ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (MoFEPT) on Tuesday launched an initiative to improve learning outcomes in science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths (STEAM) in middle and high schools across the country as it will provide a chance for the school students to be university-ready. As a step forward in this regard, the education ministry has engaged eight renowned higher education institutes by signing memorandum of understandings (MoUs) here yesterday. These institutes include National Textile University, Faisalabad, NFC Institute of Engineering & Fertilisers Research, Faisalabad, NFC Institute of Engineering & Technology, Multan, Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design, Lahore, Federal College of Education, Islamabad, Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and National Skills University, Islamabad. Federal Secretary Education Naheed S. Durrani, vice chancellors along with other officials of these universities and Malala Fund’s Pakistan Director Javed Ahmed Malik were present at the MoUs signing ceremony. In her remarks, the education secretary said, “Universities, with their expertise and resources such as qualified faculty members, laboratories, maker-spaces, studios, larger academic ecosystem, and a significant geographic spread of student population present a unique opportunity that the Ministry is keen to leverage to advance STEAM education at the school level.” She added that their aspiration is for 100,000 school children and 5,000 teachers to be directly impacted by this collaboration within the first year of the partnership. The education secretary mentioned that a number of Pakistani universities already have interaction and outreach programs targeting schools. These range from adopting or running K-10 schools to hosting summer camps and engineering admission preparation courses. However, there is no established framework for university-school collaborations, she added. In his remarks, Additional Secretary Education Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani said that it is for the first time in Pakistan that in line with the best international practices a framework of university-school engagements has been developed with the specific objective to target improvement in STEAM learning. “This framework is designed to ensure that our girls are not left behind in the pursuit of modern education,” he commented. The Vice-Chancellors from the partner universities have welcomed this move as they believe it will provide a chance for the school students to be university-ready. In the long run, such programs are also likely to strengthen the universities’ outreach and enrich their communities by attracting more students from diverse backgrounds to their STEAM programs. This initiative is part of the STEAM Pakistan intervention for which Malala Fund is also providing support to the Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training. As part of this support, a policy unit, led by Pak Alliance for Science & Maths (PAMS) has also been established in the ministry to provide technical assistance to the government. In his remarks on the occasion, Javed Malik underlined the need to engage high schools with a range of players including industry leaders, universities, science promotion bodies as well as media and CSOs to help promote science education in the society. “If provided, the elements missing in high school education such as effective lab usage, remedial education, art, and sports have the potential to transform the learning experience of students, especially girls,” Javed Malik concluded.