Monday, January 24, 2011

My Impression on Adhe Adhoore Khawab

Dr Rakhshinda Parveen
I have read it once but thought of it many a time and finally today I am jotting doing my impressions about, Aadhay Adhoray Khawaab, the debut novel by a Pakistani, male and educationist. Let me be direct, I thought of the story and stories within the main story of the novel several times and tried to match Prof. Roy with live versions of Pakistani men, who remain disguised in different shades of masculinity. Is this man from Venus instead of Mars? I thought even this. Not to become too off track let me remain adhered to the themes only.

I have the honour of knowing Dr.Siddiqui, at least a bit. I had the honour of introducing this inspiring piece of work in one of the episodes of we can end violence
An engaged reader like myself felt like dancing slowly on a dancing floor on a tantalizing number...

against women aired in MARCH 2009 on Indus TV. How deep is his observation about living realities, dichotomies and paradoxes in Pakistani politics, intellect and civil society? However, while doing the exposia he did not at one point became agitated or aggressive but continued revealing different layers of human behaviours through the trio of Tassawar, Imtisal and Roy with a mastery.

An engaged reader like myself felt like dancing slowly on a dancing floor on a tantalizing number while he remained busy in the incisive procedures of unveiling our society. I would have kept on dancing to this awe-inspiring music created by him until I heard Roy dying and Imtisal leaving for her village to dedicate her life to the disadvantaged.

They could have met and lived happily. But an academician with a reality lens saw them living together"departed". Dr.Siddiqui-LE BEAU MONSIEUR SANS MERCI. But thank you for these dreams that may be incomplete they are so relevant. And dreaming is indeed a courageous and romantic act.

Book: Aadhay Adhooray Khwab
Author: Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Published by Jahangir Books, Lahore
Price: 250

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review of Education, Inequalities, and Freedom

Dr. Azhar Hassan Nadeem
               It goes without saying that no society can make any progress without a vibrant, progressive, forward looking, research oriented, accountable and  dynamic system of education which not only disseminates knowledge but also helps create citizens who make a positive contribution in a developing and modernizing economy in various fields. Dr.Shahid Siddiqui, an expert on education, has in his recent book titled ‘Education, Inequalities and Reforms’  presented a socio-political critique of education in Pakistan with reference to politics, inequalities, stratification, development, teachers, control, freedom, language, power, educational reforms, hegemony myths, slogans and possible alternatives.
       Based on a critique of inequalities nourished and perpetuated by our system of education, Dr. Siddiqui’s book gives us food for thought and presents a strategy and design for reshaping education in Pakistan. The crux of the observations made and conclusions drawn by him are as under: -
           Based on a critique of inequalities nourished and perpetuated by our system of education, Dr. Siddiqui’s book gives us food for thought and presents a strategy and design for reshaping education in Pakistan

We need to strive for an assessment system which requires the students to think critically and apply knowledge in diverse contexts. For all these changes in learning, pedagogy, and assessment it is important that we revisit our ideology about the very aim of education. We need to challenge the transmission mode of education that supports the existing power structures and move to the transformation mode where the main objective of education is to reduce the socioeconomic gaps in society and empower the have-nots by maximizing their prospects in life.
The assessment system which encourages just memory has a direct impact on teaching and learning interaction in the classroom. In such a system, where competence and efficiency through recall-based assessment system, the teacher is encouraged to teach with the sole objective of facilitating the students to get better grades.
Education, which used to be considered 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 to be profitable experience.
On the contrary, the state, which, according to the Constitution of Pakistan is responsible for provision of initial education, has given up on public sector education. A number of public sector schools were up for grabs by the NGOs. Using the corporate term, these schools were considered sick units which should either be closed down or handed over to the private sector. The state, which 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 other extreme is the mainstream public schools where physical facilities are lacking, curricula are outdated, textbooks are boring and are printed in an unattractive manner on poor quality paper. The faculty members are underpaid and thus lack motivation. Proper system of monitoring and accountability are lacking. The classes are overcrowded. Most of the students who come to public schools come from modest socioeconomic backgrounds. One can find a huge difference in the quality of education between public and elite schools. Thus our schools are engaged in not only preserving the sociopolitical power structure based on inequalities but they are further widening the chasm between the haves and have-nots.
The class difference, the boundaries, the categories are constructed and perpetuated by the educational system in an effective manner. The market value of ‘A’ level exam system students is far greater than the students from local intermediate exam system. Similarly, the private educational institutions are in more demand than the public sector institutions.
There is serious need to reduce the artificial differences which are being constructed and perpetuated by education and our social practices. This, however, is a challenging task. Every government announces that it would have a uniform system of education in Pakistan with identical curriculum. But, like many other political statements, this statement also fades away. The reason is that we cannot plan effective strategies in a small sphere of education unless we are cognizant of the sociopolitical practices taking place in society. Education cannot be improved in isolation unless there is support available from the sociopolitical set up of a country. This fact must be kept in view while planning projects for the qualitative improvement of education.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reflections on the novel "Adhe Adhoore Khawab"

Afshan Huma
Michigan, USA 

Book: Aadhay Adhooray Khwab
Author: Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Published by Jahangir Books, Lahore
Price: 250

 “Adhey Adhoorey khuwab” is not simply an ordinary novel. On the one hand it is a story of professional leadership and on the other hand a narrative of contemporary social crisis. It is a book that has ability to compel the reader to read it from cover to covaer. It touches the heart and holds you until the last page. It makes you cry and smile and feel the sensitivity of human relations and larger goals. You really feel it is not that difficult to live larger than life.

Teachers as critical thinkers and education as a source of building nations is explained by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui in a unique way. He has portrayed teacher and teaching in an artistic manner. He has characterized a teacher as a real hero in all terms. But developing a heroic characterization he has not let go the piousness of this sacred profession. The goal oriented and visionary approach of teaching is not only depicted in one main character but also with reference to great researchers and educators.
This is a unique piece of writing specifically in the context of Urdu literature
This is a unique piece of writing specifically in the context of Urdu literature. Such thematic writing is no where around us anymore. Education, teaching and teachers are never addressed in this manner. A traditional view of a teacher is witnessed if ever. But viewing teaching and teachers as such strong elements in social structure is not very common. Teachers in Pakistani society have a crucial role to play as they can form a very effective pressure group for bringing a change mainly in the rural areas; where the uneducated population trusts them as saviors. Dr. Siddiqui has enabled the readers to identify this strength of teachers and has given a stimulus to people like myself who believe that teachers can be the best change agents. These are not Adhey Adhoorey Khuwab, rather these are Jari-o-sari Khuwab (ongoing dreams) and by the Grace of God we will one day make these dreams come true.

Afshan Huma
Ph.D Scholar
MSU-East Lansing
Michigan, USA

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Role of Libraries

Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Dawn: 3 January, 2011
HIGHER educational institutions are supposed to generate knowledge. It is mandatory for universities and higher educational institutions to shift their focus from the transmission of dated knowledge to the dissemination of contemporary information, relevant to the needs of a changing world.
This is only possible if we encourage the culture of research in our universities. Three domains are important: the construction of knowledge, access to knowledge, and the dissemination of knowledge.
In Pakistan, unfortunately, research had been confined only to limited and inaccessible zones in some public-sector universities. The process of doing a PhD at a public-sector university was complex, not so much due to the academic rigour involved as bureaucratic hurdles and campus politics. In the recent past, we saw the Higher Education Commission (HEC) release generous funds to individuals and universities for PhD programmes.
At the same time, certain conditions were laid for hiring and promoting faculty members. This two-pronged approach of financial support and obligatory motivation led to an enhanced number of PhD programmes in different universities across Pakistan. For a successful PhD programme it is important that the relevant university have resources in three major areas: physical resources, (buildings, computers, etc), human resources (qualified faculty members) and library resources (print and electronic aids). 
Here I focus on the library resources available in different universities offering MPhil and PhD programmes. Access of information, existing knowledge and research findings are crucial to scholars. One important source of such information is a well-equipped library. A library has three important components including a large quantity of quality books and journals, an environment conducive to learning and the positive role of the librarian.
In a number of libraries, the books have dated knowledge. In some cases, faculty members get a number of books issued against their names and never return them, or at least not on time. Keeping in view the fast pace of change, research journals are important for scholars as the articles they carry are more recent than the material published in books. University libraries here have multiple problems in acquiring research journals. Some of these problems include the high price of journals, an uncertain delivery system and the renewal of the subscription of journals after regular intervals.
The ultimate result is that the library ends up having very few research journals. The environment in terms of cooling and heating arrangements, appropriate light and air and quietness plays an important part in facilitating the concentration of the reader. In some local university libraries I visited during the summer it was so hot that reading was almost impossible. Besides the quality of books and the environment, the third important factor is the role of the librarian not just in the issuance of a certain book but as an information provider.
This role requires a more active liaison between scholars and the librarian. This would also require a librarian to constantly update himself or herself in the areas of library sciences and information and communication technology by attending professional conferences, courses and workshops. A well-equipped library with an enabling environment and a competent and efficient librarian is a must for research scholars.
Keeping in view the serious challenge of acquiring research journals and making them accessible to scholars, HEC offered the services of a digital library for universities. 
One of the major objectives of this initiative was the provision of access to research publications. The digital library boasts some 75,000 electronic items available to public-sector universities free of charge. Private-sector universities can acquire the same by paying half the cost. This initiative was in response to the problems of access to knowledge which is a crucial part of the process of research. Besides access to a number of research resources if a desired research article was not available, one could write to the HEC digital library office that would ensure that the scholar was provided the article free of cost.
The digital library office, on request, would hold workshops on the use of data sources. Apart from these resources there is a list of journals recognized by the HEC on websites. This is an attempt to facilitate scholars to disseminate their research through publication in quality research journals. Besides the availability of information about research in other countries, the commission has made it mandatory for PhD degree-holders to submit a copy of their thesis to be uploaded on the HEC site.
Let us now come to the ground realities and see what is happening in some universities. In some cases there is not much awareness about this very useful initiative and scholars do not know about the wealth of information available just a click away. In a number of universities there are serious problems of connectivity and for months on end, scholars are unable to access these resources. In some universities there are no dedicated spaces given to PhD scholars and there are no printers available for printing the desired articles. Consequently, this highly useful initiative is not being used by universities at the optimum level. There is an urgent need that the universities’ management prioritise the needs of research scholars and facilitate them by providing them with dedicated spaces, Internet connections, printing facilities and technical help to make the best use of the resources available in the digital library.

The writer is professor & director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics.