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Looking for the right school
July 13: Getting one's child admitted in a school is like playing darts - there are not too many chances and one may never hit the bull's eye. The bull's eye here is the right school - it may be the most reputed one, the posh one or the one which offers an environment for your child where his/her skills are best channelised.

Come admission season and a lot of parents start looking for the right school. This means filling forms in schools, going through 'interrogations' garbed as orientation exercises and worse, pumping the child with information of little consequence. Harried parents leave no stone unturned to get their wards 'in' as it is a matter of social standing in society and of course, their ego.

Majority of parents contacted by this scribe on their criteria for choosing a school accorded high weightage to the reputation of school. Quality of teaching emerges as the most important factor in determining their choice. Other factors such as the physical lay out of the school, availability of learning aids, student-teacher ratio and parent-teacher interaction are also taken into consideration. Not much importance is however given by parents to the distance of school from home, school timings and bus facility.

Nasreen Akhtar, mother of five-year-old kid said City School was her obvious choice as the school enjoys good reputation in many fields - academics, sports and extra-curricular activities. This also saves me the headache of looking for another school for the next 10 years. "I would have been heart broken if he would not have got through for I had not applied elsewhere and had pinned all my hopes here only, she confessed.

Anyhow, parents who want good education for their kids opt for schools like Army Public Schools, Beaconhouse, City School, Roots School, Convent or St Mary as according to them; these offer a healthier overall personality development.

Col. Aziz, one such parent has opted for Convent mainly because he wants his son "to grow up without any complexes". His preference is also because the school emphasises on all-round education and is nearer home. Nabeela Rafiq, wanted her son to be involved in a variety of outdoor activities has put him in Beaconhouse as the school has provision for such activities. "Fewer students in each section not only ensured personalised attention but also good academic standards.

Altaf Malik, who has put his daughter in Convent, is of the view that name of the institution feedback from friends whose daughters are already studying there and personalised care of girls helped him make the choice. With a view to give her child a solid base in the formative years, Razia Saad thought more in terms of quality of education than just reputation. While some deterioration has crept in the working of some missionary schools, by and large they still do not believe in fleecing parents by making unreasonable demands. These schools also take measures to ensure that weaker students do not lag behind. The system of education is such that it saves the students the stress of carrying heavy loads of bags every day.

Parents who believe in greater degree of individual attention go in for schools like Foundation Montessori. According to Jalila Hasan, "I chose Viqar-un-Nias School for my daughter for I was looking for a school which is not located in a residential house and has spacious open surroundings."

Raheela Saud, who had done enough spade work for choosing a school, said he did not want his son to go to a school where his friends flaunt their social status in this hierarchy-minded city. His preference was for missionary schools which have a blend of children

from different sections of society and the emphasis was on imbibing them with the right kinds of values to be good human beings.

Maheen Saeed says the student-teacher ratio; the methodology should also be taken into consideration rather than just joining the rat race of what others are doing. -By Ibne Ahmad

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Education 'no more limited to textbook knowledge'
Islamabad: Education has assumed a new dimension altogether and is no more limited to textbook knowledge, as the world is reshaping itself, with new boundaries clearly demarcated by knowledge based technologies and skills.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir stated this while addressing the convocation ceremony of Bahria University, organised here Saturday.

Speaking on the occasion, he said that the material and social progress that human beings have made to date has reached a stage where

everything around us is changing at an unprecedented pace, and this is visible in

every sphere of life, be it technologies, social norms or interpersonal behaviours and attitudes.

He said that the students need to develop a broader vision for the global socio-economic intricacies along with a clear understanding and respect for diversity of culture, creed and religion of the people. "You need to channelise your talent and energies into positive and healthy activities with a commitment to serve humanity," he said.

The chief guest also stressed them to develop strong leadership qualities, which could be acquired through perseverance, professional excellence and above-board personal conduct based on the principles of equity, honesty and uprightness. "You, the educated youth, are the precious assets of our country. Each one of you is important and will have to shoulder heavy responsibility for leading Pakistan to a prosperous and bright future," he said

As many as 983 students were conferred degrees during the ceremony in various academic disciplines including Business Management, Computer Engineering, Computer Software Engineering, Telecom & Networking, Geophysics and Geology. Moreover, 31 gold and 21 silver medals were awarded to outstanding students in recognition of their remarkable achievements, while Ammar Ahmad, Hira Zafar, Sadaf Fatima Akbar, Tabinda Tariq, Sumaira Ashfaque Khan, and Beenish Ahmed scored an outstanding 4 GPA in their respective disciplines.

Speaking on the occasion Bahria University Rector Vice Admiral Mohammad Haroon said that investment in

education is the only way forward to put our country at socio-economic parity with the rest of the world, adding that the entire system of education, inclusive of primary, secondary and university education, needs to be integrated in a manner that produces quality manpower.

"All stakeholders including educational institutions, youth, their parents, industry, and corporate and service sectors must join hands in cultivating such a vibrant education system that could respond to the needs of human resources in various areas," he said.

Haroon advised the students to never lose heart on failures and keep a firm focus on the goals they have set for themselves.

"Life is a continuous struggle and there will be learning at every step you take," he said adding that their positive attitude and superior efficiency at the workplace would reflect on their future performance. The News

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Urdu dictionary: a cherished dream of many visionaries is under threat
Among his other cherished dreams, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had a dream that Urdu had a comprehensive dictionary. There was none that could truly be called so. Some European scholars had compiled Urdu dictionaries, but they were bilingual ones and lacked the depth and scope Sir Syed dreamed of.

The visionary himself had begun compiling an Urdu dictionary, but left it unfinished apparently because of his preoccupation with other pressing tasks concerning the Muslims of the subcontinent. He, however, attached great importance to a dictionary that enlisted each and every word of the Urdu language. According to Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, the Scientific Society, Aligarh, had published a sample of Sir Syed's Urdu dictionary. Renowned French scholar Garcin De Tassy had reviewed the sample quite favourably.

Though Farhang-i-Asifiya, a four-volume dictionary published between 1888 and 1901, had somewhat satisfied the need for a good dictionary, Sir Syed's dream of an all-encompassing dictionary remained unrealised, and it seemed that after his death the dream had been forgotten till a man stood up and began following it.

Sir Syed's dream was pursued by none other than Baba-i-Urdu Moulvi Abdul Haq, who embarked upon compiling the most comprehensive dictionary of Urdu single-handedly, though the gigantic task demanded a special institution staffed with linguists and lexicographers and stocked with a library of rare and modern books.

In 1928, the world famous Oxford English Dictionary - the mother of all modern dictionaries - had been published and was considered a rare feat of lexicography as it contained, or so it claimed, each and every word of English with its different shades of meaning and illustrative citations from English writers and poets. Then named A new English dictionary on historical principles, the Oxford English Dictionary took some 70 years to be completed and published. After revision, it now has 20 volumes and is referred to as OED.

Abdul Haq named his dictionary Lughat-i-Kabeer and began working on it in 1930. As an erudite scholar who kept himself abreast with new developments, he had planned that his dictionary would incorporate each and every word of Urdu, be it a term or idiom, whether archaic or obsolete, vulgar or poetic. Abdul Haq had compiled, on the pattern of the OED, several thousand pages before he had to move to Karachi when Pakistan came into being. Here he picked up its threads, but had to face several difficulties and Sir Syed's dream, shared by many visionaries and scholars such as Abdul Haq, remained elusive.

Finally, in 1958, the federal ministry of education decided that it was time to compile such a dictionary in a more organised manner, and established in Karachi the Taraqqi-i-Urdu Board, or Urdu Development Board, (later Urdu Dictionary Board, UDB) appointing Abdul Haq as its chief editor. With Abdul Haq's death in 1961, the board began working afresh under the guidance of Shan-ul-Haq Haqqi, modelling its dictionary on historical principles just as Oxford had done.

Each headword was to have illustrative citations from three different periods, beginning with the classical period and culminating at the modern. This principle of citing from different historical periods of language and literature, known as philological principle or historical principle, was first applied by Samuel Johnson in his A dictionary of the English language - the great-grandfather of all modern dictionaries - which he published in 1755.

Haqqi Sahib, the then secretary of the board, was of the view that until the last volume was compiled, the first should not go to press. On the contrary, Oxford, after publishing its first volume in 1884, had to resort to print unbound fascicles making it easier for readers to buy them and get them bound later when a part was completed. But it had a drawback: while compiling the next volumes some rarely used or new words that belonged to the previous volumes were recorded, and Oxford had to publish supplements once it was done with the publishing of the main dictionary.

To avoid that problem, Haqqi Sahib did not go for the printing despite having compiled a few volumes, though they needed finishing touches. But succumbing to the mounting pressure from the government and the public, the board began printing the first volume after necessary amendments and it was published in 1977, though Haqqi Sahib had resigned and Dr Abul-Lais Siddiqui had taken over as the chief editor.

In 1982, the board was renamed as the Urdu Dictionary Board and was asked by the ministry to concentrate only on its flagship dictionary and leave other responsibilities, such as promotion of Urdu, to other institutions. After Dr Siddiqui, from time to time many scholars took over as chief editors, including Dr Farman Fatehpuri, and volume after volume began to come out, contributing to the realisation of a great dream that had by now become a national pride.

A similar scheme was launched in India and several scholars were hired by the Indian government to compile a greater Urdu dictionary. But the project in India could not take off and it was abandoned probably due to lack of political will and Urdu's comparatively lesser status in India. By now the Indian scholars, too, had begun to look to the UDB for an authentic dictionary despite the fact that many scholars not only from India but also from Pakistan had criticised certain volumes of the dictionary for certain shortcomings.

Even then they waited and still wait for its newer volumes as there had developed a consensus in the Urdu world that in spite of its shortcomings and certain lapses, the UDB's dictionary was unprecedented. It is the most comprehensive and the most authentic dictionary written in Urdu.

Even Rasheed Hasan Khan, the renowned Indian scholar known for his meticulousness and his criticism of the UDB's dictionary for some scholarly lapses, especially in the first volume, had acknowledged in an interview after the publication of the dictionary's 20th volume that it was a great scholarly work.

The UDB has so far published 21 volumes and only the last volume remains. But the government, as is reported in the media, wishes to merge the UDB with some other institutions, jeopardising the future of the dictionary and the UDB itself. It would really be unfortunate if the UDB is merged with any other government institution as it would render it ineffective and inefficient as other government departments are.

The UDB has a great past. It has done an extremely wonderful job by compiling 21 volumes of Urdu's most comprehensive and authentic dictionary. Sources in the board informed this writer that 448 pages of the 22nd volume - the last one - have already been printed and work on the remaining 300 or so pages is in full swing. The UDB is soon going to achieve the rarest of feats that only English and German can boast of: a dictionary enlisting each and every word of the language on historical principles with citations from thousands of classical and modern sources.

Perhaps somebody is eyeing the precious piece of land the UDB is situated on. Or some unscrupulous, short-sighted section officers have decided to save the government's few millions that are spent on the UDB every year, not understanding that the job of compiling a dictionary never ends. Some experts go to the extent of saying that a dictionary is obsolete a soon as it leaves the press.

I feel it is an extreme view, but even a conservative estimate shows that a dictionary becomes outdated 10 years after its publication as it needs to record the changes that a language usually goes through over a decade. And revising a dictionary compiled on historical principles and having 22 volumes is no joke. It needs trained, technical hands with vast experience of lexicography, which no institution has in the country other than the UDB.

Moreover, after the publication of the last volume, there still remains to be published an index and a bibliography enlisting the works cited. It would definitely take another volume. Then there is the project of shorter versions of the dictionary and many other spin-offs such as dictionaries of synonyms, antonyms, idioms, proverbs and technical terms.

One sincerely hopes that the UDB will be allowed to work unhindered so that this great project of national importance and a source of national pride is completed befittingly, and Sir Syed's and Baba-i-Urdu's dream does not end in a nightmare. -By Rauf Parekh, (Dawn)

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