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Learning English | Private tuition evil

Learning English
Jan 09: In a bid to reach greater heights in life, people have certain values they wish to attain. Over here, it's a given that if you want to succeed in life then you'd better have a good grasp of the English language. However, as in all things that happen in this country, getting the shortcut to success is also the way to succeed when trying to learn English.

For many households it's not that big a deal. English is the second language so it's part of the domestic lingo. At times it's the first language. But there are many others who want to enter this sphere of 'success'. And so the only way for desperate parents is to send their children to so-called English-medium schools so that education there can help them get a grasp of the dominant language. They are also made to attend tooshan of the highest calibre. Many of these children are also placed in O- and A-levels sections, with the sole hope that they will not only learn English but also excel in their studies.

The problem that many of these well-intending parents don't realise is that language is not forced onto someone, especially in our rote-learning system. It can be learnt properly only when the environment is conducive. Children spend only a limited time of their day with a teacher who helps them learn the base of the language. After that, the child is left to the rigours of life, which include Indian movies, songs and TV shows. Also, at home the family is conversing in either Urdu or other national languages such as Pashto, Sindhi, Punjabi, or Gujarati. Thought-processes, too, are made of these languages.

Another way of improving the language is by reading books or better newspapers. But even this little task seems too cumbersome. Parents will be willing to take their children out for fast food and pay thousands of rupees, but will hesitate when it comes to taking the kids to a book shop or a book fair. Newspapers are deemed a waste of money.

Providing the right environment for the children to learn something - the English language in this case - is the right way to go about it. Encouraging them to learn a language with the help of tools like various reading materials should be cheered.

And if they are more interested in watching TV or cinema, take them out to see English-language movies, instead of the stuff that we receive from across the border, which, though meant for adults, is actually deemed fit for family consumption in our part of the world. But that's another story for another time.

Just sending the child off to the tuition centre to learn English thinking that you've done your duty as a responsible parent is quite irresponsible. Would you do the same with your business, hand it over to someone to run and not keep a check and balance of what exactly is going on? At the end of the day, it's all about giving attention and creating the right environment. -By Atifuddin Khan

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Private tuition a 'necessary evil'
Poor quality of education being imparted in schools has been instrumental in raising the number of private tuition centres – a shadow education system - in the country.

The incidence of private tuition-taking in rural Pakistan among children studying in both public and private schools is high. The private tuition-taking prevalence increases with the ability to pay but the average spending on tuition is roughly the same for poor and rich households though it imposes a double burden on the poor.

This case was presented by Dr Monazza Aslam, a researcher at the University of Oxford and the Institute of Education, University of London, while giving a presentation on "The 'Shadow' Education Sector in India and Pakistan: the determinants, benefits and equity effects of private tutoring" at a seminar. Titled "Trends in privatisation of education and shadow schooling in Pakistan," the event was organised by South Asian Forum of Education Development (SAFED) and Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan this past week.

Dr Monazza, a Rhodes scholar, said the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2010 survey report revealed that some 15.7 per cent children of 3-16 years age cohort in rural Pakistan take tuitions and pay Rs293 per month. This is over and above what parents spend on general schooling - government or private.

Stating that the ASER survey had covered more than 900 villages, more than 19,000 households and more than 54,000 children aged 3-16 across the country, she said investigations suggested that children in government schools taking private tuition and especially those belonging to the poorest classes appeared to perform better than those who

did not take private tuitions. She said the situation hinted at the hugely inferior learning the poorest children were receiving in government schools in rural regions. It also suggested that private tutoring did appear to substitute for poor quality schooling for the children in Pakistan.

She said expansion of private schooling in Pakistan had assumed the proportion of an industry and changed the dynamics of education provision. "Most significantly large effects of taking tuition on learning occur in reading."

She said the children in the poorest and richest quintiles appear to benefit equally. For instance, she said that "taking tuition increases the likelihood that a child in the poorest quintile would be able to read a story text."

ITA Director Programmes Baela Raza Jamil spoke about dimensions of privatisation of public education. Referring to a study conducted in Rawalpindi and Peshawar in 2011, she said the number of private schools in both cities' selected urban and rural areas had witnessed a massive growth.

She said 61 per cent children were identified as enrolled in private schools, 38 per cent in government schools and one per cent in madrassahs.

She said the survey of private schools revealed that 62 per cent of institutions were English medium and 83 per cent were co-educational. She said the private schools' enrolment was highest (66.5 per cent) at primary level. She said 65 per cent of the primary enrolment in private schools was in the low-cost schools, while in rural areas in both cities the ratio stood at 80 per cent.

She said more than 50 per cent of the teachers in rural and urban Peshawar were paid less than Rs5,000 per month.

Ms Jamil said the study revealed that almost 84 per cent of the tuition-takers take regular lessons to supplement their school learning, while meagre one per cent uses tuitions to prepare for entrance tests.

She said 68 per cent of the students stated that grade improvement was the main motivating factor behind the decision to take up private tutoring. "Peer pressure by friends, parents and even teachers is another major factor stated as a reason for taking up private tutoring."

Ms Jamil said: "The study informed that facilities in private schools were slightly better than that in public schools and they offer more choice to community. However, the cost of education in private sector is high forcing some households to choose which children or gender to send to which school."

She said the use of relative benchmarks to measure the quality of public and private sector show that both are bad; private sector is just lesser of the two evils.

Discussant Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, assistant professor of history at Forman Christian College University, said more and more children were going to private schools, while the government had just failed to enact any rules to regulate the ever-growing private sector.

He said it was unfortunate that students were more interested in scoring high grades instead of learning and for this reason also they take up tuitions.

Open Society Institute senior adviser Dr Faisal Bari said the implementation of Article 25-A would be a tough job as the government would be required to take all children up to matriculation level. This endeavour, he said, would also change the meaning of examinations. Dawn

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Varsities to work for uniform education
Lahore: In view of a severe dearth of specialists to cater to the requirements of the healthcare sector, the countryís public and private medical universities and postgraduate medical institutes, under the banner of the Pakistan National Board, have decided to work together to achieve the targets and to bring about a uniformity in the postgraduate medical and dental education at the university level.

The Board has also resolved that the hospitals should be under the control of the universities for a better care of patients.

ěPakistan faces extreme dearth of specialists as there are only 22,000 specialists against the requirement of 225,000 specialists in the country,î observed the countryís top experts of medical education, including vice-chancellors, deans and representatives of 18 medical universities and postgraduate medical institutions of all provinces, Islamabad and Azad Kashmir under the banner of the Pakistan National Board during its 4th meeting held recently, sources said here on Sunday.

Prof Azam Yousfani, Vice-Chancellor of Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences, Nawab Shah, chaired the meeting, while vice-chancellors, deans and representatives of the King Edward Medical University (KEMU), Lahore, Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Postgraduate Medical Institute (PGMI), Lahore, Punjab University, Lahore, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Medical University (SMBBMU), Larkana, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC University of Karachi), Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant (SIUT), Karachi, Armed Forces Postgraduate Medical Institute (AF-PGMI), Rawalpindi, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad and University of Kohat, Kohat, were present.

While pointing out variance in the postgraduate medical education in public and private sector in the country, the participants emphasized the importance of national inter-universities board with a view to developing a single entrance test for admissions, uniform curriculum, examination system, structured training and quality assurance under the control of this national board in order to revamp postgraduate medical education in the universities and postgraduate medical institutions in the country. They discussed the role of universities in postgraduate medical and dental postgraduate education, research and elevation of academic standards.

During the meeting, the medical universities and postgraduate medical institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for developing a common framework of level and qualification, uniform entrance test (constitution of an Admission Board), uniform programmes (constitution of a national board of all academic programmes) with focus on duration, curriculum and requirements of research, learning requirements, examinations (Internal and University), quality assurance and faculty development.

It has been mentioned that postgraduate medical and dental education in Pakistan has a history of more than a century as maiden MD, MS and MDS degrees were awarded in 1914, 1915 and 1935 respectively. Now the number of universities awarding these degrees has increased.

The participants, while pointing out the purpose of the Pakistan National Board, informed that the member universities under the banner of the board would work together to improve the quality of healthcare by improving postgraduate medical education, and for this purpose, the member universities would create uniform standards of postgraduate medical education in following areas: duration, entrance requirements and criteria of number of seats in a similar programme (beds and teachers ratio with students); criteria to become supervisor/trainers; evaluation/progression/examination; compulsory research in program; quality assurance; student exchange; adoption of best international practices e.g. credit accumulation and transfer system (EU based), learning strategies and bloom taxonomy of learning level (USA-based); and criteria to accept past/foreign experience.

It was observed that the national board would remove all the discrepancies in the postgraduate medical education while it would also help strengthen the university degrees of MS and MD and allow Pakistanis to capture the market, especially in the Middle East, which was currently grabbed by the Indian MS and MD degree holders.

The members elected Prof Azam Yousfani, VC PUMHS Nawabshah, as the president of the Board for the year 2012 and Prof S.M. Awais from KEMU, Lahore, as the National Coordinator of the board. The official logo of the Pakistan National Board was also approved by the participants during the meeting. The next meeting would be held in the last week of March at KEMU, Lahore. The news

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