Improving education in Pakistan

How can Pakistani Education system be improved?
By Tahir Ali Khan

This can be done by taking the following steps.

A. Students related.

(Plato had said a child is like a plant, which if properly nurtured must necessarily grow into all virtue and if planted in alien soil becomes the most obnoxious of all seeds.)

Students must
1. Be regular and punctual.
2. be attentive to what is taught.
3. work hard.
4. Properly manage their time, avoid time bandits like tv/mobiles etc so as to be able to fully utilize their time for learning.
5. avoid staying absent from school.
6. be obedient and disciplined.
7. love learning.
8. Read extensively and intensively and take notes of what they read.
9. do/complete homework regularly.
10. respect teachers and rules of schools.
11. believe that hardwork does benefit ultimately.
12. Be ready to ask questions.
13. study atleast 4 hours a day at home.
14. stay aloof from politics, political organisations and political/religious movements.

B. Schools related.
Schools must

1. have a conducive atmosphere for learning.
2. have fully equipled computer and science labs.
3. have multimedia system for presentations.
4. have proper and regular system of parentsteacher coordination.
5. have an information system in place through mobile about absence of children from school.
6. have a regular system of encouragement of students and teachers through praise and rewards.
7. Arrange activitybased learning.
8. Provide sports facilities for physique of students.

C. Teachers related
Teachers must

1. be committed, full of motivation, sincere and hardworking.
2. Knowledgeable and noble.
3. own and love students and institutions.
4. make teaching interesting.
5. invlove students in learning.
6. be rolemodels in terms of discipline and good character.
7. Be hardworking, committed to duty and friendly towards students. This way they can totally transform a student’s life and remember that a dictatorial and unfriendly Teacher destroys the learning process.
8. Give Individual attention to weaker students.
9. Consider individual differences based on background, financial position, domestic conditions, extra support and knowledge of parents and deal students as needed.
10. be accessible to students via mobiles at home after school hours.
11. train and educate students on good paper presentation skills in exam.
12. Impart and instil a thirst and love of learning in their students.
13. arrange contests amongst students on regular basis. Competition brings about excellence.
14. Give work assignments to students both for home and at school.
15. Prepare lecture notes for students.
D. Parents related.
Parents should
1. Love and support their children.
2. Monitor and Guide them but avoid overloading them.
3. Ensure pleasant and peaceful environment at home.
5. Give them balance diet and take care of their physique.
6. Regularly visit schools and remain in constant contact with their teachers and admins.
7. Ensure that they study atleast three to four hours a day at home.
8. Ensure their children’s regularity and punctuality.

E. Govt related.
Govt and fgei dte must
1. Introduce financial incentives for high achieving teachers and students like stars of fgei.
2. Equip labs.
3. Increase salaries of staff and other benefits.
4. Fill staff vacancies.
5. Provide all facilities needed for best educational environment at institutions.
6. Provide funds for study tours of students countrywide. 7. Provide funds for interative boards in classrooms.
8. Ensure continuous renovation and repair of institutions.
9. Post teachers at home stations or provide accomodation/hostels to them if posted faraway from home.

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Schools under watch

Schools under watch

 http://tns.thenews.com.pk/schools-watch-education-monitoring-units-kpk/#.U1wh4KzOXp8

Will the Independent Monitoring Unit help improve attendance and performance of teachers and education administrators in KPK?

Schools under watch
Anything but a school.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has launched an Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU) to improve attendance and performance of teachers and education administrators in the province. The IMU has been established under a three-year project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. Rs500 million have been allocated for the initiative this year and more funds will be set aside for it in the next budget(s). The project will be extended if found useful after a third-party verification. Rs100 million have also been earmarked for establishing a third-party monitoring mechanism.

Muhammad Atif Khan, Provincial Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department, says 475 IMU monitors — 303 men and 172 women — have been appointed on merit for boys and girls schools respectively. They receive a fixed pay of Rs30,000 a month. Male monitors have been given motorcycles with Rs10,000 fuel allowance.

Each KP district has been divided in groups, each consisting of up to 60 schools and every monitor is responsible for visiting all the schools in his group. He/she has to visit a school at least once a month.

On the terms of references (ToRs) and standard operating procedure (SoP) of monitors, the minister says they are basically real-time data collectors and transmitters. “They have been trained for the purpose. They will collect, physically verify and send immediately data on the attendance of teachers, enrolment/dropout rate of students, needs and deficiencies of teachers and other school paraphernalia etc.”

The monitors will also collect data on the inspection of officers to schools, the distribution of free textbooks, stipends to the female students and the parents-teachers’ council (PTC) and other school funds. He says monitors have been given smart-phones with a proper format for feeding data and a general packet radio system (GPRS) to collect and transmit real-time data of/from the concerned schools to the IMU head office in Peshawar.

Asked what measures have been taken to guard against the misuse of powers by monitors, Khan says, “The monitors have been trained to be polite to principals/teachers, not to indulge in reasoning and avoid meddling in the teaching learning process. Their performance will also be monitored and action will be taken if any genuine complaints come to surface against them. The IMU is independent of the department’s control. They have to submit data immediately from the school they visit. This has been done to save the system from data/record-tampering.”

Lack of basic facilities at schools is a big problem. Over 20 per cent of the functional public schools in KP still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities.

The KP Chief Minister, Pervez Khattak, recently issued directives of handing over the monitoring of all hospitals and basic health units to the IMU. But the system has been put in place in the education department only. The IMU has been empowered to monitor only schools in the public sector while education offices and private schools are still out of its ambit.

It is hoped the IMU will help pinpoint “ghost schools and proxy teachers” (the IMU, as reported, has detected 12 proxy teachers, four women among them, in government schools in Buner district recently), improve teachers’ attendance and make it easy/possible to take action against the corrupt and negligent elements in the department.

Most of the principals and head-masters of the E&SE Department support the initiative. They say teachers’ attendance and punctuality have improved significantly ever-since the launch of the IMU.

Mumtazuddin, a principal of a government higher secondary school, is all praise for the IMU. He says the IMU is a sort of an external counter-check upon the internal supervision system of the department. External or a third-party check, he says, is done everywhere in the world. “Officers fail to visit schools even in years. With teachers and internal monitors (administrative officers) mostly shirking responsibilities, the IMU is the need of the hour,” he says.

“Intra-district shuffling of monitors is being carried out every month to prevent the problems/dangers of familiarity/rapprochement between teachers and monitors. These dangers could be further minimised by inter-district shifting of monitors,” according to another principal.

Tahir Ali2

Some teachers support the move: “One of the biggest problems is the flawed monitoring system. Exceptions apart, our departmental monitoring system is too politicised, powerless and under-funded. One hopes the IMU will be kept safe from political interference, corruption, and data-delaying/tampering for whatever reasons. Much will depend also on whether its recommendations will be executed,” a teacher says.

But some term it ‘an unwarranted and inapt’ move that would ultimately bring little/no change. They say schools and teachers are monitored by head masters, and inspected by cluster heads, district education officers, directors, local bodies members, national and provincial assemblies’ members and chairman and members of the PTCs.

“There was no need to establish the IMU. Rather, the government should have strengthened/empowered the internal monitoring system. Schools should be left to the district education officers. Principals and officers should be empowered and political intervention in appointments and postings should be eliminated. Good administrators could do wonders,” says a teacher.

“Principals and administrators would also definitely give good results if facilities like smart-phones with GPRS connection and powers are provided to them and they are also made to report their inspection report immediately. Biometric attendance system at schools can also improve teachers’ punctuality. But teachers’ performance also needs to be improved. Principals should be explicitly authorised to hire new teachers from PTC or other school funds,” he argues.

Another teacher complains that earlier principals/headmasters and the district officers used to report on deficiencies and requirements of teachers, chairs, desks, books and other basic facilities regularly but these were scarcely fulfilled. Now monitors do the same, but will the government act upon their reports/recommendations? Khan responds the government will ensure speedy action on their reports and recommendations concerning administrative and financial matters and will allocate resources.

Khan says: “Rather it is a quest for excellence. Why would one have gone for this if the earlier internal monitoring system had been successful during the last 65 years? Our history proves and no one can contest that it has failed to deliver and that a change was needed.”

Another teacher, wishing anonymity, says: “The monitors visit a school once or twice a month. What if a teacher, who is otherwise punctual and dutiful, is on-leave or late on the monitor’s arrival date(s). Won’t that cause a negative and wrong perception about him in the IMU system?” He adds: “Educational monitoring is too technical a job to be left to inexperienced monitors. This is bound to fail.”

The KP E&SE Department possesses over 168000 employees with 133750 sanctioned and 119274 functional teachers who teach 3.9 million students in 28472 total and 27975 functional government primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools.

It means a monitor will check around 250-280 teachers and 58-60 schools. The monitor-employee ratio will be 1:350 if education offices also come under their oversight.

Besides weak monitoring mechanism, crowded classrooms, indifference of teachers and administrators and political interference, lack of basic facilities at schools is a big problem. Over 20 per cent of the functional public schools in KP still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities.

Tahir Ali

tahir ali
The author is an academic and a freelance columnist interested in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s politics, peace, education and economy. He may be reached at tahir_katlang@yahoo.com.
…………………
Original text of the article.
Impartial School Monitors
Or Independent Monitoring Unit
By Tahir Ali
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has launched the Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU) to improve attendance and performance of teachers and education administrators in the province.
The IMU has been established under a three years project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. Rs500mn have been allocated for the initiative this year and more funds will be set aside for it in the next budget (s). The project will be extended if found useful after third party verification. Rs100mn have also been earmarked for establishing a third party monitoring mechanism.
Muhammad Atif Khan, provincial minister for Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) department, says 475 IMU monitors -303 male and 172 female –have been appointed on merit for boys and girls schools respectively. They receive a fixed pay of Rs30000/pm. Male monitors have been given motorcycles with Rs10000 fuel allowance while female the latter.
Each KP district has been divided in groups –each consisting of up to 60 schools and every monitor is responsible for visiting all the schools in his group. He/she has to visit a school at least once a month.
About a question on the terms of references (ToRs) and standard operating procedure (SoP) of monitors and whether they could monitor the teaching-learning process, he said they are basically real-time data collectors and transmitters. “They have been trained for the purpose. They will collect, physically verify and send immediately data on the attendance of teachers, enrolment/dropout rate of students, needs and deficiencies of teachers and other school paraphernalia etc,” he said.
Monitors will also collect data on the inspection of officers to schools, the distribution of free textbooks, stipends to the female students and on the parents-teachers’ council (PTC) and other school funds.
For this purpose, he said, monitors have been given smart-phones with a proper format for feeding data and a general packet radio system (GPRS) to collect and transmit real-time data of/from the concerned schools to the IMU head-office in Peshawar.
Asked what measures have been taken to guard against the misuse of powers by monitors, Khan said. “Monitors have been trained to be polite to principals/teachers, not to indulge in reasoning or misbehaviour with them and avoid meddling in the teaching learning process. Their performance will also be monitored and action will be taken if any genuine complaints come to surface against them. The IMU is independent of department’s control. They have to submit data immediately from the school they visit. This has been done to save the system from data/record-tampering.”
KP chief minister Pervez Khattak recently issued directives of handing over the monitoring of all hospitals and basic health units to IMU. But the system has been put in place in the education department only partially: It has been empowered to monitor only schools in the public sector while education offices and private schools are still out of its ambit.
It is hoped IMU will help pinpoint “ghost schools and proxy teachers” (The IMU, as reported, has detected 12 proxy teachers, four women among them, in government schools in Buner district recently), improve teachers’ attendance and make it easy/possible to take action against the corrupt and negligent elements in the department.
Most of the principals and head-masters of the E&SE department support the initiative. They say teachers’ attendance and punctuality have improved significantly ever-since the launch of IMU.
Mumtazuddin, a principal of a government higher secondary school, was all praise for the IMU. He said IMU was a sort of an external counter-check upon the internal supervision system of the department. External or third-party check, he said, is done everywhere and is vital for bringing improvement.
“Officers fail to visit schools even in years. With teachers and internal monitors (administrative officers) mostly shirking responsibilities, IMU –an external monitoring system –was the need of the hour,” he said.
“Intra-district shuffling of monitors is being carried out every month to protect against the problems/dangers of familiarity/rapprochement between teachers and monitors. These dangers could be further minimized by inter-district shifting of monitors,” according to another principal.
Some teachers support the move: “One of the biggest problems is the flawed monitoring system. Exceptions apart, our departmental monitoring system is too politicized, powerless, underfunded, busy in file-work or lacklustre to properly monitor the schools under their jurisdiction. One hopes the IMU will be kept safe from political interference, corruption, and data-delaying/tampering for whatever reasons. Much will depend also on whether its recommendations will be impartially executed,” a teacher said.
But some oppose it terming it as ‘an unwarranted and inapt’ move that would ultimately bring little/no change. They say schools and teachers are monitored by head masters, and inspected by cluster heads, district education officers, directors, local bodies members, national and provincial assemblies’ members and chairman and members of the PTCs.
“There was no need to establish the IMU. Rather, the government should have strengthened/empowered the internal monitoring system. Schools should be left to the district education officers. Principals and officers should be empowered and political intervention in appointments and postings should be eliminated. Good administrators, like Mushtaq Ahmad, the ex-DEO Mardan, who comprehensively inspected all the schools of the district within a short span of three months, could do wonders,” said a teacher.
“Principals and administrators would also definitely give good results if facilities like smart-phones with GPRS connection and powers are provided to them and they are also made to report their inspection report immediately. Biometric attendance system at schools can also improve teachers’ punctuality. But teachers’ competencies also need to be improved. Principals should be explicitly authorized to hire new teachers from PTC or other school funds,” he argued.
Another teacher said that earlier principals/headmasters and the district officers kept reporting the deficiencies and requirements on teachers, chairs, desks, books and other basic facilities regularly but these are scarcely fulfilled. Now monitors do the same but will the government act upon their reports/recommendations and fulfil the deficiencies? Khan responded the government will ensure speedy action on their reports and recommendations concerning administrative and financial matters and will allocate resources.
When asked whether the step/body was tantamount to a distrust on the existing monitoring mechanism and shouldn’t the age-old system have been reformed/strengthened rather than establishing a new system, Khan said: “Rather it is a quest for excellence. And why would one have gone for this if the earlier internal monitoring system had been successful during the last 65 years? Our history proves and no one can contest that it has failed to deliver and that a change was needed.”
Another teacher, wishing anonymity, said: “Monitors visit a school once or twice a month. Now what if a teacher who is otherwise punctual and dutiful is on-leave or late on the monitor’s arrival date(s). Won’t that cause a negative and wrong perception about him in the IMU system?”
“PTI has rewarded the youth with jobs as monitors. But educational monitoring is too difficult and technical a job to be left to inexperienced fellows. This is bound to fail. It will, however, create hatred for PTI amongst teachers as disputes surface later.”
The KP E&SE department possesses over 168000 employees with 133750 sanctioned and 119274 functional teachers who teach 3.9mn students in 28472 total but 27975 functional Government Primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools.
It means a monitor will check around 250-280 teachers and 58-60 schools. The monitor-employee ratio will be 1:350 once education offices also come under their oversight, something impossible.
Experts say weak monitoring mechanism, teachers’ absenteeism, crowded classrooms, indifference of teachers and administrators, political interference and schools sans facilities, etc are some of the problems facing education in the province.
Distressingly, 20 per cent of the functional public schools still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities. As for other facilities like library, computer and science laboratory, the report says, only 1205, 254 and 1152 off the 3092 male and 451, 154 and 561of the 1810 girls middle to higher schools have these facilities respectively. The rest have no such facilities and so are the GPSs.

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Cheating in the examinations

Cheating their way to success

 

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2011-weekly/nos-14-08-2011/pol1.htm#1

Use of unfair means in examinations need to be strictly checked to improve credibility and standard of education
By Tahir Ali

Examination results show the ability and capability of students, teachers and institutions. Good results ensure admission to reputable institutions and eventual success in life. The problem of cheating during examinations has rendered Pakistan’s examination system and its results invalid and unreliable. What is more dangerous is that some students think of it as their right.

The superintendent and other invigilators at a given examination centre have to confront pressure during examinations, ranging from requests by friends and family members to allow cheating to political pressure, and attacks and death threats from student groups. All these pressures are aimed at one thing – to allow students use of unfair means to get good grades.

These allegations of corruption are not restricted to the invigilating staff. There are complaints that invigilating staff of choice is appointed at the boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISEs), papers are leaked and even better grades are maneuvered with the help of BISEs staff and marking/checking personnel there, charges which are denied by BISE officials.

The National Accountability Bureau in collaboration with BISEs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently organised a seminar on the issue where a strategy against the same was prepared. Cheating in the board examinations, in one way or the other, is in the knowledge of all and everyone wants to correct the situation, states an official document prepared by a local BISE.

“Parents’ obsession with their child’s future, private education sector’s efforts to ensure good grades for their candidates, lack of required facilities, non availability of sufficient teachers, books and material in schools, paucity of female teachers and invigilators, absence of criteria and favouritism in teachers’ selection for examination duties both at the department and the board levels, political interference, etc, are some of the problems in this regard,” the document says.

According to a senior educationist, who wishes anonymity, negligible remuneration and daily allowance for invigilators for examination duties is another problem.

“Daily remuneration of Rs25, Rs37 and Rs60 for common invigilators, the deputy superintendent (grade 16 or 17) and superintendent (grade 17-18) respectively gets them around Rs225, Rs700 and Rs1080 for the full duration of the examination. Teachers also get a daily allowance of Rs280 and Rs500 respectively in the same order which is being given at this rate for years now. Earlier, it was given on the basis of running basic pay but now at lump-sum basis. Then there are mostly two papers a day but there is no extra remuneration or daily allowance for them for the double paper,” he says.

The remuneration has remained unchanged for years though examination fees and prices have been increased manifold. “Do the board members, chairman, secretaries, controllers and the other officers at the BISEs draw the same level of remuneration and daily allowances for their examination related duties? It is not unnatural if, in this backdrop of meager remuneration by the BISEs, invigilators do not perform their duties on merit and impartially,” he says.

Examination centres also face paucity of space. The students are to be seated at four meters distance from each other but it is hardly practised for space constraints in the halls. Congested seating, resorted primarily to accommodate the students for shortage of space, makes supervision difficult and makes inter-students communication and copying easy, especially when there is frequent power shutdown in the summer, the examination season in the country.

Students usually use mobile phones for unfair means in the examination. Despite warnings from the staff, they bring mobile set(s) along with them. Invigilators ask them to switch their sets off but they usually dodge. Then, in some cases, megaphones are also used by outsiders to help candidates answer the questions.

Number of staff is also a problem. An invigilator is appointed for 40 students. Though an extra invigilator is allowed for 11 more students but if there are less than 11 students, one invigilator may have to supervise upto 50 students, which makes his or her task very difficult.

In some papers, where the number of students increases from average (on the basis of which the staff is appointed) the superintendents are allowed to appoint extra invigilators but they usually avoid doing so as it requires lengthy procedures to take sanction for extra staff and then no one is ready to do the duty for a day or two.

The boards can punish the cheaters on a written complaint from the superintendents, by canceling the concerned paper(s) or ban him/her for a few years from taking examination. But the examiners usually avoid so for three reasons: One, to avoid lengthy paperwork required to prepare a tenable unfair-means case; two, this can ruin the victim’s future beyond repair; and three, students often react violently at cases. Recently, a local BISE’s controller of examinations narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.

Some invigilators also point out that if students resort to hooliganism, it is the examiners who are accused of not using ways to avoid such incidents. What this practically means is: allow the cheaters if stopping them can create problems.

All the stakeholders in the examination system – students, their parents, teachers, schools and BISEs, who are responsible, though in varying degrees, for rampant malpractices will have to make efforts to stop or minimise this scourge.

It requires a three-pronged strategy to guard against cheating in examination: before, during and after the examination. Teachers and students need to fully commit themselves to teaching/learning process. Students should revise notes at home. Schools with hostel facility usually show better performance. Competitive environment in classes and a proper mechanism for guidance and counseling students are also needed in schools.

To improve teaching at schools, a system of reward and punishment for teachers should be introduced. The performance report of all teachers for this purpose should be prepared on a quarterly basis by the departmental inspection teams from lower classes, rather than on annual basis and at Matric or intermediate levels as these days.

Increase in remuneration and daily allowances of staff and then appointment of honest invigilators should be ensured. This can be easily done by computerising the record and the process of invigilation staff selection. The education department should forward the lists.

Teachers’ unions should not be allowed to interfere in the examination. Ruling political parties will have to take initiative by disowning their political wings in teachers and let the board administrators decide things on merit. Interference by outsiders can be prevented by police personnel and daily visits of inspectors to the examination centre. Moreover, fully enclosed examination halls could also help overcome the problem.

Through awareness campaigns in the print and electronic media and through functions and lectures, people should be convinced of the repercussions of using unfair-means in a students’ career.

“Complete dependence on external examination in total disregard to internal examination for final result of the students is flawed. A comprehensive testing system, which takes into account the results shown by students in both the internal examination conducted by his institution and external one by BISEs, will greatly minimise corruption in the examination,” adds the educationist.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

 

Following is the original text of the article as sent to the paper.

 

Arresting cheating in examinations

By Tahir Ali

It is examination season in the country. Examination results are the yardsticks of students, teachers and institutions ability and good results in it ensure admission in reputable institutions and eventual success in life. But the problem of malpractices during the examination has not only rendered Pakistan’s examination system and its results invalid and unreliable but what is more dangerous is that students are beginning to think of it as their right.

The superintendent and other invigilators at a given examination centre, have to confront several pressures and enticements during the examinations. Ranging from requests by friends and family members to allow malpractices to offers for money to political and social pressures and attacks and death threats from students’ groups, the students, their parents, teachers and institutions try their best to get undue advantage from them during the examination papers.

All these efforts, offers and pressures are aimed at one thing- to allow students the use of unfair means to earn good grades.

These allegations of corruption and malpractices are not restricted to the invigilating staff. There are complaints that invigilating staff of choice is got appointed at the boards of intermediate and secondary education (BISEs), papers are leaked and even better grades are manoeuvred with the help of BISEs staff and marking/checking personnel there, charges which are denied by BISE officials.

The national accountability bureau in collaboration with BISEs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently organised a seminar on the issue where a strategy against the same was prepared.

Cheating in the board examinations, in one way or the other, is in the knowledge of all and everyone wants to correct the situation, states an official document prepared by a local BISE.

“Parents’ obsession with their children future, private education sector’s efforts to ensure good grades for their candidates, lack of required facilities, non availability of sufficient teachers, books and material in schools, paucity of female teachers and invigilators, absence of criteria for and favouritism in teachers’ selection for examination duties both at the department and the board levels, political interference and pressures by the teachers unions are some of the problems in this regard,” it says.

According to a senior educationist, who wished anonymity, negligible remuneration and daily allowance for the invigilators for the examination duties is exacerbating the phenomenon.

“Daily remuneration (tea, meal expenses) of Rs25, Rs37 and Rs60 for common invigilators, the deputy superintendant (grade 16 or 17) and superintendant (grade 17-18) respectively gets them a around Rs225, Rs700 and Rs1080 for the full duration of the examination. Teachers also get a daily allowance of Rs280 and Rs500 respectively in the same order which is being given at this rate for years now. Earlier it was given on the basis of running basic pay but now at lump-sum basis. Then there are mostly two papers a day but there is no extra remuneration or daily allowance for them for the double paper,” he said.

“The remuneration has remained unchanged for years though examination fees and prices have been increased manifold.  Do the board members, chairman, secretaries, controllers and the other officers at the BISEs draw the same level of remuneration and daily allowances for their examination related duties? It is not unnatural if, in this back-drop of meagre remuneration by the BISEs, invigilators hardly resist the offers provided by the institutions and parents of candidates and if they don’t perform their duties on merit and impartially,” he questioned.

According to another public school teacher, examination centres also face paucity of space. “The students are to be seated at four meters distance from each other but it is hardly practised for space constraints at the halls. Congested seating, resorted primarily to accommodate the students for shortage of space, makes supervision difficult, renders inter-students communication and copying easy and makes time miserable for students and the staff especially when there is frequent power shutdown in the summer, the examination season in the country,” he opined.

Students usually use mobile phones for unfair means in the examination. Despite warnings from the staff, they bring mobile set(s) along with them. Invigilators ask them to switch their sets off but they usually dodge. Then megaphones are also used by outsiders to help the candidates answer the questions.

Staff paucity problem is also there. An invigilator is appointed for 40 students. Though an extra invigilator is allowed for 11 more students but if there are less than 11 students, one invigilator may have to supervise upto 50 students. Is it possible?

In some papers where the number of students increases from average (on the basis of which the staff is appointed) the superintendants are allowed to appoint extra invigilators but they usually avoid doing so as it requires lengthy procedure to take the sanction for the extra staff and then no one is ready to do duty for a day or two.

The boards can punish the cheaters, on a written complaint from the superintendents, by cancelling the concerned paper(s)/examination or ban him/her for a few years from taking examination. But the examiners usually avoid so for three reasons: One, to avoid the lengthy paperwork required to prepare a tenable unfair-means case; two, this can ruin the victim’s future beyond repair; and three, students often react violently at UFM cases and even fire at the staff. Recently, a local BISE’s controller of examinations narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.

Some invigilators also pointed out that, if students resort to hooliganism anywhere for strictness of the invigilating staff and any untoward incident happens as a result, it is the examiners who are accused of not knowing/using the tactics to avoid such incidents. What this practically means is clear: allow the cheaters if stopping them can create problems.

How to tackle the problem

All the stake-holders in the examination system- students, their parents, teachers, schools and BISEs, who are responsible, though in varying degrees, for rampant malpractices, will have to make concerted/joint efforts to stop or minimise this scourge.

It requires three-pronged strategies to guard against cheating in examination: before, during and after the examination.

Teachers and students need to fully commit themselves to teaching/learning process. Students should revise the work at homes. Schools with hostel facility usually show better performance.

Competitive environment in classes and a proper mechanism for guidance and counselling of the students are also needed in schools.

To improve teaching at schools, a system of reward and punishment for teachers should be introduced in schools. The performance report of all teachers for this purpose should be prepared on quarterly basis by the departmental inspection teams from lower classes, rather than on annual basis and at Matric or intermediate levels as these days.

Increase in remuneration and daily allowances of the staff and then appointment of honest invigilators should be ensured. This can be easily done by computerising the record and the process of invigilation staff selection. The education department should forward the lists.

Teachers’ unions should not be allowed to interfere in the examination. Ruling political parties will have to take initiative by disowning their political wings in teachers and let the board administrators decide things on merit.

Interference by outsiders can be prevented by enough strength of police personnel and daily visits of resident inspectors to the examination centre. Moreover, fully enclosed examination halls could also help overcome the problem.

Through awareness campaigns on print and electronic media and through functions and lectures by social, political and religious celebrities, people should be convinced of the repercussions of the unfair-means for the students’ careers. Obviously, when children know that their parents can go to any limit to get them pass, why would they work hard after that?

“Malpractices in the examinations could be minimised by reducing the weightage of external examination. The present complete dependence on the external examination in total disregard of the internal examination for the final result of the students is flawed. A comprehensive testing system which takes into account the results shown by the students in both the internal examination conducted by his institution and external one by BISEs besides taking other aspects of his performance and character, apart from the written one, will greatly minimise corruption in the examination,” adds the educationist.

(tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

 

Teachers’ visits to students’ homes

Home visits by teachers

By Tahir Ali

Attaullah always took keen interest in his studies. He was regular in class and was popular in fellow students as well as teachers. But then he bagged inconsiderable marks in his 10th grade examination. He felt alienated by the treatment of his father over his poor result. He was remorseful for wasting his time. Life lost all charms for him. Dejected and enraged at himself, he indulged himself in activities that were detrimental to his time, studies and goals. He thought it was all over for him. But then a teacher visited his home a few times and talked to him and his parents.

“Reflect on your habits, priorities and activities. Think as to which were the things that distracted you from studies and wasted your time. Also know about the things and habits that had proved useful during any stage of your academic career. Avoid the distractions and follow the plus points…..,” he told him.

That lifted his spirits. Attaullah started working with a new zeal and commitment. Later, he won two gold medals in his career.

The above story illustrates that a hardworking, committed and friendly teacher can transform a student’s life. There can be tremendous interest in this home-visiting model provided these are carefully planned and effectively executed. These have the potential to improve low performing schools and provide an opportunity to build relationships with families that go a long way towards success of educational endeavours.

Though teachers’ visits to students’ homes usually follow problematic student behaviour or an urge on part of the school and teacher to ensure success of the students, an interested and committed teacher can spot pretty early on which are the students who might face some challenges and problems needing intervention and guidance.

Teachers’ visits can turn around weak students and schools. They give personal touch to the teacher-student relationship and create a sense of importance and confidence amongst students. They not only help build good inter teacher-students relationship and love but also give good information about the likes, dislikes, weaknesses and strong points of the students and teachers, which are crucial for educating the children satisfactorily. Poor performing children can excel with compassion, kindness, and some one-on-one help.

Educational experts say students do better if teachers, schools and students and their families act in unison. Our teachers need to come out of their ivory towers and be more friendly and close to their students and their parents if we hope for a better learning environment at schools.

Teachers may be lacking vital information about their students, and meaningful opportunity on part of the teachers to engage with their students and their families can solve the problem.

These visits and conversations not only help build a relationship with the parents and congeal one with their children, they also can create many other possibilities. For example, the teacher learns a ‘funds of knowledge’ from the parents and gets an insight about the prevailing situation at students’ homes, about students’ peer group, his neighbourhood behaviour and the way he deals with the situation.

Even though well-intended, these visits have both the potential to become a source of strength as well as trouble for the students and teachers. For example, there is the problem of reluctance on part of the teachers, especially female ones, and resistance on part of the parents towards this phenomenon.

Educators don’t want to be unwarranted guests and female teachers especially feel vulnerable to visit the homes of their adult students. Though parents usually like to be contacted for their children, sometimes they too resist these visits as encroachment and interference.

So, the visits should not be made mandatory for teachers, students or families. What then is to be done to make all these go for this highly beneficial practice: Teachers and educational administrators should be given financial and professional benefit for each visit they make. Parents and their studying children should receive stipend and educational credits on these visits respectively.

These incentives, rewards and chastisement and conditional cash transfers for teachers, parents, and schools will help foster friendly environment at the visits. We also need to ensure that training and a respectful structure is provided, and that visits don’t just target troubled students.

One important reason for the success of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, a successful project run by teachers’ union, school district, and a community group run in parts of USA since 1988, is that teachers are compensated for their time if they choose to participate voluntarily

The main problem is where will the funds come from and who would organise, supervise and evaluate the work of these bodies.

The thousands of Parents Teacher Councils (PTCs) functioning in public sector schools could make the task of organising, supervision and evaluation quite easier. Over and above, the national commission for human development (NCHD), that has huge budget with little practical impact, cannot find worthier business to pursue.  

Good communities create the foundation for great schools. In transforming public schools into the hubs of their communities, teachers and principals should play lead roles, supported by mentors, counsellors, media personnel and media outlets.

As far the funds, the government may allocate some funds for the project. If not, then the funds available with the NCHD and PTCs –the latter are given considerable funds for repair and maintenance of schools each year0- could be utilised. Similarly, grants and donations by public and private sector and by local or foreign NGOs could be used to fund these kinds of visits.

There should be no problem of resources. Various foreign bodies such as USAID, UNESCO and the like or the funds available with the NCHD could be utilised for the purpose. Anyway they are worth investment, because home visits can have far-reaching effects.

Besides, the project can be easily carried out by graduate teachers, especially female ones who are naturally more sublime and careful in dealing with students. It doesn’t require a psychological expert to do this as almost each working teacher is an expert in public dealing. However, for making and maintaining track-record of the meetings and findings of these visits and implementation and effects of these findings certainly warrant a short training. This can be done by plentiful public or private colleges, universities or the provincial and regional training institutes in the country.

Writer email: tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan’s

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan: A non-conformist to the core

By Tahir Ali

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan is an all rounder. He is an academician, writer, critique, columnist, traveller and human rights activist. He is the senior member of NWFP public service commission. He has taught for forty years in universities and after retirement teaches free of cost at Peshawar and Qurtaba universities.  He says teaching is my life, “it will continue as long as I am alive”.

Dr Zahoor was born in united India in 1942. His family migrated to Pakistan from Indian-held Kashmir via Muree in 1947. He did his masters in Urdu, English and Political Science from Peshawar University. He did his MS in international relations from Clark Atlanta University in USA and PhD in Central Asian Studies from Area study centre Peshawar University.

He has visited dozens of countries like USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran and India and others, some even several times. He has also received the prestigious Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. He had also been appointed educational counsellor at Pakistan Embassy in the US in 1996.

He has written extensively on literature, history and politics. He is a known columnist who is liked for his blunt style. He has around 80 publications that include books, travelogues and literary works in Urdu, English and Hindku languages. He has written over ten thousand columns. He writes what he deems fit and necessary even if it be disgusting to others. He damns care. He is an outspoken critic of rampant corruption, hypocrisy, illiteracy and injustice in our society and says that Pakistanis have excelled all in dishonesty and mastered cheating others.

He is a self-made man. He belonged to a poor family and in his school days he had to work at bicycle repair and bookbinding shops. He educated in extremely unfavourable conditions. He says every one gets opportunities but few lucky ones avail it and I am one. He can be role model for ambitious but poor persons.

This writer interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

Tahir Ali: Being a political analyst, how do you look at the post 9/11 unipolar world?

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan: I think the withering away of the USSR has dealt severe blows to world politics. It has bereft it of morality and exposed the world and especially the weaker nations to ruthless use of force by stronger nations. Would the USA dare attack Iraq and Afghanistan had the USSR been there? Whenever there was any such attempt on its part earlier, the USSR’s quick arrival or warning would deter it. The unipolar world and the USA as sole world power owe much to the Muslims who helped the capitalist world destroy the USSR. We, the Muslims, are just reaping the thorns we had sown earlier. You need balance of power locally as well as in international politics. Counterbalancing is needed but the question is who after the US. China can bridge the gap but it is going very slowly – it wants to conquer, rather it has conquered the world economy. It is too much careful in responses and avoids confrontation and jumping into disputes with countries, smaller or bigger. It wants to preserve its might and resources unless the other world powers give in to their intransigence or China takes them over economically. But for this to happen, china will have to say goodbye to its degenerating standards. It, in my opinion, will be committing suicide if it continues to produce substandard items on demand as in the long run it will lose consumer confidence world side.

The US has come to the region but not to go prematurely. I think it will stay here and won’t leave until and unless it becomes sure that the region is no more a threat to its security.

TA: How do you analyse the educational system of the country?

DZA: Lack of planning and its rigorous implementation have spoiled the educational endeavours. Our universities are producing a mass of good-for-nothing and half-baked educated persons with out any purpose and planning. Our students seek degrees, not knowledge. The government is also increasing the number of colleges and universities but is neglectful of the worsening standard of education in the country. No Pakistani university is there fore seen in the top 1000 universities of the world. Teachers lack commitment and are ill-qualified. Lack of funding is also a problem. Whereas the UNO standard requires allocation of at least four percent of the GDP for education, our educational budget had never crossed two per cent of the budget – for this year it is around one per cent, only Rs30 billion out of the total outlay of Rs2.9 trillion.

I love books, scholars and research and want my countrymen to devote a portion of their incomes to buy and read as many books as possible. It’s very unfortunate that book-reading is on the decline with each passing day.

TA: What are your suggestions as an academician in this regard?

DZA: Educational budget should be brought at par with international standard of four per cent of GDP- Pakistan’s GDP is estimated at $164 billion and its educational allocation, by this standard, should be around Rs500 billions. I know this is a tough task but at least we should start our journey and take the fist step in that direction by allocating a minimum of Rs100bn in the next fiscal to education.

English should be made medium of instruction from day one. Colleges should have PhD faculty. Student-teacher ratio should be brought down to 15:1 –it is over 40 at present normally and even higher at places. Basic education should be made free and compulsory and parents should be punished in case of non-compliance.

University professors should be limited to research endeavours. Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post graduate examinations.

Teachers should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade seventeen as against the present grades 7 to 12. They should be offered refresher courses.

Syllabus is good but too much religious contents should be removed from it. It should be goal-specific –we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making religious scholars of them. Students should study the text and supplementary books instead reading notes and guides prepared by teachers.

Student evaluation should be internal at primary level but it must be external at the higher levels of study so that objective marking is possible.

Sports have obtained a status of religion in USA and other western countries. These should be given their due status.

TA: Tell us about your political ideology?

DZA: In my youth, I started reading Che Guivera, Dr Ali Shariati, Iqbal, Paulo Fereri, Frans Fanan, Thomas Paine and my other ideal missionaries. So I decided to dedicate my life to altruism. I stand for peace, liberty, equality and brotherhood between all human beings irrespective of their cast, creed and colour.  I am a leftist –in fact Bhutto loyalist-, secular, humanist and born feminist –I feel like respecting, serving and pitying the females –a noble creature that needs recognition, respect and support and must not be seen only as entertainer. Actually Manto instilled in me the respect of woman even if she was a whore. I believe in scientific socialism but also believe in Allah. I am a progressive person but not an atheist. Progressivism to me stands for the betterment of humanity. It is a jihad against the injustices perpetrated on the downtrodden. It is a crusade for eradication of property, ignorance, hunger and exploitation.

TA: what maladies, in your opinion, plague our political system?

DZA: Democracy requires educated and independent citizens but in Pakistan democracy and electoral system is pawn in the hands of the wealthy capitalist and feudal class. Lack of education and training of the citizens, corruption, weak institutions, feudalism and hereditary system in parties hamper the development of democratic norms in the country. In my country a TV boss is hired for Rs0.2 million a day while the ordinary clerk or teacher get a start salary of Rs5 to 6 thousand. This is why I hate the oligarchy operated/perpetuating so-called representative democracy. It is nothing more than a transparent fraud wrought with my 170 million poor countrymen with the help of a million mullahs. Only around 1000 landlords decide the destiny of the people. They are divided between what I call the ruling, opposition and waiting parties. Democracy here is a one night bride. With the exception of two or three, all parties are dominated by certain families. There is no democracy in their structure or working though they profess it loudly. Democracy here starts and ends with elections. Rampant poverty diminishes any hope for reform or improvement. We are uneducated because we are poor and vice versa. It is a vicious circle.

TA: How can the situation be improved?

DZA: We can get out of it if our political class has a sense of loss and a resolve to confront and overcome the challenge which is lacking. The government will have to allocate more resources to public welfare. It should get into dialogue with India to have the Kashmir problem solved once and for all. Both India and Pakistan just can’t afford to spend that much on security. Resolution of the problem would help transform Pakistan into true welfare-state from a police-state which it is now.

I am a revolutionary from the core of my heart and believe in a welfare state. I think state should not allow big income disparities and concentration of wealth in a few hands –only 1:10 difference in incomes can be acceptable. I believe in nationalisation-that the state should have all means of productions in its control to divide and utilise them justly for the welfare of the masses. I am against private property. For me all property belongs to Allah which He has given to humanity as a common heritage, not as a gift to few oligarchs or aristocrats. My God can’t be unkind to humanity. He forbids injustice, inequality and exploitation. I myself have acted on my ideology and don’t have any money, property, bank balance or even my own house. But I have bankful of affection and respect in society and the world over.

TA: You have been to several developed countries. What do you ascribe their progress to?

DZA:  I think they are one thousand years ahead of us. I always wake up early in the morning at 4 a.m. In my stay in both America and Britian, I saw to my utter amazement people walking, jogging and getting ready to go to their jobs. I found that Americans and Britians don’t sleep that much. Sleep is only for the people of the East and particularly for South East Asia. I found that their strength and beauty didn’t lie in nude bodies but in hard work. Integrity, rule of law, hard work, equality, discipline and justice are the hallmarks of their society. These tours and studies changed my life in a positive manner, broadened my vision and increased my confidence. We, conversely, have no such values. We have created world records in dishonesty and corruption. Pakistanis are genius but they mostly have misused their intelligence. My mentor Dr Ali Shariati says Islam is endangered by the number two Islam. The avaricious Mullah and the demagogues have joined hands to deprive the people of their wealth, rights and powers. This is why I hate Mullah who used Islam for their personal gains and glory.

TA: Your critics say you are too harsh a critic. What do you say?

DZA: I write what I feel and accept no dictation. I neither write on somebody’s command nor stop it at somebody’s threats and offers. I am a non-conformist by nature. This has exposed me to hazards and losses all through my life but I never cared. On my travelogues on Iran and Turkey I was asked indirectly by their establishments to remove some parts of the text to make it acceptable to the bureaucracy of the two countries but my response was a big ‘No’. I try to write on untouched, unnoticed and fresh topics. I have learnt that being great is not difficult but being different is. I love to navigate on unchanted waters and have no fear of drowning. I hate double talk and hypocrisy. I am incapable of remaining neutral or silent. Rather I am a whistle blower. I take sides right or wrong but can’t say both are right. I do what I think is proper and necessary. I am a rationalist as well as idealist –rationalist and realist in my personal life but an idealist as far as my professional life goes. I never care for the opinions of others when it comes to my professional duties. I have always been steadfast in my ideals. I have always taken a position after rational analysis. People often fail to understand the difference between these two aspects of my personality invariably come to grief, often misjudge me, and accuse me of arrogance, disregard and coldness. But I damn care. You will find perseverance in my pursuits, writings and ideologies.

I am an extremist in love and hate but I hate only handful and love humanity at large.  My father had told me, “Never waste your energy and time on a bad man. Instead, try to find good people and shower your love on them. I think my most popular books are my travelogues. Their many editions have been published with out my permission as I specially write on all my books that all rights are reserved for humanity at large. I have dedicated my writings to the downtrodden and exploited majority. I live for them. I love the underprivileged and the poor in my country and the world.

TA: How do you look back at your writing career and lifespan?

DZA: I remember I started writing freelance weekly literary columns and features for national and provincial dailies way back in early 1970s when I was posted as a lecturer at the beautiful hilly station of Parachinar When I look back at my 68 years of my life, I feel no remorse. I came from a poor family and also not a TAight student –I got third division in Matric. But then I did my PhD and became a university professor, the senior most member of public service commission, a life member of academy of letters, a member of board of governors of national language authority, Chairman Gandhara Hindku Board. I won Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. I wrote around eighty books and thousands of articles thus far. I have been a globe trotter. I have attended national and international seminars and delivered lectures in university of Germany. I wrote fist ever book on Dr Ali Shariati and my book on him and Allam Iqbal. I published my first book when I was reading in MA.I have several other first classes details of which require several pages. I think I have done a lot and have completed my mission. God had given me a pen and I have made good use of it as far as possible. I am satisfied with my work and life. I would like to born again, if that was possible, with the same family, friends, job and duties.

Case for a uniform curriculum

Evolve a single system of education

TAHIR Ali

Business Recorder (May 22 2010):

The curricula of almost all kinds of schools vary. Wide disparity is seen in the system of examination and school calendar being followed by each network of schools that educates and evaluates its students in its own peculiar way. The class system of education has sharply divided the nation. It’s virtually impossible to think and hope of national cohesion and development if this situation persists. The national divide will exacerbate if the class system in education is not abolished in times to come.

All these schools promote distinct cultures and inculcate different habits and manners in their students. Students pumped into society with their divergent outlooks are sources of disarray in the country and our country is increasingly becoming a split-society with each passing day.

In an interview with this writer, Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan, a well-known scholar and social analyst, said, “We are amongst the least literate nations in the world. We have 40% literacy rate but that too is questionable by world standard. Education has never been in our priority list. No uniform system of education could be developed as yet. The country as a result has been divided in water-tight compartments.” Indeed it is.

So what should be done to correct the situation?

Curriculum, according to an expert, is all learning, which is planned and guided by school, whether carried on in groups or individually and whether inside or outside the school. It is the path through which a nation tries to achieve its educational objectives. It is rightly regarded as the heart of educational process as it provides direction and rationality to the educational endeavours. Curriculum must be planned and implemented in a way that ensures the harmonious and comprehensive development of students and society. It must reflect and cater to the philosophical, psychological, social and economic realities and needs of the time and society. It should be updated and made relevant to the needs and demands of modern age; to cope with the world of work; it should be more student-oriented than being teacher-centred; it should be more research-oriented; and more practical than being theoretical as at present.

Every society, state and nation develop a particular type of curriculum for its educational system that is best suited to its needs and ideology of life. The curricula of an agrarian and industrial society invariably differ. So do those of the communist and capitalist ones as well as of secular and religious societies.

Pakistan, faced with problems created by regional, sectarian, extremist and linguistic tendencies, must introduce a curriculum that could strengthen national cohesion, promote moderation and modernisation and inculcate the spirit of tolerance in the future generation of Pakistan.

Learning from others

We should learn from the experiences of the other countries. Developed countries around the world have established uniform system of education. USA and Britain have done the same and reached to new heights.

In the Republic of Korea, there is a strongly prescribed national curriculum and all its details are determined by the Ministry of Education (MOE). In Japan too, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture prescribes guidelines for curriculum and authorises textbooks in elementary and secondary schools. Throughout the country, the school year begins in April and ends the following march.

Malaysia too has evolved a common curriculum and common system of education. All schools, whether private or public, have to abide by the contents and curriculum approved by the MOE. All of them operate on semester system and the school calendar begins simultaneously throughout Malaysia in the first week of December.

In Sri Lanka too, there is a common national curriculum at-least from class 1 to 11 and the school year lasts from January to December in the entire island.

Remove discrepancies

So, there is a dire need to remove the discrepancy between the curricula of the religious and mainstream educational system. There should be a mandatory uniform national curriculum from class one to twelve.

At the intermediate level, all the students in the country should take a federal examination on the pattern of developed countries. Preferably, this examination should be conducted by reputable private institutions to ensure fairness, transparency and reliability and to minimise the chances of malpractices in them.

Free education

Equal opportunities of quality education should be made available to all the sons of the soil. For this purpose, education should be made free and compulsory.

Combine the two streams

Religious seminaries should be included in the mainstream educational network. For this purpose, a spirit of give and take is required on part of both the government and management of Madaris. After having F.A/F.Sc. from institutions based on national curriculum, a student, if she/he so desires, may seek admission in the modern seminaries for religious education and after completion of five years of education there, he should be given a bachelor degree. He may register for Ph.D for specialisation in any religious branch afterwards. It is hoped that through this system we will produce competent religious scholars well versed with Islamic teachings and modern problems.

Specialised education

In place of the present B.A / B.Sc, a new scheme of four years of specialised education should be started after the intermediate for all other branches and subjects on the pattern of medical and engineering courses. This new mechanism will ultimately abolish the obsolete and useless BA / BSc levels to the great advantage of the nation. Science subjects should be taught in English from day one. Their syllabi should be exactly the same as being taught in the developed countries. The curriculum should be goal-specific – we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making them jack of all.

Language

English should be made medium of instruction from day one. Colleges should have PhD faculty. University professors should be limited to research endeavours.

University as research centres

Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post graduate examinations. Their syllabi should be exactly the same as being taught in the developed countries. Colleges should have PhD faculty. University professors should be limited to research endeavours.

Teachers

Teachers are the soul of the educational system. The success of educational endeavours is dependent upon their commitment and hard work. Therefore they need better remuneration. They should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade seventeen as against the present grades 7 to 12. They should be offered refresher courses.

Less religious contents

Too much religious contents should be removed from the curriculum. It should be goal-specific –we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making religious scholars of them.

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