Events

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Paradigms of Learning



By Dr Shahid Siddiqui 
Monday, 26 Apr, 2010

THERE has always been a difference of opinion about the goals, dynamics, and assessment of education. This difference has its roots in competing philosophical positions that construct, justify and rationalise particular educational approaches. These positions also inform, inspire, shape and defend the notions of education, pedagogy and assessment. One major paradigm that emerged as a powerful position and swayed the educational systems of many countries in the past was behaviourism. The attractive aspect of this paradigm was its doable dynamics and measurable performance techniques. The behaviouristic paradigm of education is now a part of history as there are other positions, e.g. cognitivism, constructivism and humanism, etc. that have attracted the attention of educationists. But it is still in vogue in most Pakistani mainstream schools. 

Before laying out the reasons and repercussions of this paradigm we need to briefly define the theoretical framework of behaviourism. Some important names that are associated with this paradigm include Pavlov, Thorndike, Watson and Skinner. Pavlov experimented with a dog about ‘conditioned stimulus’ whereas Skinner carried out his experiments on rats and pigeons. Skinner popularised the notion of ‘operant conditioning’ of which stimulus, response, reinforcement and repetition were important components. Skinner claimed that learning is also a kind of habit formation. 

The behaviouristic notion of learning and education entails acts of imitation, drilling (repetition) and measurable assessment practices. Since the ‘drilling’ principle is used as a driving force in the paradigm, in most mainstream public schools memorising through drilling is an integral part of education. 

Most of this drilling and repetition does not involve any conscious thinking, and students reproduce information without making sense of it and manage to score good marks. One of the essential points of the behaviouristic paradigm is its ‘predictability’. It became popular with school managements because of its simple transmission in which teachers ‘tell’ the students, instead of facilitating them to participate in the teaching/learning process. 

Lectures are perhaps the ‘safest’ way of teaching. The teacher tries to teach students by ‘telling’ them. The students in this paradigm act as passive recipients. Thinking of a higher order and the application of knowledge are not tested. 

Though apparently students, teachers, parents and educational managers are happy with the arrangements proposed by the paradigm, the broader goals of education, e.g. socio-economic development, social justice and individual freedom are not achieved. The basic flaw in the paradigm is that results of experiments on animals were applied to human beings without considering the fact that there is a huge difference in their intellectual makeup, especially with regard to their linguistic repertoires.
                                                   
If we want to use education for broader goals we need to go beyond the behaviouristic paradigm. This would give us an opportunity to revisit the goals of education. We also need to rethink the process of learning where the role of teachers and students must be determined. The learning process has to be built on what the students know and what they need to know. This means that meaningful learning can only take place if students are actively engaged in the classroom, their opinions are sought and their experiences shared. 

This kind of learning is based on the principle of constructivist learning, where teachers and students are engaged together in the construction of knowledge in the classroom. In this vibrant paradigm of learning the learners have to make the effort as the ‘learning’ doesn’t come to them in a passive mode. Teaching in this mode focuses on exploring the knowledge of students and throwing at them the intellectual challenge to move slightly above the existing level. This pedagogy is inspired by Vygotsky’s idea of ‘zone of proximal development’. 

The constructivist paradigm has direct implications for teachers and their style of teaching. In this paradigm they need to move away from transmission mode to critical pedagogy by facilitating the students’ active participation. This would also mean creating an enabling environment for students to express their ideas freely. This teaching style is certainly more challenging as compared to the teacher-fronted ‘lecture mode’, but is essential in order to imbue confidence in the students and reinforce a positive self-image so that they can become independent thinkers. 

In this paradigm learning is viewed as a vibrant phenomenon and sources of learning are not confined to a teacher as students themselves can act as a source of knowledge. That is why this paradigm encourages collaborative learning through group work and problem-solving activities. 

In the constructivist paradigm of learning the assessment needs to be taken out of the confines of the memorisation of isolated facts. It should be used to tap higher-order thinking skills by requiring students to apply knowledge. The task of moving away from the comfort zone of the behaviouristic paradigm to the constructivist paradigm is challenging but if we really want to produce thinking human beings we have to take up this challenge. 

The writer is director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.

shahidksiddiqui.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Myth of One Curriculum

By Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Dawn, Monday, 12 Apr, 2010
ONE of the major impediments to educational change in Pakistan is the oversimplification of notions, ideas and solutions. Certain stereotypes have become so popular that they have become social truths. Amongst them is the much-favoured educational recipe of having a uniform curriculum.

A section of society sincerely believes that a uniform curriculum is the panacea to the social injustices and economic disparities in the country — that if the state declares that all schools must follow the same curriculum, the educational stratifications that are the precursors to social categorisations will come to an end.

Is the issue of inequality that simple? Can inequalities of class and the unfair distribution of opportunity be solved merely by applying a uniform curriculum? To find the answer, we must first examine the notion of a curriculum.

We tend to define ‘curriculum’ in a narrow fashion, i.e. as an official document that provides a blueprint of the objectives of learning. It is necessary to recognise that most of the teachers engaged in implementing the curriculum never see this document. Before we can directly tackle the question of a uniform curriculum, we must see how a state-provided curriculum changes until it reaches students. First of all, it is translated into textbooks. Much thus depends on how well the intent of the curriculum has been carried forward by the textbook writers.

Then comes the teaching of the textbooks. The quality of the teaching/learning process determines how effectively the message of the curriculum is communicated. Linked to this is the school environment since a large part of learning is imbibed from the campus environment. Then, the quality of learning and teaching also depends on the quality of assessment, since this has a negative reverse effect on classroom teaching. Therefore, the state-provided curriculum undergoes significant changes at the hands of the textbook writers, teachers, school/classroom environment and assessment methodologies.

These factors prompt us to move away from the conservative view of a curriculum as a rigid document and revisit it as a vibrant process with many components. These can make or mar the curriculum, and necessitate the realisation that there are huge inequalities among schools in terms of student communities, teaching faculties, textbooks, environment and assessment systems. Students attending elite private schools come from well-off socio-economic backgrounds with enhanced opportunities of exposure to learning — particularly in terms of the English language, which plays a decisive role in the process of learning across the curriculum.

Textbooks being used in public sector schools are poorly written, contain content that is not contemporary in nature and are printed on substandard paper without appropriate visuals. The textbooks used by private schools, on the other hand, are expensive, written in a more professional manner and printed on fine paper with functionally and aesthetically appropriate visuals. The quality of teachers too, especially in terms of proficiency in the English language, is far better in most private schools as compared to public sector ones. Teachers at the former have more exposure to the language and the general facility of using it at least at the spoken level. Such teachers are in a much better position to use the textbooks.

Students’ learning is linked to another crucial factor: the classroom/school environment that has visible and invisible aspects. The visible aspect refers to physical facilities such as furniture, temperature-control arrangements, drinking water facilities and washrooms etc. The invisible aspect, which is admittedly affected by the visible aspect, is the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom.

In the majority of public sector schools the size of the classroom is unmanageable. I know of some schools where there are around a hundred students in just one section. Such a large class size leads not only to discipline problems but also to a negative impact on the quality of teaching. Private schools usually have an effective monitoring system and teachers have to be on their toes. But teachers in public sector schools are usually detached and under-motivated.

There is a special focus on the English language in private schools; most parents demand fluency from their wards. Since in the majority of the private sector schools students and teachers come from socio-economic backgrounds that offer greater opportunities to learn English, the entire environment turns into one that enables the acquisition of English language skills. Students have ample opportunity to speak English with their teachers and peers.

Conversely, the teaching of English in public sector schools is achieved through the age-old grammar-translation method: by forcing students to memorise grammatical structures in isolation. The end result is that students in mainstream public sector schools are required to focus on form rather than meaning, and usage rather than use. They possess a good knowledge of grammatical structure but cannot express themselves in the spoken or written forms.

Similarly, there is a marked difference between the assessment systems used by private and public sector schools. In most of the latter the assessment system is based on memory and recall, with higher-order thinking seldom being tapped. In private sector schools, however, emphasis is usually placed on the application of knowledge rather than mere reproduction of memorised facts. These disparities contribute to students’ varying self-images. The worst aspect of the matter is that the state has given up on public-sector schooling. In a situation where inequalities are constructed and perpetuated on the bases of students’ socio-economic backgrounds, the quality of textbooks, environment, teaching and assessment, merely making the curriculum document uniform will not bring the significant, meaningful and sustainable change required.

The writer is the director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics, and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.
shahidksiddiqui@yahoo.com

Dr Jan e Alam Khaki on Myth of One Curriculum

Dear Dr Sahib,

It was refreshing to see your article in Dawn on curriculum. It is quite interesting and rightly taken up for projection. Your one statement is very important and needs to be taken up for further discussion. The statement is that in Pakistan we have a tendency to simplify what is by nature very complex subjects. Like the curriculum, for example, religion, islam, Shari’a, huubul watani, Pakistan , ideology, etc, etc. I believe that the Pakistani mindset has been nurtured on unity rather than plurality. You see life is so complex and human experiences of life are so complex that they cannot be explained by single formula. Imagine the exaple of the appeal of many leaders, ‘ you forget that you are Punjabi, Baloch or Padhn, just remember you are Pakistani.”

I find this statement totally absurd because it is unnatural. We all know ourselves as Punjabis or Phathans first and historically even Pakistan comes later and our ethnicity comes before. I believe that unless we help people to live in diversity and seek diversity rather than just singularity or single way of thinking, we are going to create a mess in this country. Similarly, in the context of Islam, we think if we become one sect then all the problems of the Muslims will be solved at once. Even when the Prophet was alive even at that time there were multiple groups with multiple interests, like the Ansars and Muhajirs, Aus and Khazraj, Jews and Christians, and what have you. And these had not disappeared at once the Prophet started preaching. This is just one example, I share with you.

Similarly, we think if we teach all our children the same things at the same level and for the same purpose, we’ll be creating monkeys and robots in Pakistan. I therefore believe that while it may be desirable to have some subjects in common but the nuances will also differ. Imagine, teaching one subject in the valley of Hunza and in an advanced city like Lahore . It is simply recipe for disaster. Thank you Dr sahib, for highlighting such a crucial subject.

By the way, the other day, I saw another review of your article in Dawn March 7, 10 with the image of the book by one Ismat Riat with the title spread the Word. I am sure you must know that it had come. I think the review is well written.

With regards,

Dr Jan-e-Alam Khaki

Saturday, April 10, 2010

THE SINKING PARADISE OF GOJAL BY DR SHAHID SIDDIQUI

Daily Times 7 March, 2010 (Sunday)
VIEW: The Sinking Paradise of GojalDr Shahid Siddiqui

The government needs to act fast. Gojal should be declared a calamity-hit area, extending rightful facilities to its residents. The debris removal work should be expedited by extending the shifts to 24 hours and increasing the labour and number of machines


         “But at my back I always hear
          Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
          And yonder all before us lie
          Deserts of vast eternity” 
                                        — Andrew Marvell: ‘To His Coy Mistress’.
The inhabitants of Gojal can hear, feel, and dread the nimble footfalls of water that is rising, extending, and seeping into newly found tracks, obliterating everything on its way. Their days are obsessed with the fear of fast approaching water. Their night’s sleep is marred by the nightmares of ferocious waves of the Hunza River. Will it catch us unawares? Is it a matter of weeks, or days or hours? Among them are also young girls and boys whose schools are either damaged or on the list of potential targets of brutal water, gushing out and gulping whatever comes in its way.

It started with the landslide at Atta Abad on January 4 this year when 20 people died and a number of houses caved in. The calamity did not stop here; rather it acted as a precursor to a tragedy of much greater magnitude. The debris, as a result of landslides, obstructed the flow of River Hunza and formed an artificial lake whose level is rising by the minute. The length of the barrier is 3,000 meters, width 550 meters, and height 135 meters. The artificial lake is around 11 km long. The reservoir is 171 million cubic meters. Until now (first week of March), the water has played havoc, damaging a three kilometre piece of Karakoram highway and is beginning to enter the low-lying areas of Kishkat, Gulmit, Hussaini and Passu. The longest bridge between Shishkat and Gulmit has already been submerged, severing Gojal’s link with the outer world.

Gojal (upper Hunza) borders China and Afghanistan and because of its picturesque beauty, fruit orchards, glistening glaciers and beautiful people is considered as heaven on earth. The most remarkable part of this distant part of our country is its literacy rate, i.e. 77 percent, which is higher than the national average. It is this same Gojal that is sinking. It is sinking each moment, hour, and day in front of our eyes. A large number of houses are either damaged or in the danger zone. These houses include 19 in Aeenabad, 62 in Shishkat, 60 in Gulmit, nine in Hussaini, and seven in Passu.

Besides houses, a number of schools are either damaged or potential targets. In Atta Abad, Diamond Jubilee (DJ) School was damaged, where 115 students were studying. The SAP school building was also affected, where 25 students were studying. In Aeenabad, the building of DJ School was affected, where 48 students were receiving education. In Shishkat, a primary school building has been vacated and students have been shifted to the middle school to receive education in a much more trying and challenging environment.

The calamity has hit the educational system of Gojal in multiple ways. Cultivated lands are affected as the lack of transportation has made it difficult to transport seeds and fertilisers. All this has resulted in an economic crunch for farmers. The principal of Al-Ameen School, one of the biggest community schools in Gulmit, shared that in his school there were about 242 children whose parents were farmers. These students are finding it difficult to pay the fees. A similar situation can be seen in other community and private schools.

The efforts to remove the debris are underway. The Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) has managed to remove 15,000 cubic metres of debris. The job is not easy keeping in view the slippery clay. Almost 100,000 cubic metres of debris is still to be removed. According to an estimate, work at this speed will take a couple of months to complete. Until that time, should we keep on waiting and watch the water rising, engulfing houses, people, cattle, and trees? Time is of great essence. In Gojal, the water level, as a result of melting of glaciers, rises after mid-March. This could further aggravate the crisis. The water-bound Gojal is hit with a number of problems including scarcity of gas, fuel, and other amenities of life. Prices have gone up. Schools are disturbed. Health centres are running out of medicine.

The government needs to act fast. Gojal should be declared a calamity-hit area, extending rightful facilities to its residents. The debris removal work should be expedited by extending the shifts to 24 hours and increasing the labour and number of machines. Food and medicine supply should be ensured for 25,000 stranded people of the valleys. Special arrangements should be made to facilitate the cultivation of crops.

The silver lining in this depressing situation, however, is the positive role of the community. The people of Gojal, especially the youth, came out enthusiastically to help the victims of the catastrophe. The role of FOCUS, a partner of the Aga Khan Development Network, is commendable. The Ismaili Local Council is also actively engaged in helping people to meet the challenge. The young boys and girls of Gojal, living in other cities of Pakistan, are trying hard to create awareness of the issue through peaceful rallies. Let us do our best to save our paradise that has started sinking beneath the water.


The writer is Director of Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan. He can be reached at shahidksiddiqui@yahoo.com

Friday, April 9, 2010

Adhe Adhoore Khawab: Review by ShahJehan, Director IDSP

Author: Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Published by Jahangir Books
Enterprise: 2009
Page: 176
Price: 250\
Buy online: http://jbdpress.com


Please Click to Enlarge the Text

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IT takes an educationist to know an educationist. Shahid Siddiqui’s earlier book Rethinking Education in Pakistan is now followed by a novel which has all the trappings of an educational setting — college campus, hostel life, educational conferences and a professor-student relationship. What is more relevant is the contemporary setting of the story which relates to recent events in the country.

The background is provided by the civil activists’ movement for the restoration of an independent judiciary, a noble and democratic cause which reflects the independent thinking at a university campus. Universities are meant to produce enlightened individuals but this can only be achieved if students are given a free hand to develop and challenge their own thought processes and that of others.

Professor Roy’s role in upholding a just cause and persistently dedicating his life to ensure its success is an example of selfless commitment to his progressive mind.

The central character of the story is Professor Saharan Roy whose exceptional personality is built up through a fascinating matrix of other characters their interactions with him.

The link between society, governance, justice and education of the masses is a theme that runs throughout the book.

The character of the professor is slowly but vividly built up by his ex-students and their reminiscing; what emerges is an inspirational figure who is an ideal university professor.

Roy arrives to spend a night at a college hostel and there meets a student, Imtisal, who finally finds someone to share her intellectual bent of mind.

The suspense builds up through a student’s quest for a mentor and the passing on of a professor’s dream to a student to carry on the noble task of being a contributor to the education of the poor.

Shahid Siddiqui has used language in a contemporary mode in order to give credence to a story which is meant to add to the literature on education that is available in the country.

The novel is an exposition of the language spoken by students these days which is Urdu with a heavy dose of English words; although for the reader it is often difficult to read English words written in Urdu. However, the style is succinct and the philosophical underpinnings are priceless in their depth and motivation for a brighter future in educating the public at large.

Moreover, the quick-paced story keeps the reader involved right up to its unexpected conclusion. Simultaneously, the link between society, governance, justice and education of the masses is a theme that runs throughout the book.

There are many gaps in our educational system which are highlighted in the book. For example, Professor Roy explains what makes a good teacher by using the imagery of a layered cake: the foundation is knowledge, the next layer is the appropriate way of imparting that knowledge, while the icing on the cake is the genuine interest in teaching creatively. Creativity leads to passion for the accumulation of knowledge by reading books extensively.

The outcome of this learning is the love that is the basis of all humanity. And Professor Roy’s philosophical rendering of that love means giving up one’s ego, position and experience — a lesson which is invaluable in the education of the young.

Furthermore, the book apprises the lay person about the latest trends in pedagogy and the importance of the affective domain in education.

In the realm of research it brings together many facets of what should be the direction of educational reform in the country. The author has made an imaginative stride in the ongoing campaign to give education its rightful parameters in the context of Pakistan.

Book: Aadhay Adhooray Khwab
Author: Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Published by Jahangir Books
Enterprise: 2009
Page: 176
Price: 250\
Buy online: http://jbdpress.com

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Education and Social Justice

Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Monday, 29 Mar, 2010 “…[E]fficient education is always in jeopardy either in the culture at large or with constituencies more dedicated to maintaining a status quo to fostering flexibility.”
— Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education

EDUCATION and society are considered to have an important relationship in which both inform, impact and transform each other. Education is viewed as a necessary condition for socio-economic development, emancipation and freedom; then there is its relationship with social justice.

Before delving further into this topic, it is important to understand the term ‘social justice’ since it has multiple meanings. An oversimplification of the term is to understand it as the execution of justice at the societal level. A more radical interpretation would have it refer to a just society where people have equal opportunities to exercise their freedoms and where there is no discrimination in the provision of justice on the basis of social class, gender, disability, ethnicity, colour and religion. So, what role does education play in realising the dream of social justice? Can an enhanced literacy rate guarantee social justice?

Before addressing these questions, it is important to look briefly at the place of education in society, for it has always been considered important in order to achieve certain objectives. These objectives were determined by different societies according to their priorities, which were in consonance with their times. Tracing the genesis of education we first come across religious education, focusing entirely on morality and leading one’s life on the straight and narrow. As society progressed, pragmatism took centre place but there still remained voices in favour of aesthetics, reflection and critical thinking.

During the last three decades, however, the pace of change accelerated at a phenomenal ratio and objectives at the personal and societal level also changed rapidly. It is interesting to note that the corporate culture, in order to sell new commodities, made us aware of ‘newfound needs’. With industrialisation and corporatisation, the expectation from education also changed and the objective became very specific: to produce efficient human beings to fit into the workforce required by society.

This objective continues to gain currency, and in contemporary times the major objective of education is to prepare an individual to find a job; ‘quality education’ is defined as education that prepares someone to find a better job with a better salary package.

This narrow objective had a strong impact on the nature, dynamics, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment of education. Education emerged as a powerful industry where schools, emulating the factory model, were turned into massive production centres churning out hundreds and thousands of students destined to become efficient members of a country’s workforce.

With times thus changing, the notion of social justice also underwent a major change. According to Foucault, a French thinker, power and knowledge go together, with power in the better position to construct, advocate, perpetuate and validate a discourse. This discourse leads to a certain social reality or knowledge that justifies the action of power. It is through discourse that powerful groups in a society manage to gain hegemony over marginalised groups.

This is exactly what happened to the term ‘social justice’, which is now synchronised with the terms ‘efficiency’, ‘productivity’, ‘globalisation’, ‘monitoring’ and ‘accountability’. Since these terms come from powerful organisation, they are considered undeniable truths and the education system, in order to achieve the corporate version of social justice, is producing mono-culture minds by offering only certain subjects, mechanical pedagogy, insensitive assessment practices and a highly quantitative system of evaluation.

Let me briefly explain these points. At the national level, it is considered that in enhanced literacy numbers lies the panacea for all educational ills. Decision-makers tend to forget that their notion of literacy is based on purely functional aspects of literacy, where reflection and critical thinking have no space to exist. Similarly, most educational institutions offer programmes in areas that are considered popular in the market. That is why the humanities and social sciences — which prepare an individual for social roles — are usually pushed to the back burner: the simple reason is that they are not considered market-oriented fields.

In addition to the choice of subjects, the actual pedagogical practices also play an important part in realising the objective of social justice. Interestingly, the teacher’s role is further straitjacketed since in some schools the lesson plan is prepared at a central place and then copies are distributed to different branches. Critical thinking, which is considered a core attribute of quality education, gets buried under teacher-fronted, lecture-based pedagogy where the emphasis is on transmission rather than transformation. Meanwhile, in the prevalent methods of assessment, memory and recall skills are tested but the application of knowledge is barely assessed.

Such education can produce efficient and productive workers but not thinking human beings. Consequently our schools are further widening rather than reducing the gaps of economic disparity and social injustice. Education should be a precursor to emancipation, freedom and social justice; instead, it is engaged in the further stratification of society. The rich-poor divide is becoming sharper and more obvious in terms of access: ‘quality education’ is out of the reach of the poor.

Meanwhile the state seems to have given up and passed the buck to the private sector. Contemporary education imparted in mainstream schools is perpetuating the existing power structures and the dream of social justice becomes ever more distant — even though it could be realised through an educational system that is lively and relevant, and prepares students as thinking and responsible members of society instead of as productive technicians. Such an educational system is based on equal opportunities, mutual respect and recognition of the individual.
The writer is director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan

Adhe Adhoore Khawab by Dr Shahid Siddiqui

Review by Dr Jan e Alam Khaki
IED, The Aga Khan University
Daily Times 30 Dec, 2009

Many of us, who are familiar with Dr Shahid Sidiqui as an educator and a prolific English writer, are pleasantly surprised to see this book in a different genre of writing and that too in Urdu language. Aadhe Adhore Khawab is a short novel that reflects an educator’s passion for showing education as a humane discipline that engages human minds and souls, fuses them together in the relationship of the teacher, and teaches students for the reformation of both. The novel suggests that educators are not teaching robots but living human beings, who are equally prone to the sublime touches of feelings and emotions.

Rotating around his experiences of working with an educational institution that he admires and feels drawn all the time, the writer employs artistically a symbolic character, Imtisal Agha, that epitomises the passion of learning and dreams a world devoid of social injustice and class based education. Imtisal Agha, a young passionate girl, meets a radical professor of education, Proessor Saharan Roy, who shares with her the dreams of a just and fair society as a consequence of education based on critical pedagogy. These shared dreams become a point of affinity between them.
One of the key accomplishments of the work is that it successfully gets across some powerful educational ideas in a simple and plain discourse. Readers may imbibe some deep educational thoughts while reading this compelling story of shared dreams.

The novel, through its characters, makes some powerful statements regarding the present state of education and potential alternative in a very appealing and invitational manner. The writer weaves these messages skilfully in the story with the thread of teacher’s love and affection.
Besides education, the novel also dwells upon the themes of politics, gender, social change, class issues, social resistance, science, love, poetics etc., all woven in the fine thread of education and love. The story revolves around Professor Saharan Roy (the protagonist) and Imtisal Agha, an enthusiastic student. The story begins smoothly with soft voices of happiness and aspiration, reaches its climax when Professor Roy, who believes that education is a political phenomenon and takes part in the regular rallies held on every Thursday for the restoration of judiciary in Pakistan. The professor gets arrested and is tortured by the jail administration and dies of heart attack.

Professor Roy’s death in a prison in the hands of cruel forces does not stop the journey of dreams.
This time, it is Imtisal Agha, who goes back to her village and begins teaching students with fewer resources. This is something that her mentor, Professor Roy, wanted her to do and thus, continuing the role of a mentor in a distant mountainous place of the country. Professor Roy’s physical death could not stop the radical thoughts of bringing social change. The novel leaves us with a hope that the death of Professor Roy does not mean the end of struggle.

The novel underlines that education is a political phenomenon and teaching is a political act. Education gives out information to help students pass exams and lead them to action, paving the way to emancipation of human intellect and soul.

Those who have an abiding interest in teaching and learning, education, politics, poetics, literature, and aesthetics may find the book a joy to read, and may learn through the course of reading many powerful messages that may help them enlighten their own views.

Book: Adhe Adhoore Khawab
Author: Shahid Siddiqui
Publisher: Jahangir Books, Lahore
Buy online:
http://jbdpress.com

Adhe Adhoore Khawab

Review by Muhammad Shaban Rafi
There has always been a crucial knot between novelists and social reformers. The novelists trigger reforms through their powerful ideas embedded with empirical findings which reflect their life time experience. But unfortunately a majority of them are selling their minds to Hollywood and Bollywood productions which aim to do business. However, the societies always grow with the efforts of a very few writers who create a stir in the life of disappointed people who always curse the system being part of the system. Dr Siddiqui is one of those writers who have devoted his life to bring social reforms through education. He ventures to address these challenges in his recent Urdu novel Adhe Adhoore Khawab, that deals with the themes of education, justice, politics, inequality, coercion of state and passion. He draws our attention to the fact that Pakistan needs people with critical thinking who can confront the growing challenges of intolerance, hatred, and bigotry in the country.
Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, a renowned Urdu critic considers this novel as “a trend setter in Urdu literature”. Asif Farrukhi, a famous short story writer, views the novel as a blend of “scholarship and literature where a social scientist has derived his narrative from his own experience.”
Adhe Adhoore Khawab is a captivating description of changing landscapes and exposure to multiple narrative styles. Professor Saharan Rae, the protagonist in the novel, is a university professor. He is an unassuming person but a competent and committed professional who is popular among his students for his enthusiasm, commitment, and passion for teaching. He believes that education can be used to bring change in the lives of individuals and society. His charismatic personality influences a number of his students. Among them is Imtisal Agha who is not a direct student of Prof. Roy but has heard a lot about him and meets him accidentally. Imtisal Agha, who is passionate about social change and justice shares her dreams with Prof Roy. The story takes a sharp turn when Prof Roy gets arrested as a result of his active role in the movement for the restoration of judiciary. The author has managed to tighten the screw of suspense almost without our being aware it is happening, and the result is a tale of enormous tension. It is an exciting story that is set against the back drop of the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan and discusses the crucial linkage of education, justice, and social equality.
The diction of the novel is simple but interspersed with images that bestow extra layers of meanings and interpretations. At times the prose touches the boundaries of poetry that enhances the impact of communication. Following lines of chapter two are such example of poetic prose.
Khahish apna rasta khud tarashti hay.
Manzal apni rah khud janam deti hay.
Aur ta'beer apna khuwab khud chunti hay.
The novel persuades its readers to put themselves in the shoe of Prof Rae who is portrayed as a role model in this novel. Prof Rae believes that a teacher is like a three layered cake. Its first layer is knowledge and second is pedagogy. The third layer is icing on the cake. This icing in case of a teacher is affective part of the personality hat includes emotions and feelings. Drawing an analogy from pottery book, he says a teacher is a precedent of potter who pursuits three laws to make a carafe. The first law is of mind, a good potter draws a skeleton of the carafe in his head. The second law is of hand which is crucial to give the right shape to the moving carafe. With this ‘a perfect dead skeleton becomes ready’. The third law, the law of Love brings life into it. Similarly, a teacher’s love and dedication for his/her profession infuses life into teaching and learning process.
Education does not end with delivery of contents in the four walls of a classroom rather it synchronizes with the socio-economic and political life of the countrymen. Prof Rae proves that a teacher is a harbinger of change in the main stream of socio-political disequilibrium. He takes part in the lawyers’ movement and bears the hardships of imprisonment and torture. Eventually, he renders his life for the restoration of independent judiciary.
The novel endorses the teachers to replace the old cycle of transmission pedagogy with critical thinking pedagogy to bring socio-political change in the society. The empirical findings reflect that the teachers subconsciously provide the pedagogy of answers to the learners. Eventually, the teachers deny the learners the opportunities and the rights to question, and the learners are abandoned to reason and reflect higher order thoughts. Although powerfully advocated by the scholars, among many such voices, critical thinking still does not seem to have an explicit role in education. However, the novel Adhe Adhoore Khawab marks the beginning of practical critical pedagogy debate among education planners. Book: Adhe Adhoore Khawab



Book: Adhe Adhoore Khawab
Author: Shahid Siddiqui
Publisher: Jahangir Books, Lahore
Buy online: http://jbdpress.com/

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Copratization of Education

by

Dr Shahid Siddiqui

Education has undergone a tremendous change over the last two decades. It has emerged as a plausible business venture and has thus caught the eye of the private sector. A related aspect of contemporary education is corporatization. The business paradigm has a different viewpoint of education in terms of its role, objectives and dynamics. The relationship between education and society should be ideally mutual so that on the one hand needs of society should be catered by education and on the other hand education should perform the role of making society a place where freedom of thought and expression could be exercised. Education should also empower citizens to challenge some of the taboos in the society. Unfortunately the relationship between education and society has turned out to be a one way relationship where corporatization of society has completely overtaken the field of education. The economic aspect has become the driving force in education and has thus radically changed the complexion of education in many countries.

A cursory look at the new idiom of education can help us have a fair idea of the contours of contemporary education, largely influenced by the corporatization of society. One key lexicon that may describe Education generically is industry. Education which used to be considered as a mission has been conveniently turned into a money making venture where the maximization of profit acts as the guiding principle. Emerging as a lucrative industry education attracted the attention of businessmen who invested in this industry and found it as a rewarding experience. The businessmen also found their way to the board of directors and similar forums. Thus the corporate mindset, in direct and indirect manner, dominated the educational scene.

The schools are considered as flat organizations where productivity and efficiency are the two most important demands of the management. The teachers are considered as information providers who act as salespersons to sell the product. Another term used for teachers is cultural workers. These terms suggest a very narrow and limited role given to teachers, i.e., implementing the given script. Where does this script come from? In a number of private school chains the script (detailed lesson plans) are designed at a centralized office and are disseminated to different school branches for implementation. The teachers thus have limited chances of innovation and creativity and are just reduced to technicians instead of acting as reflective practitioners. The educational programmes are now considered as product. As on market people are carried away by the branded products so is the case with education where the brands are exploited. Like factory model, some school systems, have opened up numerous branches in different cities. These branches act as production units. The net result of having a large number of production units is selling large quantity of product to amass more profit.

Another lexicon which is central in contemporary education is customer or client. The students are considered as customers in the business model of education who buy the product of education. In this business transaction kind of dynamics, teachers’ role is to satisfy the customers as they are important for the business. The notion of principals and head teachers has been turned into managers who make sure that productivity is ensured.

To make sure that the system is working properly a new term, academic auditing, has been borrowed from the coroporate world. This academic auditing is made in an unacademic manner as a number of coordinators do the job of monitoring in schools and create a fearful environment. The evaluation is purely done on the basis of product and the process is not considered. The academic auditing measures are purely quantitative and the qualitative aspects do not really matter. An obvious reason of quantitative auditing is that it is easy and convenient as it measures the quantifiable units. But for the sake of convenience the qualitative aspects are not taken into account. Consequently the auditing exercise turns out to be narrow in scope and misleading in nature.

The efficiency is measured by looking at the competencies. The curriculums in vogue aim at certain competencies and skills. The underlying assumptions is that knowledge can be broken down into small measureable units which can be measured through assessment of students. The discreet point tests, i.e., MCQs (Multiple choice questions) became very popular in the near past. They are easy to mark and a large number of students can be assessed in relatively short time. Because of this reason the MCQs and other objective type assessments are very popular among the educational managers for the reason stated before. But the flip side of it is that students may score well on discreet point items but when it comes to the application of knowledge in real context they find it difficult to cope with the challenges.

The dominance of corporate world in education owes to the economic principle of lassies fare where there is open competition in market and there is no intervention of the state. The same model is being demonstrated in the domain of education as there is little say of the state as for the private section education is concerned. On the contrary the state which is responsible (as the constitution of Pakistan reads) is giving up on the public sector education. A number of public sector schools were up for grab by the NGOs. Using the corporate term these schools were considered as sick units which should be either closed down or handed over to the private sector.

The state, that claims to have plans for the improvement of education, should realize that qualitative improvement cannot come unless public sector education is encouraged, empowered, and respected by the state.

The writer is Director of Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan. Email:shahidksiddiqui@yahoo.com

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Afshan Huma's poetry



Afshan Huma's poetry offers a blend of eastern tradition and modern sensibility. Following ghazal by her reflects intensity of feelings and a poetic style interspersed with fresh in images. Afsha is currently based in USA where she is pursuing her PhD.