LAHORE: Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) is a vital autonomous institution of the Government of Punjab that is playing a crucial role in providing free and quality education to deserving sections of society.
According to the managing director of PEF, Manzar Javed Ali, the public-private partnership model of PEF is designed in a way that helps bring children deprived of schools into the education stream at a low cost.
During a conversation with a group of visiting journalists, he noted that currently, more than 2.5 million students of deserving classes are receiving free education in over 7,400 partner schools associated with the educational projects of PEF.
Under this model, the Punjab government provides the fees of children studying in the school to the private school owners through PEF, which includes expenses such as teachers’ salaries, furniture for students, buildings, and managing utility bills.
Despite the low fees, PEF partners are playing an excellent role in the field of education and giving remarkable results. The officers of PEF visit every school regularly to ensure that school owners are not charging any fee or money from these children whose fees are being paid by the institution. In case of any irregularity or lack of facilities, the officers report it back to the head office, and the organization takes action accordingly.
PEF is also committed to providing education to nomadic children in the desert areas of Cholistan through its mobile schooling project. The Roshan Thal project has also been launched to open 300 new schools in selected union councils of Bhakkar, Mianwali, Khushab, Jhang, and Leh districts of Thal.
Additionally, PEF has established 119 schools in the desert areas of Cholistan, providing free education to more than 8,000 children. To support their education, PEF also provides books and stationery to these children each year. The organization is planning to open more schools in the area to bring more out-of-school children into the educational stream.
Ali acknowledges that the fees being paid to partners are low in today’s inflationary era and is working hard to increase the funds of PEF so that the fees of partners can be increased further.
The provision of these facilities should also be ensured by the school owners, and the organization’s rules are designed to enhance education, provide quality and required facilities to children in schools, and maintain transparency.
Ali emphasized the importance of teachers as the backbone of the education system. PEF has hired 43 trainers to provide training to teachers and improve the quality of education in PEF partner schools. Previously, physical training was organized for teachers, but now online training is being conducted to reach more than 0.1 million teachers.
PEF has also introduced an annual work plan, outlining the detailed workings of each department to improve performance and efficiency. Through better planning, PEF has saved Rs50 million in the distribution of textbooks. The organisation is also constructing its headquarters building to save on rent and provide better facilities for employees and partner school owners.
PEF has activated a research department to collaborate with universities to provide research support for educational projects. An MoU will be signed with the Institute of Education and Research Department of the University of Punjab to make PEF’s educational projects more effective and efficient, providing quality education to the students studying in partner schools affiliated with PEF.
He also discussed the IT-based monitoring system used by the institution. While acknowledging its efficacy, he also highlighted the need for improvement. In addition to this system, PEF conducts an annual Quality Assurance Test (QAT) to evaluate the educational quality of its partner schools. Should a school fail the QAT, it is given a second chance to improve. However, if it fails again, half of its funding is stopped, and if it fails a third time, the school’s affiliation is terminated.
This rigorous evaluation system motivates school owners to pay special attention to the education of their students. Furthermore, because of the QAT, students in PEF-affiliated schools often excel in both the PEC and board exams.
Any schools that fail to maintain adequate quality are replaced by new schools established by PEF to ensure the future of the children studying there.
In this day and age, innovative solutions are constantly being developed to address issues. The foundation has its own software, called the in-house Student Information System (SIS), which stores the records and photographs of all children enrolled in PEF schools. Similarly, the Teachers Information System (TIS) keeps track of all teachers teaching in PEF schools.
Ali, hailing from the Jhang district, commenced his civil service career in 2005. Having served as additional secretary in the Higher Education Department (HED) and School Education Department (SED), as well as managing director at Punjab Small Industries Corporation (PSIC), he was later appointed Deputy commissioner of Kasur.
While spearheading a World Bank project related to the skills sector, Ali demonstrated his exceptional abilities.
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