincial Standing Committee on School Education, Punjab Ms. Aisha Nawaz Chaudhary, who chaired the roundtable, assured civil society stakeholders that the law would soon be notified. “The notification of the Punjab Free & Compulsory Education Act is a top agenda item for this standing committee. We will soon begin its phased implementation, starting with the most vulnerable districts in Punjab.”

According to public finance expert Mr. Asim Bashir Khan the current state of public investment in education is not up to par. “Vision 2025 document which pledges to allocate 4% of the GDP to education. However, in actuality Pakistan has been unable to allocate more than 2.5% of its GDP in the last 20 years. The COVID crises have led to a further decline in public investment in education with merely 1.5% of GDP being allocated for education in the fiscal year 2020 – 21,” he said.


PCE’s National Coordinator Ms. Zehra Arshad said that there are still 22.84 million out-of-school children of which 12.16 million are girls. She added that the pandemic had only worsened the inequalities.

She further warned that with merely eight years remaining before the conclusion of the United Nations Agenda 2030, Pakistan might just miss its SDG-4 (i.e., quality equitable education) targets by a huge margin.

Commenting on the many barriers limiting girls’ education, PYCA’s Executive Director Areebah Shahid urged the members of the Punjab Assembly to adopt a gender-responsive education budget so that educational spending could prioritize girls who lack access to education. She also asked parliamentarians to review the data of the EHSAAS Education Stipend Program and take into account the impact of Covid-19.

Since Pakistan hosts the second largest population of out-of-school children in the world, stakeholders asked parliamentarians to account for out-of-school children in this year’s Pakistan Education Statistics report.

In her concluding remarks MPA Aisha Nawaz Chaudhary said “The best way to move forward is to have greater engagement between legislators, education department officials and civil society activists so that the consequent policy direction is both participatory and inclusive.”

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