Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training Engineer Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman on Wednesday said that spending on education as a percentage of GDP has increased to 2.5% in 2016. He said that this spending on education was just 1.9% in 2013.
He was chief guest at the Inaugural Session of first National Graduate Conference at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) here on Wednesday.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister appreciated the new initiative of AIOU in providing opportunity to scholars of different discipline to share their research work with each other which can further pave the way for future inter-disciplinary collaboration.
He emphasized the need for collaboration, usage of technology and focus on emerging technologies as instrumental for addressing the contemporary challenges. He said that government has already instructed Higher Education Commission to promote applied research and to work with Universities for building, strengthening and sustaining academia-industry and academia-government linkages.
He reiterated that providing quality and accessible education is one of the top priorities of the present government and all-out efforts are being made in this regard.
While recognizing the need for further improvements in education sector, he said that statistics on education recently released were encouraging though, in terms of increase in enrollments and reduction in out of school children. He further said that the Province of Punjab had outperformed other provinces in all indicators and that those criticizing development projects and vocalizing the need for prioritizing education are lagging in improving the conditions under their own (provincial) governments. He said that spending on education as a percentage of GDP has already increased in present government from around 1.9% in 2013 to 2.5% in 2016.
He informed the participants that the government has all the serious intentions to further increase the education spending for which further fiscal space is being created. He said that with sound fiscal and monetary policies duly acknowledged and appreciated by international observers and rating agencies, the government has achieved a significant increase in GDP Growth and tax-to-GDP ratio while further improvements were in the offing.
Earlier, in his welcome address the Vice Chancellor, AIOU Dr. Shahid Siddiqui apprised the Minister that the aim of the conference was to provide a platform for young researcher from all over the country to showcase their research. He said that the Conference was the first of its kind at AIOU where students of different disciplines belonging to various Universities all over Pakistan would share their research work at one forum providing an opportunity for inter-disciplinary learning.
Dr. Shahid also informed the Minister that presently around 13 lac students are enrolled with AIOU of which 56% were female students, mostly belonging to the remote or conservative areas with education accessibility issues. He further said that AIOU has established accessibility centers with special learning equipments for visually impaired students and that the University is also facilitating provision of education to over 1000 inmates in various jails across country.
The Minister appreciated the role of AIOU in providing distance learning opportunities to thousands of students all over the country and congratulated the Vice Chancellor for his efforts towards improving accessibility of education, especially for females and students with special needs He encouraged the University to work on developing collaborations with other educational institutions as well as industries locally and internationally. He suggested that focus should also be placed on ethical training and character building of students and the same should be made part of the academic programs.
The Inter-disciplinary Conference attracted graduate students of around 45 disciplines from 25 Universities across the country. The Conference was organized by Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization, AIOU in collaboration with the four faculties of University and Higher Education Commission