LAHORE    -   A law to regulate the affairs of private schools is on the cards as the school education department has sent a summary to Punjab chief minister for his signatures following approval of the provincial cabinet, it has been learnt.

Sources in the education department said that after approval of the chief minister, the draft law will be tabled in the Punjab Assembly in the form of a bill to establish “Punjab Private Educational Institutions Authority” that will regulate the functioning of private schools including fees and other matters.  Speaking to The Nation, Provincial Education Minister Murad Raas said that private schools had become a mafia over the years. He said that regulating these privately-owned educational institutions was inevitable at this point of time otherwise they will get out of hand.  “The Punjab government is going to legislate on a very important matter which is linked to the future of next generations,” he maintained.

The minister confirmed that a summary to set up a regulatory authority to regulate matters related to private education has been approved by the provincial cabinet and has been sent to Punjab CM Parvez Elahi for signatures. He said the draft law will be tabled in the Punjab Assembly for legislation soon. “Unfortunately, since 1984, the Private School Act had neither been revised and updated by the previous governments nor any legislation regarding the matter was made in public interest,” he added.

“I have been offered a huge chunk in bribe to withdraw myself from the idea of regulatory authority but I proceeded with the idea to facilitate the common people. I made a firm decision to stick to this move despite the immense pressure from different powerful circles,” he added.

Illustrating the powers and responsibilities of the regulatory authority, Murad said that this authority will address all the issues relating to private schools including fees. “Each and every aspect related to the functioning of private schools will be addressed. For parents, it will be a competitive authority that will listen to their problems and will take action according to the rules.”

The minister said that the formation of this authority and the draft law had been prepared in consultation with all the stakeholders. “If our previous PTI government had not been removed, this authority would have been fully functional by now,” he regretted.

Answering a question regarding providing quality education in government schools of Punjab, he said, Single National Curriculum (SNC) was the first step towards providing equal and quality education across Punjab. “The private school owners strongly retaliated against the decision. They argued how it was possible to teach the same books in our schools which will be taught in government schools. They said that it will damage their credibility but our government implemented the decision in the best interest of the people across Punjab. Ten years are required to ensure uniform education in educational institutions across Punjab”, he maintained. The proposed formation of regulatory authority over private schools can prove to be a good step towards controlling the exorbitant increase in fees. Private school bodies increase their fees without any justification. In absence of any regulatory mechanism, the private schools have been turned into business organizations. They have commercialized education in Pakistan.

Most of the private schools have turned themselves into brands, depriving the middle class from acquiring standard and quality education for their children.