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Loadshedding adds to students' miseries

Islamabad, April 15, 2008: With the board examination drawing closer, tension is writ large on faces of school and college students with the increasing hours of power loadshedding an irritant.

Already in the middle of their exams are matriculation students who say that these began a bit early than the past routine. Many students preparing for first and second year board papers are seen trying to organize their studying schedules in a manner that they do not have to miss their favourite television shows. However, those appearing in matriculation exams have already cut themselves from this form of entertainment.

Perhaps every student has his or her own way of tackling exam stress. Some become extraordinarily religious during this period and start saying their prayers five times a day. Others turn to music.

Giving tips on reducing exam stress and memorizing as much as possible, a study published in an international magazine says that the first step should be to stay healthy. It says that students put themselves at risk of getting a nasty cold or another illness right in the middle of their exams by all-night or late-night study fuelled by caffeine.

"The idea might seem a great way of achieving lots in a short time but it wrecks the sleep cycle, disrupts eating patterns thus negatively effecting the immune system," it points out. To become a wiser reviser, it advised testing oneself on what one had just read, as it would help embed it in one's brain. It also suggests students to summarize whatever they go through into points. "Just do not keep ploughing through the same mountains of notes as it is demoralizing." The study says that the night before the exam was the hardest and asks students not to start revising completely new areas because it would make them panic.

"Actually it is far more important to go to bed at a decent hour and get some sleep in order to perform better." It asks students to say 'stop' to any negative thoughts and not to waste their positive energy by feeling threatened with exams. "All stress exists only in your mind and there is no physical stress such as wild animals in the exam room," it said.

All depends on the way a student organizes himself in the time provided to him or her before exams or during the whole session. Unfortunately, most students are found wasting their precious time watching television or loitering out on the streets. Noreen Seher, a behaviourist at Bahria University, said that organizing oneself had been developed into a complete science with the passage of time. Daily Times

Educational revolution taking place in Pakistan
Lahore: An educational revolution is taking place in Pakistan. The emerging reality of Pakistan, both urban and rural, is that there is a well-defined educational marketplace at the primary level with actively engaged players on both sides of the market-the schools and the parents.

These views expressed by Harvard University Educationist Professor Dr Asim Khwaja in a lecture on "Using data and analysis to inform policy: education in Pakistan" at Punjab Planning and Development Department.

Punjab Chief Economist Dr Shujaat Ali, PD board members Arifa Saboohi, Rafia Nazir, Dr Sabiha Mansoor and government officials attended the seminar.

Dr Asim said that the one-school village (two if gender segregated) had given way to a selection among public and private schools (religious schools are rarely used with the percentage of children enrolled in such schools stagnant at 1-3 percent of enrolment countrywide). The "education story" in Pakistan is the rise of an active and competitive educational marketplace where self-owned, for-profit private schools offering secular education provide parents another option to invest in their children's education, he observed.

Dr Asim Khawaja said that out-of-pocket spending by households on children's education was higher than what the government spent on providing education through public schools for the richest one-third of the rural household sample, and is roughly equal for the middle third. Even among the poorest one-third of households, out-of-pocket expenditures, at Rs 100 per month amounts to 75 percent of government educational spending on this group. Across the board, more than one-half of children's educational expenditures are now borne by parents. Even though government schooling is a free option, poor parents are spending substantially on their children's education, both by enrolling their children in private schools and spending on additional educational investments beyond school fees, he added.

Commenting over the debate about private schools or reform in government schools, he argued that his reading of the education discussion in Pakistan was that the views expressed and stands taken were seldom supported by a systematic look on the data, albeit in many cases because the data was just not available. He explained that his current research on educational policy issues would have served its purpose if data from households and schools informed the debate on education in the country.

Dr Khwaja said that his research indicated that private schools were overwhelmingly located in richer villages, while government schools ensured equitable geographical access for all income levels. Within villages, private schools were located in central and richer settlements. The main constraint on private schools was the availability of an educated (female) workforce. Private schools do not rise in a vacuum: government investment in girls' secondary schooling during the 1980s probably paved the way for private schools today.

He reiterated that the public sector had been remarkably successful in ensuring access to schools at the primary level in large parts of the country, including Punjab. Further expansion includes the setting up of secondary schools (especially for girls) and identifying pockets where school availability is still a concern. In addition, the government needs to experiment with policies that can decrease the "distance-penalty" for girls, he added.

Dr Khwaja was of the view that in countries where private schooling option was widespread, policy options in education had revolved around public-private partnerships. Such partnerships largely involved government financing and private delivery of education. Examples include grant-in aid schools (UK, India) and charter schools in the US which largely involved block grants/funding to private schools. The other model was financing families directly through vouchers to each school-going child.

This had been tried in Colombia, Chile, Sweden and the US among other countries. How well these alternate forms of partnerships work was highly debated and depended on a country's circumstances. In the context of Pakistan, vouchers may lead to greater social stratification; if such stratification meant that children learnt less from each other and it may have a detrimental effect on learning, he said. The News
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