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Unnatural controversy over biology & civic chapters

Unnatural controversy regarding a natural process: Conservatives say 'no no' to reproduction topic in schools
Karachi, Aug 06: Schools in the city feel threatened, as conservative elements have started a negative propaganda against the inclusion of some chapters of biology and civic education in the curriculum of elementary classes particularly regarding the reproduction process.

The administration of private schools, some of which are associated with foreign education systems like the Cambridge system, fear that some 'elements' in the society have turned against them for providing modern education and insist that they are trying to create hatred for them among the masses and the government machinery.

On one hand, the government of Pakistan is trying to modify the curriculum of seminaries across the country while on the other, conservatives in different parts of the city are convincing parents to stop sending their children to private schools where 'sex education' is being taught.

The 'Mullahs' and their affiliates in their sermons allege that these schools are trying to guide the children towards the wrong path. They have some arguments in support of their claims. "Look at the 'Science Book - 5A' published by Marshall Cavendish Education," the conservatives said. The book referred to by these people include chapters on 'Reproduction in Animals' in which two children are shown talking about the process in detail.

They also criticise the part of the book where questions on test tube babies are given.

Dawood Public School for Girls is one of the reputed schools in the city, which is teaching foreign syllabus using international books to children and is under fire for its moderate syllabus. The school administration claims that they have been under criticism from certain circles for teaching these books.

"We should be progressive. We are not providing sex education rather it is basic biology taught all over the world in elementary classes," the school administration stated, adding that it is not ashamed of providing modern education to children. "The reproduction process is something natural and children should learn it," the administration argued. "Children are like scientists and they want to learn about things happening around them. Science provides them with answers so there is no wrong in it," the school administration added, defending the inclusion of the chapter. "Of course we are tense as some elements are bad mouthing us and giving us a bad name," the administration said.

Meanwhile, parents look divided on the issue as some say that the subject should be taught whereas others opine that the chapter should be included in higher classes.

Muhammad Jamil, a corporate manager and the father of two children who are studying under the Cambridge system, is happy that his children are learning about science. "We are living in a modern age and you cannot stop children from investigating things. It is better that we teach and guide them," he opined.

He felt that some elements are misguiding parents and trying to create hurdles for modern education in the city.

Unlike Jamil however, there are others who have reservations. "Such topics lead children towards sex," said Zain-ul Abidin, whose children are studying in a local public school. He advises that it is better to teach such topics and issues in higher educational levels.

Faizullah Jan, an educational and psychological expert is all for the inclusion of these topics in the curriculum. "The minds of children and philosophers are inquisitive and they always keep on asking questions like how they were born and how nature works," said Jan, adding that if we want to groom our children, we will have to provide them with logical answers. "That time is long gone when one would tell children that they were thrown from the sky or picked them from the seaside. With such answers you cannot satisfy children," Jan said.

"There are some conservatives in the society who are not ready to put children on the logical path," Jan opined adding that if the children are not informed in a timely manner, the rather start taking sexual pleasure out of these natural processes.

Sindh Assembly member Humera Alwani endorses Jan's opinion. "Children should learn about natural processes," said Alvani, who is also a member of Special Inspection Committee on Education, adding that the government supports the inclusion of such topics in the curriculum.

"We cannot leave our children in darkness any more," said Alvani while vowing that the government would not let anyone come in the way of providing modern education to the masses.

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KU VC laments 'underdevelopment' of Pakistanis in UK
Karachi: Karachi University (KU) Vice-Chancellor Prof. Pirzada Qasim has lamented the underdevelopment of the Pakistani community in the United Kingdom, and cited the lack of education as a contributing factor to this apparent backwardness.

"Only eight percent of the children from the Pakistani community are actually enrolled for higher education. It is unfortunate that after six decades in the UK, they are lagging behind other communities, including the Indians, who are excelling in every field - be it education or economics," Qasim said.

The KU VC has only recently returned from the UK, a trip he had undertaken with 10 other vice-chancellors from various Pakistani universities as part of a programme initiated by academia of Pakistan and the UK to counter terrorism. During this phase, the vice-chancellors met the officials of the Home Office to ascertain the social dynamics of the Pakistani community in the UK.

The other VCs who were part of the delegation belonged to International Islamic University, Islamabad; Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad; University of Punjab; Bahauddin Zakriya University, Multan; University of Balochistan, Quetta ;Gomal University, D.I. Khan ; University of Azad Kashmir; Rector, University of Science and Technology, Islamabad and Principal Kinnaird College, Lahore.

Prof. Qasim said: "Our visit was not limited to any one agenda. After observing and comparing universities in Pakistan and the UK, we had to gauge the level of radicalisation and devise ways to undo any adverse social conditioning. We also observed the profile of our students studying in universities in UK", he elaborated.

"The condition of universities in Pakistan and the UK are so different that we cannot immediately expect to form any particular type of cooperation. What might be practised is exchange of scholars and academics, while a memorandum of understanding (MoU) may also be signed, but on a broader spectrum, it is definitely not possible to form other alliances, not at least now."

Qasim maintained that they were not mere spectators to the dictates of the Home Office. "Officials at the Home Office gave some statistics about the Pakistani and Kashmiri community in the UK, but we did not blindly accept these figures. Instead, we asked the officials to provide us with comprehensive comparative statistics of all communities living in the UK."

Regarding the matter of de-radicalisation of Pakistani students, he conceded that both the governments were on board for the programme.

Speaking about the activities of the vice chancellors since their return, the KU VC explained that now that they are back, they will revisit and review the situation in Pakistani universities. "We are more concerned about peace and tranquillity in our universities. The standard of education is continuously on the decrease, and violence on campuses has become a common feature. If our students realise the real purpose of education, they will change drastically," he asserted.

Narrating an incident in United Kingdom that had moved Prof Qasim, he said "I had the chance to meet the presidents of student unions. I asked one of them if he resorted to strikes in his university. I was astonished to hear that even though they had the option to strike, unions never availed it," he said.

"The student said to me that unions were there to provide facilities to the student community, and that the primary goal of the unions was to ensure a conducive academic environment," Qasim said.

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Seven education officers likely to be dismissed, PAC told
Karachi: Chief Secretary Sindh has approved a summary of the provincial Education Department for initiating inquiry against seven education officials of district Kashmore, including EDO, under the Removal of Service Ordinance (RSO) on the charges of selling 30,000 syllabus books.

Secretary Education Rizwan Memon told this to Sindh Assembly's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday.

Responding to supplementary questions of the PAC members, Memon said that he was not satisfied with the inquiry conducted by DCO Kashmore who had recommended suspension of three officials on the charges of negligence, and transfer of four others.

He said that these officials would be issued show cause notices and their cases would be decided under the RSO.

When Chairman PAC Sardar Jam Tamachi observed that these officials may get away with this illegality by using their influence and "Sifraish" (recommendations), Memon promised that no leniency would be shown to them.

To another question, the secretary said that it would require "15 to 20 years" to improve the state of affairs in the education sector.

He said that teachers were not appointed for the last 11 years, which has had an adverse impact. At present, there exist 59,000 schools in the province and more teachers would be recruited within two weeks as their test had already been conducted by the Sindh University, he added.

Memon further said that around 1,300 schools had become non-viable and there was a proposal under consideration to hand over these buildings to Police, Agriculture and other departments.

The PAC chief suggested that new schools should not be opened, and if more than one boys' school exists in an area the same should be converted into girls' school.

The secretary replied that the government was giving preference to girls in terms of recruitment and stipend.

He said that the government has prepared a public-private partnership policy, under which community leaders/village elders could open a school for at least 70 pupils with the help of Sindh Education Foundation.

The government would provide Rs 350 stipend to each boy and Rs 450 to each girl, while providing infrastructure and hiring teachers would be the responsibility of the community.

He hoped that this scheme would help in developing the community's ownership of the school.

PAC Member Ghulam Mujadid Isran drew the secretary's attention towards a resolution passed by Sindh Assembly, urging the government to take measures to teach Sindhi language in private schools.

Member PAC Amir Moin Pirzada said that teaching Sindhi for the sake of subject would not be advisable. He suggested that instead of teaching history etc, it would be more appropriate to teach simple communication skills to pupils so that they could learn the language. The secretary said that the department would look into it.

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SMI principal receives Fulbright scholarship
Karachi: Sindh Madressatul Islam (SMI) Karachi Principal Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh has been selected as a Fulbright scholar for year 2009-10. According to a press release issued by SMI on Thursday, the American University (AU) has placed him on their School of Communication faculty, where he would be conducting a comparative study of access to public records and information in the United States and in Pakistan. Dr Shaikh would be taking up his new assignment from September 1, 2009. Dr Shaikh holds graduation in engineering and a PhD in Mass Communication. He has also authored several books on various subjects. The news

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