Provincial Minister of Punjab for School Education Murad Raas, while talking exclusively to Daily Times said, “We saw how the private sector has praised our books. You can see that old books never got updated. For the first time, we have books that are updated and will be updated every year. It is not going to be like that if once a book has been published and made available, it’s going to stay like this for the next 10 years. No. For the first time, the Curriculum Board is going to update the Punjab Curriculum Textbook Board every year. Everyone has been made a part of it. We are going to look into everyone’s suggestions. We have done this before also, making changes along the way. It’s a continuous process. The world is moving at a fast pace and we have to move along. Every sect and religion will be made a part of the updated text.” Speaking further about the alarming rise in private school’s fees, Murad Raas said, “We can only interfere in the private school’s fee to a certain extent. Parents who cannot afford expensive schools for their children have other options available also. But for academies, we are bringing a substitute which will launch in the next two to three months. It will have free lectures and free quizzes online for every student.” Talking about streamlining teachers training and introducing smart technology, tablets or iPads to enable quality learning, the minister said, “Introducing tablets and iPads in schools comes with great expense. It’s a huge expense in fact. When we ventured into digitization, we aimed at making the life of a teacher easier. Their transfers, ACRs and leaves. Now their promotions and retirements plans all are online. We made their life easy so that the reason why they’re hired, they should focus on that. When COVID happened, ours was the first department that quickly transitioned teacher training to online. We got 400,000 Microsoft licences for these trainings. This has never happened before. Previously, these trainings happened over a casual lunch etc. Now, all of these licensed trainings are monitored.” When asked what are some of the laws regarding school education the ministry takes immense pride in, Murad Raas said, “Regarding education, we have policies, not laws. The directions and initiatives that were taken regarding school education, were the ones that were needed right away. Public sector education has been ignored a great deal in the past 20 to 30 years. A broken education system was handed over to us when we took command. If the teacher has substance, then the quality of education has substance. So our focus was on strengthening the teachers and then the textbooks, focus being on Single National Curriculum. We constructed 15,000 early education classrooms. This was never done before. We constructed 1,000 Information Technology laboratories in schools and 1,000 science labs. We added 2,000 classrooms in schools also. If we are consistent and stayed focused, you will see the results of these in the next five years.” He also added, “Public sector teachers used to face a lot of challenges. They used to run around all day for their transfers. They had to offer bribe to get their work done, which was around Rs 50,000 to Rs 150,000. They used to chase MNAs and MPAs and ministers for their problems. They even had to offer bribe to attain retirement. By all the measures that we took, I believe me reduced Rs 10 million corruptions in this department only. Another step that we took was the Insaf Afternoon School Programme. Our girls have not been able to attend elementary schools because of distance. We upgraded 7,008 schools from primary to elementary in six months and the cost was Rs 5.5 billion. Had we emulated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s working style, the cost would have been Rs 290 billion with five-year implementation timeline. You know, 200,000 children returned to schools because of this programme. We know that the numbers are correct and accurate because every child presents his/her B Form. The impact of this would be splendid in the future especially on girls.” The minister said that currently, his ministry is working on the School Meal Programme. “We are trying to involve as much public private partnership as possible. We tried doing that before but COVID affected the implementation of it. A total of 77 percent of children’s health improved under this programme which in turn, caused 33 percent attendance increase in the schools. I encourage all private schools to team up with the public sector ones for this programme. This happens all over the world. Secondly, we have started holy Quran classes. We have trained 100,000 teachers for this. Our students have never learned the holy Quran along with its translation and meaning. Thirdly, a skills programme is now being introduced in our schools. Not every child desires to be a lawyer or a doctor growing up. Through our skills classes, boys and girls can choose which classes they want to take up according to their interests. We have teamed up with TEVTA on this,” he maintained.