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Education or Cricket | Flawed textbooks

What matters more: Education or Cricket?
Islamabad, Feb 15: There are more than five million reasons for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Najam Sethi to ignore cricket and focus on the ubiquitous illiteracy in Pakistan.

UNESCO's latest report on Education for All
labels Pakistanis as one of the most illiterate people on the planet. With 5.5 million school-aged children not in school and child malnutrition being a chronic problem, Pakistan's development statistics resemble those of the starving nations in Africa. And whereas African countries are fast improving the welfare of their citizens and the state of their economies, the opposite is true for Pakistan.

The elite and the middle classes in Pakistan are aware of the sorry state of affairs in the country. But do they care? An army of illiterate youth is being raised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone. Millions of malnourished children are struggling with hunger in Sindh. Thousands of Balochs are displaced and their children lack access to education. The elite in Pakistan are, however, focused on cricket. It doesn't matter how educated or empowered one is, apathy runs deep in the society.

UNESCO's Education for All Global Monitoring Report (Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All) was released recently. The report makes dozens of embarrassing references to Pakistan, highlighting the nation's failures in educating its children. Even the future does not look promising. Of the 12 countries least likely to meet the threshold for primary education by 2015, 10 are in sub-Saharan Africa. Pakistan and Djibouti are the other two states most likely to fail the primary education test. But this is not all. Pakistan is doing precious little to address this. The gaps in primary education remain. In fact, the UNESCO report points out that of the 10 countries that face the most severe shortage of primary school teachers, all except Pakistan are in sub-Saharan Africa.

What matters more: Education or Cricket?
With the Prime Minister, superior courts, news media, and public intellectuals fixated on sports, no wonder education fails to be a priority in Pakistan, which accounts for 10 per cent of the global population of out of school children. Pakistan spent 2.3 per cent of its GNP on education in 2010, less than 2.6 per cent of GNP in 1999. In comparison, the military spending consumes 3 per cent of Pakistan's GDP. Who in Pakistan decides to spend more on military and less on education?

It's not just spending, but smart spending that matters. Historically, education investments have mainly focused on brick and mortar. The chronic shortage of primary school teachers is an example of misspending in education. As for the education spending on non-salary items is concerned, the situation is even worse. A study of recurring budgets in five districts revealed that a mere 5 per cent of the recurring budget was spent on non-salary items.

For decades, Pakistan has relied on charity from tax payers in North America and Europe to pay for the education of its children. Unlike cricket and nuclear bombs, Pakistanis cannot be engaged in issues that really matter to them. With 768,000 Pakistanis paying income tax, the tax to GDP ratio in Pakistan is approximated at 10 per cent. The UNESCO report recommends that Pakistan should consider eliminating tax exemptions to raise the tax revenue. The report highlights the fact that while the agriculture sector accounts for 22 per cent of Pakistan's economy, it generates only 1.2 per cent of the tax revenue.

The UNESCO report suggests that if tax revenue is increased from being 10 per cent of the GDP to 14 per cent by 2015, and that 20 per cent of the budget is spent on education, Pakistan can raise sufficient funds to teach its own children and adolescents. But wait a second. Why should that be a priority in a country where the government, economic planners, and the civil society have been hooked on large sums of foreign aid, most of it supplied by the country Pakistanis love to hate, but never say no to aid dollars?

Pakistan should not rely on the United States and others to educate its children. And given that the US is increasingly becoming disinterested in the region, it is less likely to doll out large amounts in development aid. The report highlights that of the decline in the American "total aid to basic education between 2010 and2011, 94 per cent is accounted for by large falls in its spending in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan."

It is sad to see that the global population of illiterates is concentrated in South Asia and China. Only 10 countries account for 72 per cent of the global illiterate adults. India, China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh respectively have the highest illiterate populations in the world. If there is one reason for regional collaboration, illiteracy is the one. Why can't the governments in the four neighbouring countries come up with a joint strategy to deal with the shared challenge?

The difference between rich and poor, Balochistan and Punjab
The curriculum and the quality of education differs between the rich and poor in Pakistan. Standard testing has revealed that for profit, private schools are in fact providing better education in Pakistan than the State-operated schools, which charge significantly less than the private schools. But even the private schools are not meeting the expected quality standards. According to analysis by the Annual State of Education Report team in Pakistan, "Thirty-six per cent of grade 5 students in private schools could not read a sentence in English, which they should have been able to do by grade 2." Literacy in regional languages was no better. Ninety-plus per cent of children tested in their native Pushto could not read a sentence in Grade 2.

Even for literacy at the primary level, the poor are running 30 years behind the rich in Pakistan. The UNESCO report reveals that whereas children from the affluent households will meet the primary education targets by 2020 (should have been 2014 or sooner), those from the low-income households would reach this benchmark only by the 2050s for boys and may be by the end of the century for girls. With such damming forecasts about their future, Pakistanis should not give a hoot about what the International Cricket Council is contemplating.

The inequality between the rich and the poor is further exacerbated by the differences among provinces. Such is the case of inequalities in Pakistan that the rich in the development deprived Sindh (mostly rural) fare worse in education than the poor in Punjab, which is the demographic base of Pakistan's armed forces. The percentage of 11-years old from low-income households in Punjab who can do a two digit subtraction is higher than the same cohorts belonging to affluent households in Sindh.

"In Balochistan province, Pakistan, only 45 per cent of children of grade 5 age could solve a two-digit subtraction, compared with 73 per cent in the wealthier Punjab province. Only around one-quarter of girls from poor households in Balochistan achieved basic numeracy skills ," the report noted.

Lessons from Vietnam
And while Pakistan has been wasting time and opportunity, Vietnam, a country with similar socio-economics, invested in education and have now outperformed Pakistan in literacy and economic growth. It was not very long ago that Vietnam lagged behind Pakistan in development statistics. However, by making education a priority, Vietnamese have changed the course for better. Even more important is the fact that Vietnam focused on eliminating inequalities in education attainment that resulted in a more inclusive economic growth.

The UNESCO report notes that the difference in education inequality between Pakistan and Vietnam "accounts for 60 per cent of the difference in their per capita growth between 2005 and 2010." Pakistan had twice the level of education inequality than Vietnam. "Viet Nam's per capita income, which was around 40 per cent below Pakistan's in the 1990s, not only caught up with Pakistan's but was 20 per cent higher by 2010."

Make no mistake. The elite and middle class in Pakistan will not be able to continue to enjoy the perks even in the relative safety of their gated communities. If the poor continue to be marginalised for education and nutrition, the resulting chaos will be far worse than what one finds in today's Pakistan. The least one can expect from the political and intellectual elite of Pakistan is to focus on what threatens the welfare of citizens. It's not cricket. It's illiteracy and malnutrition. If the elite can't get this right, their education has been all for naught. Dawn

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Froebelians excel in IGCSE examination
Islamabad: Two students of Froebel's International School have got two world distinctions in British Board Edexcel International General Certificate for Secondary Education (IGCSE) Examination 2013 in English Language and Islamic Studies - a rare achievement by a Pakistani school.

Maham Malik got 100% in English Language to get 'Top in World in English Language' and also 'Top in Region in History' IGCSE Examination 2013 while Nousherwan Aziz got world distinction in Islamiat.

The school held a simple ceremony at its Islamabad Campus to acknowledge achievements of its students who got distinction both at world, regional and country level and had done a great pride to their institution. It was attended by parents and students, winning distinctions in different subjects like Mathematics, Art, Urdu and Physics.

Head of the Froebel's International School Shahmina Kamal gave away commendation certificates to school teachers whose students had brought world recognition to their school. In her brief remarks, Shahmina heaped praise on her teachers and students for putting in great efforts which helped them leave a mark in the IGCSE Examination conducted annually across the world.

Shahmina Kamal, on the occasion, announced head boy and head girl of the student council which works as a bridge between the school administration and students. The news

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Flawed textbooks hamper learning process
Islamabad: Experts say that faulty textbooks not only confuse students about various academic concepts but also develop aversion among them to their studies; rather the whole learning process.

They were commenting on the faulty Class X Physics textbook developed and published under the Punjab school education department through Punjab Curriculum Authority (PCA) and Punjab Textbook Board (PTB).

The textbook for English medium students is one glaring example of inefficiency on the part of the two executing agencies.

Though the PCA and PTB blame each other for the fiasco, the end-losers are the students who are to appear for their first 'career examination' of matriculation.

The Physics textbook carried 104 conceptual and technical mistakes identified by the PTB's Physics textbook editor.

The PCA had originally approved the manuscript that carried 1,066 spelling, grammatical, technical, conceptual and illustrative mistakes.

Educationists believe that faulty textbooks play havoc with the learning process of students and they fail to progress, as they should be.

They also believe that schoolteachers are also not playing their role of explaining various concepts to students because of sticking to contents of poorly written textbooks for ensuring good grades for them.

In many cases teachers are not even able to identify the mistakes in textbooks that further complicates the issue.

Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, country's top nuclear physicist, academic and essayist, commenting on the issue asks that in such a scenario is there any surprise that generations of young Pakistanis who are studying terrible textbooks, like Physics Class 10 book, are becoming science phobic and the quality of science education in Pakistan is so poor?

Apart from being replete with spelling and grammatical mistakes, Dr Hoodbhoy says, most local textbooks contain such conceptual errors that one feels the author should not be allowed to become an educator. "Instead, they (such authors) need to be educated in the subject," he adds.

He says the weakest part of many a textbook he browsed through is the chapter-end questions and exercises, terming them a useless memory-recall drill.

"The authors do not know that the essence of science is problem solving, and that good scientific training builds a student's capacity to internalise newly learnt principles by applying them to problems whose answers are yet unknown," he observes.

In contrast, Dr Hoodbhoy says, foreign-authored "O" level textbooks, used only by a tiny sliver of up-scale Pakistani schools, usually do have good questions.

He says a firm resolve is needed for a turn-around. Pakistanis must admit locally written textbooks are nowhere as good as foreign ones, and use the very best available anywhere, he says.

Rejecting the arguments often forwarded against import of textbooks, Dr Hoodbhoy says they carry no weight since we use medicines and computers invented by 'outsiders', fly in their planes and use their mobile phones.

"False pride and misplaced beliefs must be set aside. Eating a humble pie is never easy, but surely this is a small price for having scientifically smart Pakistanis in the future," he asserts.

Prof Dr Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal, who has retired as Dean of Punjab University's Faculty of Education, says such mistakes lead to developing wrong concepts, laying a faulty foundation for further conceptualisation.

He says psychologists say that such faulty concepts are hard to rectify and become more damaging in a country like Pakistan where textbooks are the only resource available to the teachers as well as students.

Prof Iqbal blamed overall wrong policies adopted by the Punjab government for the glitch.

Referring to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, Prof Iqbal says provinces have now taken charge of curriculum development, and the PCA has been established.

But, he says, the role of PCA in principle is to develop and approve the curriculum not the textbook, which is the PTB's prerogative.

He says multiple textbook policy is a legacy of Gen Musharraf era which was adopted to give business to an international publishing house.

This policy itself needs to be abandoned as it has proved counterproductive, he suggests. Prof Iqbal stresses that curriculum and textbook development is a technical job that needs to be left to professionals.

Though the school education department has charged nine officials, including the two who have no role in approving the faulty textbook, the educationists believe that the circle of inquiry should expand and more heads should roll to set an example for others involved in the "business" of developing curricula, writing manuscripts and publishing textbooks. Dawn

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Four AIOU employees sacked
Islamabad: Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr. Nazir Ahmed Sangi taking stern action against corrupt mafia terminated the services of four contractual employees with immediate effect.

They were found involved in illegal practices in dealing with examination and admission matters. The action was taken after proper enquiry conducted by the Controller of Examination Dr. Hamid Khan Niazi. During investigation, the employees confessed in writing to their wrong-doing and involvement in the unfair practices.

The vice-chancellor said illegal and unlawful practices in the examination and admission system cannot be tolerated, since the university is committed to provide quality education to the masses.

In the recently years, the vice-chancellor has taken a number of steps for establishing fool-proof and efficient admission and examination system, while taking care of the students' interest and ensuring quality education at all levels.

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BS, MSc anthropology programmes launched at IIU
Islamabad: International Islamic University President Professor Dr. Ahmed Yousif Al Draiweesh inaugurated Department of Anthropology in Female Campus in which BS and MSc degree programmes will be offered in spring admission session 2014.

Vice President Academics Dr. Muhammad Bashir Khan, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences Dr. Nabi Bux Jummani, Director Female Campus Dr. Zaitoon Begum, In-charge department of Anthropology Dr. Noreen Sehar and students attended the inaugural ceremony. The president said IIU is committed to achieve excellence in education and starting of the new degree programme is a milestone.

Dr. Al Draiweesh also instructed the faculty members that the course outline must be according to the teachings of Islam and contemporary time. Dr. Noreen briefed the president about the course outline and study scheme as well. The news

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