Events

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Education: Agent of Change


 by
Dr Shahid Siddiqui
Pakistan Today 1 May, 2011
In the 9/11 commission report it was recommended that Pakistan should be given more financial support in order to improve its education. A concern was shown that madrassahs were generating potential terrorists through indoctrination and constructing tunnel vision. It is important to understand the term terrorism before we explore the proclaimed causal relationship between education and terrorism.

According to the dictionary, extremism is “a tendency or disposition to go to extremes or an instance of going to extremes.” Each expression, however, has a connotative meaning. This connotation, according to the French scholar Foucault, is provided by power. According to him power constructs, popularises, and legitimises certain discourse that in turn justifies the actions of that power. So while we know the literal meaning of extremism it is important that what meaning is given to this expression by the ruling power and who according to that power can be dubbed as extremists. It is interesting to note that the same set of people is considered terrorists by one group and freedom fighters by the other group. In the end, however, the meaning of that group dominates who has possession of the sources of production of knowledge. The definition of extremism and extremists keep on changing as and when interests and needs of the powerful groups change.

Extremism has various faces e.g. religious or political. It also has multiple manifestations: a. it could be intellectual extremism when a person has extreme views about a certain issue, b. extremism may entail action when extreme views are put into practice, c. extremism, at times, can use violent means. Having looked at the types and faces of extremism, it is important to explore the potential causes.

The most important factor seems to be the denial of rights. This means the refusal of opportunities in the existing political, economic, educational and legal systems of the country. This amounts to the closure of all doors to the access to social justice and economic parity. Here, we will be focusing on the educational system that theoretically claims to realise the goals of emancipation, development, freedom, and social justice.

The formal means that has been used to dispense education is schooling. Thus, traditionally, schools were considered to be a powerful social institution to impact the societal thinking. These expectations have been associated with school keeping as it used to enjoy the support of two other powerful social institutions i.e. religion and family. We shall return to the changed status of school in cotemporary times later.

For now, let us look at the disturbing figures showing how educational opportunities are denied to a sizeable portion of our population. According to the recent education emergency report, seven million children in Pakistan cannot make it to school. Twenty eight percent of the students who do make to school drop out by the time they reach class five. This is the second highest dropout rate in the world.

According to this report, the Millennium Development Goal of education for all whose deadline was set as 2015 is impossible to achieve by the given deadline. According to the existing pace now this goal may be achieved by Punjab in 2041, Sindh in 2049, KPK in 2064, and Balochistan in 2100. This scenario owes to the low priority given by the state to education. This is evident from the fact that the allocation for education is on decrease for the last three consecutive years.

What happens to those who make it to schools? In most of the mainstream schools, they are exposed to obsolete curriculums, uninspiring textbooks, transmission oriented pedagogy, and memory based assessment system. Thus the narrowness of thought cannot be just associated with madrassah education but another kind of narrow mentality is being developed in the mainstream schools as well.

If we really want to use education as a tool for development and achieve the dreams of emancipation, we need to bring revolutionary changes which requires an educational system that is based on transformation based pedagogy, aiming at developing thinking, peace loving, and tolerant human beings. The central question is, can our schools confront the challenge of eradicating social injustice and economic disparity which are major causes of turning people to extremism? The answer to this question is not positive.

The reasons are multiple. First, the school has lost it strength as a strong social institution. Second, media has emerged as a potent social institution that is capable of influencing minds in less time and on a larger scale. This has further dwarfed the role of the school. Third, the tremendous role of external social, economic, and political forces that contribute to the imbalance of the socio-economic parity.

Therefore, if we want to combat extremism just formal education is not sufficient; it is important to explore the non-formal and informal means of education and link school pedagogy with other social institutions including media. The most important initiative to ensure eradication of extremism, however, is provision of equal opportunities to all through political, economic, educational and legal systems to access social justice.


The writer is Professor & 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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ratan Salem's Impressions on 'Rethinking Education in Pakistan'

by
Ratan Salem

 I enjoyed reading “Rethinking Education in Pakistan’ by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui. I have been a Classroom teacher and a teacher educator with some experience in curriculum design. My present role is that of working with policy makers in the domain of teacher education. Frankly speaking I have learnt a lot from this book. Not only are Issues pertaining to education in-Pakistan delineated but solutions are etched out in a very simple language. Hardly have I come across a book which is written in such a simple and communicative manner. 
Hardly have I come across a book which is written in such a simple and communicative manner. 
What impressed me most was the chapter on non formal education where Dr, Siddiqui talks about the influence that his mother had on his learning through informal means. I had the opportunity to talk to teachers from Fazzaiya Degree College. Karachi recently and I must say that I lifted portions from this chapter.:)


I really recommend this book to all those who work in the education sector but at times are simply at a loss as to how to go about; it covers almost every aspect of education in Pakistan.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

HEC: To be or not to be


By Dr Shahid Siddiqui 
Pakistan Today, April 17, 2011
The 18th Amendment that promised transfer of certain domains of governance, including education, to the provinces triggered a furious debate about the existence of HEC. The amendment, which is an outcome of long deliberations between the major political parties of Pakistan, is considered to be a landmark towards the popular demand of provincial autonomy. The controversial part of it, however, is the devolution of Higher Education Commission. According to the notification, some important functions of HEC will now be carried out under a new commission, Commission for Standardisation for Higher Education, under the cabinet division.
There are two schools of thought on the devolution of the HEC. One school of thought believes that the HEC must continue in its present form as it has a number of achievements to its credit and its devolution may lead to serious consequences. The other school of thought is of the view that the HEC needs to be devolved and some of its essential functions can be carried out by a newly proposed commission. Let us look at the arguments put forward by both the perspectives to understand the nature of the debate. It was in 2002 that the HEC replaced the UGC (University Grants Commission) that was considered to be a dormant organization. The major challenges for the newly announced HEC included increase in enrollment in the universities, improvement in the quality of higher education by creating a culture of research, and ensuring academic standardisation process across the universities.

The HEC was lucky in four distinct ways: a) It was given an autonomous status contrary to the UGC which was tagged with the Ministry of Education; b) HEC got the amount of funds unmatched in the educational history of Pakistan; c) Dr Atta ur Rehman’s dynamic leadership was the best thing that happened to the HEC; d) All out support by Pervez Musharraf, the then powerful president. These factors helped the HEC deliver phenomenally during the last eight years.
Some of the HEC’s achievements included: a) Rs. 97 Billion for the development of the universities, b) 7500 HEC funded scholars pursuing their PhDs in local and foreign universities. c) access to 75% of the world’s literature through the Digital Library d) more PhDs in the last 8 years (3280) than in the first 55 years (3000) e) nearly 5,000 scholars facilitated to present their research work in leading conferences of the world and f) research output grown six-folds since 2002 (from 815 in 2002 to 5068 in 2010.

On the basis of the record of the HEC, a large portion of civil society and political parties are of the opinion that the HEC should exist in its present form for the sake of continuity. The pro-HEC group feared that in the absence of the HEC, provincialism may increase, standards will go down, funds for scholarship and for universities will cease and the degrees of Pakistani universities may not be given recognition.

On the other hand, the group that is pro-devolution holds that according to the spirit of 18th Amendment, devolution of functions to the provinces must be done. Since primary and college education are already with the provincial governments, the direct implication of the 18th Amendment should be for Higher Education. If it still remains with the Centre, implementation of the 18th Amendment is questionable. Senator Rabbani has clarified that funds for scholarships and development of universities will not stop. The quality and standards in higher education will be ensured by the newly proposed commission, Commission for Standardisation for Higher Education, which will work in the centre. Thus, there should not be any fear of decline in standards or non-recognition of degrees in the foreign universities. This group believes that the HEC in its present form is interfering too much in the academic freedom of universities and its devolution would give the required creative space to universities.

Both schools of thought have some convincing arguments and should be heard with respect. In the final analysis, however, three basic questions need to be addressed. First, is it legally viable to devolve the HEC, keeping in view that it has never been a part of the ministry of education and is an autonomous body. Second, is it possible for the proposed commission, working under the cabinet division, to resist the state pressure pertaining to the issues of merit as HEC defied such pressures in the recent past? Third, Are our provinces willing and prepared to take up the extra responsibilities of higher education as, with the exception of KPK, no other province has shown any excitement about the devolution plan. If Senator Rabbani is serious about the devolution, he needs to do the following: remove the lacuna in notification by coming up with a new law in order to include the HEC; make sure that the autonomous nature of the proposed commission remains intact and devise a comprehensive and effective mechanism for the implementation of the devolution plan with the stakeholders on board.
In the existing scenario, where the provinces lack political will, capacity, human resources, and action roadmap, the instant devolution of the HEC may prove counterproductive which would be serious setback to the efforts of provincial autonomy.

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning Lingo

Learning lingo

by

Dr Shaid Siddiui
Pakistan Today 18 March, 2011


Language plays an important role in the social systems of a country. At the time of independence in 1947, Urdu was declared as the national language of Pakistan. In the presence of Bangla and Punjabi, which were the languages of the two large communities in terms of population, Urdu was chosen for two major reasons: a. its association with Muslims as an identity marker during the Pakistan movement and, b. its intelligibility across provinces. This decision sparked opposition in the then East Pakistan where people demanded to declare Bangla as a national language together with Urdu. Unfortunately, the federal government showed a cold response to this legitimate demand.

The Bangla language demand picked up its momentum and turned into a violent movement forcing the federal government to revisit its stance and grant the Bangla language the status of a national language, together with Urdu, in 1956. One of the factors in the separation of East Pakistan, however, is considered by many, was the unnecessary delay in declaring Bangla as the national language. Though Urdu and later Bangla were declared as the national languages of the country, English occupied the elite status of the official language of Pakistan. Being the language of masters, English enjoyed a positional superiority and acted as a gate keeper to the corridors of power e.g., armed forces, judiciary, and civil bureaucracy.
In Pakistan a large number of schools belonged to the public sector where Urdu remained the medium of instruction. With the mushrooming of private English medium schools during Zia’s era, a sharp stratification emerged that was based on socioeconomic factors. During Zia’s times, Urdu was used as a political slogan together with the slogan of Islamisation of curriculum.

The political rhetoric of Zia, in favour of Urdu, was not backed by sound planning and preparation. On the contrary, a large number of private schools opened up that started attracting the masses mainly because they called themselves English medium schools. This trend of private educational institutions gained fresh momentum during Musharraf’s times when the private sector was encouraged to show its potential.
In the last two decades, the stratification between public sector schools and private schools has further deepened. One major difference between these schools, apart from other factors, is the use of English. The perception of a good school in the masses is the one that can prepare their students to get A grades and enable them to speak English fluently.
Proficiency in English is considered crucial for a number of reasons including higher studies, obtaining jobs, and entering into the corridors of power through joining the Armed forces, judiciary, bureaucracy, and multinational companies. Thus, it is considered an important tool for social mobility.
The ruling class in Pakistan would occasionally mention Urdu as rhetoric but there is no political will behind those slogans. In the recent past, the government has almost given up on the public sector schools and ‘quality’ education is now increasingly associated with private schools. Interestingly, if one unpacks the notion of quality, English would emerge as a major distinguishing feature between the public and private sector.
Contemporary research signifies the role of ‘mother’ tongue in education. Some obvious advantages of the use of mother tongue in education ate primary level entail facility in concept formation, better performance on cognitive tasks, and confidence in one’s own identity. A number of countries that use their mother tongue have progressed remarkably.

Is Pakistan ready for that change? The answer is not that straightforward. As mentioned before, language has been used as a political slogan but no serious efforts were made to implement the announcement.
A glaring example is the 1973 constitution of Pakistan which was approved unanimously. It is stated in the constitution that English would be replaced by Urdu within 15 years. This deadline ended in 1988. Since then, 38 years have passed but we still do not see any signs of homework in this direction. As a result, the provincial languages in Pakistan like Punjabi, Balochi, Sindhi, and Pashto etc. are getting marginalized.

The 1973 constitution permitted the provincial governments to develop their language policies but no steps were taken in this direction. Now sixty four years after independence we see that English has gathered more strength and national and provincial languages have gradually lost their power. A greater role of national and regional languages in education requires thorough planning, elaborate preparation, firm political will and a sustainable language policy.

The writer is Professor & Director of Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/pakistan-news/Opinions/Columns/18-Mar-2011/Learning-lingo



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adhe Adhoore Kawab: Review

Adhe Adhoore Khawab
Review by Reshma Perveen
I would recommend this novel to teachers of all levels who are interested in acquiring a fresh look into their use of education as a tool to bring a social change.

The novel ‘Adhe Adhoore Khawab’ by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui is a call at the right time for the practicality of education in the society. It is a unique attempt to use the genre of Urdu novel to deal with the themes of education, politics, and justice. The protagonist, Professor Roy, is an inspirational teacher who touches the lives of students and becomes an eternal source of motivation for them. The story opens with Professor Roy’s returning to his old city of work where he had taught in a well known education college called Professional Teacher College (PTC). He by coincidence meets Imtisal Aga, a current TPC student who is an enthusiastic girl interested in bringing a radical change through education. Imtisal belongs to a small village of the mountainous region and has come to the city for a teaching course in the same college where Professor Roy had taught. She has heard a lot about Prof Roy as a radical educationist but has never met him. The chance meeting turns into a passionate relationship of mentor and mentee. Imtisal keeps learning from Prof Roy through informal discussions and observations.

In a dramatic progression from the start till the end, the novel portrays the steps and context of how education can be used for creating socio-political awareness. Each chapter starts with a simple narration of the character, the context and the activities. The simple but fascinating style of the novel engages the reader till the end. The author, a renowned educationist himself, has experienced the drawbacks of our educational system especially of teacher education and hence has shown the gaps of it in our society. Teachers and especially pedagogical leaders are focused in the characters of Professor Roy, Imtisal Aga, Tasawar, and other related characters. Here I would like to discuss the pedagogical implications of the novel.
The main character of the novel is Professor Saharan Roy, whose personality is inspiration incarnate for his own students. The context in which educational implications are shown varies from classroom teaching to a wider context of the society. Professor Roy, on his first day of teaching, uses an icebreaking activity of making flowers with three petals and students are instructed to write their names in one, their favorite food in the second and their favorite personality in the third petal. Any teacher with new students in their classes can use this very simple and low-cost activity in their classroom with ease. In his very first class, he inspires the students through many ways like: calling students by their names, even though he was new in the class but is able to read their name tags. Calling students by their names has found to be very positive impact on developing rapport with the students because people love to be called by their names.

Similarly Professor Roy is shown to build students’ self confidence by saying that the flower they drew is very special because it is their own flower. Developing self esteem of the students on whatever they do is not an easy job, but it needs a little effort to approve their work and show them that you as a teacher value it. The teachers’ ability to be aware of every happening of the class is shown when the Professor feels that students are confused during the ice breaking activity. Face reading is another very important skill presented in the novel for effective teaching. Experiencing the different facial expressions and knowing the feeling that is embedded paves a way to solve individual problems. The icebreaking activity is shown as one event encompassing many useful teaching and learning strategies and a good teacher’s characteristics. Later in the story when Tasswar, a student of Professor Roy, is about to take a new session as a teacher reads the list of the students several times so as to get familiar with them and develop rapport with the students in his first class.
While defining the characteristics of a good teacher to Imtisal Aga, Tassawar recalls the characteristics of Professor Roy during his teaching. For instance questioning in the classroom in order to involve the students in critical thinking and discussion is highlighted very clearly. After throwing a question Professor Roy used ‘wait time’, a technique to give time for the students to think about the possible answers. Professor Roy in the novel also utilizes his time as planned which is usually called time management. For example when in one class the Professor gives two minutes thinking time but one student named Fouzia responds before the time; Professor Roy stops her and reminds her that the thinking time is not over. Giving equal thinking time to all students ensures the involvement of all students. After thinking time was over, only the Professor Roy collects responses and writes them on the board and discusses. One very important message given here is patience in holding back information and not delivering all knowledge immediately.
The character of Prof Roy as a whole is shown as the one that touches people’s lives. The students inspired by his teaching try to adopt the way he teaches. Observing others and teaching the way they taught is an important way of learning how to teach. Many teachers in our Pakistani schools come to teaching without prior teacher training; hence they teach the way their teachers have taught them. A key message for teachers in the novel is that while they are teaching they are also giving an opportunity for their students to observe their teaching style. The professor is shown as an inspirational personality, the way he teaches and many of the students try to follow it. This is how he is remembered for long.
The teaching approaches used by the Professor Roy go beyond the narrow confines of textbooks as students are engaged in critical discussion by bringing in live example from society and their lives. Besides critical discussions in the classrooms home assignments for reading articles and presentations are given in order to develop the confidence of the participants. Not only this but the real application of education in the society is shown by setting the lawyers’ movement as the background and the students’ participation in the movement along with their professor is demonstrated effectively. One message that needs to be picked up is the rusted political system of our country which is not refreshed because of the ban on students union in our country.
Professor Roy during a class session discusses in an interactive manner the characteristics of good teachers by using the metaphor of a cake. As the cake consists of layers, so is the teacher, where the first layer consists of subject as well as pedagogical knowledge; the second layer as the teaching skills of the teacher; and finally the passion for the profession and the students they teach. In academic terms Bloom’s Taxonomy categorized these three layers as; the cognitive; the psychomotor; and the affective domain of teaching. In other words it is the 3 H of teaching: the Head, the Hand and the Heart.
Towards the end of the story Imtisal goes back to her village and joins a school. Meanwhile Professor Roy gets arrested and is sent to jail for taking part in the lawyers’ movement. He faces the situation bravely but finally succumbs to the torture of the state and dies of heart attack. Even after his physical death Professor Roy remains a source of inspiration for his students who carry on his message of societal change through education. One such student is Imtisal who commits to bring a change in her village school. She is shown taking part in cleaning the classroom along with the students. This encourages the students’ willing participation. This also suggests how important is teachers’ active and visible role in teaching in order to keep the students active by keeping their interest alive.

I would recommend this novel to teachers of all levels who are interested in acquiring a fresh look into their use of education as a tool to bring a social change. Student-teachers particularly need to read it in order to critically analyze their own approach to teaching and learning.

Title of the Book: Aadhay Adhooray Khwab
Author: Dr. Shahis Seddiqui
Reviewer Reshma Perveen
Publisher: Jahangir Books
Enterprise: 2009
Pages: 176
Price: Rs. 250
Referecne: Parveen, R. (2010). Book Review: Adhe Dhoore Khawab. Bulletin of Education and Research, June 2010 Vol.32, No. 1 pp 79-81

Rethinking social sector


Rethinking social sector after the 18th Amendment
Roundtable on 17 March
Associated Press Service
ISLAMABAD: Participants of roundtable on ‘Rethinking social sector after the 18th Amendment’appreciating the Parliament for historic democratic engineering in the shape of 18th Constitutional Amendment exhorted the need for holding hand in transition phase besides creating effectiveoperational mechanisms. Members of political, civil and academic society from all over the country participated in day-long deliberations arranged by the Centre for Civic Education and Forum of Federations.Speakers said,the Parliament has made the Constitution pro-society and we need out of box solutions to make this devolution successful. “Social investments in Pakistan are already meager and the Implementation processes must clarify the cost of devolution and who is going to foot the bill for devolved ministries,” demanded the participants.Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, member National Assembly endorsed the need for nationwide constitutional literacy as the 18th Amendment has changed the centralist state to be a real federation. “Inclusion of Right to Education as judiciable fundamental right requires corresponding legal regime,policies and action plans,” she emphasized. Farahnaz Isphahani of Pakistan Peoples’ Party said we have to come out
of colonial mindset of retaining centralized powers and called for trusting the abilities of provinces to deliver social services. She acknowledged the challenges and described the way forward bit bumpy to retain power. Bushra Gohar of Awami National Party recalling the 18th Amendment lauded democratic consensus in a divided society where balkanization was being feared but the parliament has offered hope. “To make the devolution meaningful and provide better services, the provinces must take immediate steps to establish functional local governments,” demanded the participants saying we have to involve people in decision making. Pakistan had been a graveyard of federally planned and provincially executed non-functional projects and plans. “Even out of the low social investments most of the times the development budgets remained unutilized. Time has come to reform civil service with
futuristic vision so that their role in not reduced to ‘Fire-fighters.’ Allies of status quo will make the road to devolution bumpy and democratic handholding will be required in terms of sharing resources and enhancing capacities and competences,” many participants highlighted. As a nation we will require fiscal prudence and increased social spending as the provincial share in the National Finance Commission Award has increased, they have fifty percent control over natural resources, got General Sales Tax on services, duties in respect of succession of property, estate duty,capital gains and provincial powers to raise loans.The participant criticized ‘crowded parking’ of various institutions and mandates at the Cabinet division,Rethinking social sector after the 18th Amendment Economic Affairs Division, Inter Provincial Coordination Ministry and the Planning Division. Higher Education Commission (HEC) related controversies figured prominently as there were proponents of a federal level commission and devolutionists who presented their arguments. Vice chancellor of University of Gujrat, Dr. Nizamuddin stressed the need of clear operational and institutional
mechanisms to provide better services. Vice Chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam University, Dr.Masoom Yasinzai said the universities in the Federal capital must not be left at the mercy of newly created division to look after the issues and institutions in Islamabad. Pro-devolution Dr. Khadim Hussain and Dr. Ijaz Khan said, “Devolution after 18th Amendment is a reality and proposed that the future provincial arrangements shall neither be bureaucratic nor technocratic, rather democratic and academically independent.”Dr. Nasser Ali Khan, Farmanullah Anjum, Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, Dr. Rasul Bakash Rais,Prof. Shabir Shah,Zafar Ismail, Dr. Farzana Bari, Amjad Bhatti also shared their views on different aspects
of post 18th Amendment devolution and corresponding challenges in social sector. “Capacity does not grow in Islamabad alone,” said Dr. Fauzia Saeed. Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed said timeframe forimplementation shall be extended as there will be teething problems.The speakers complained about lack of information and ostensible communication gaps
between theImplementation Commission, devolved ministries and the relevant stakeholders. The Commission must arrange hearings with relevant stakeholders and involve experts as mentioned in its terms of reference,they demanded. The speakers also demanded to mainstream Federally AdministeredTribal Areas(FATA). To set the context, Zafarullah Khan, executive Director Centre for Civic Education made a presentation on Understanding the Constitution, Federalism and the 18th Amendment. “In order to make sense about
the 18th amendment we need to look at the set of policy recommendations and notes of reiterations as pending politics along with the actual amendment,” he said and urged to use experiences of 28 federations in the world.Associated Press Service