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No changes in school syllabi | Corporal punishment

No changes made in school syllabi this year
Islamabad, May 01, 2008: Children of Pakistan will be studying the same old and stale books during the next academic year beginning from September this year because Punjab Textbook Board has not been able to revise and improve the syllabi due to what it calls 'procedural delays'.

The federal government had directed that syllabi of Class I, Class VI, Class IX and Class XI needs to be changed from the new academic year. In a recent meeting presided over by the Federal Minister for Education, a decision was taken to let children of all provinces study the same syllabi and it asked relevant textbook boards, including the PTB, to prepare new syllabi, which should be more comprehensive and all encompassing, so that children study the subjects from a national perspective and gain wider horizon of knowledge.

Prof Khalid Ali Bhatti, Director, Humanities, Punjab Textbook Board told APP that the process of adding new chapters and topics required a lengthy process and it would not be able to complete it on time for the new classes. Students and teachers of schools and colleges have been anxiously waiting for the new syllabi in order to plan their next academic calendar but now the board says there will be no changes in syllabi and the same books should be taught during the next year.

He said a decision has been taken by the 'higher authorities' in this regard. About another perennial problem of shortage of a number of text books in the market, Prof Bhatti says that the board is already in the process of allocating the bulk of the printing work to different publishers and hopes that the books short in the market will be provided in time when the new session starts in September next.

Giving good news to parents, he disclosed that the publishing cost of books has increased, though, the Board would charge the same old prices for the new books and distribute them in the market at the previous rates.

However, the board is making more attractive titles of the books and also improving the quality of binding. In all, the board publishes 178 books on various topics of arts, sciences and vocational subjects from Prep Class to Class XII during each academic year.

29,922 govt schools without electricity
Lahore: The provision of missing facilities in schools will be a challenging task for the new government as there are still 29,922 government schools without electricity, 19,304 without toilets, 33,632 with two or less classrooms and 15,380 without boundary walls in different parts of the province.

According to the data collected, before the launch of the Punjab Education Sector Reform Programme (PESRP) in 2003, out of over 60,000 schools, only 21,943 had electricity connections whereas the toilet facility was available in 28,497 schools.

Some 33,312 schools have boundary walls while the total number of classrooms in all government schools of the Punjab was 213,502. An amount of Rs 22.8 billion was allocated for the first phase of the PESRP (2004-06), with Rs 5 billion every year for the provision of missing facilities in schools.

Sources said the World Bank (WB), under the PESRP, had extended the budgetary support of around Rs 18 billion to the Punjab government, through IDA credit, a soft loan.

Sources in the PESRP said that during the previous government, owing to patchy selection of schools for the provision of facilities, a sizable number of deserving schools could not be included in the programme. They said as the selection of schools for the provision of missing facilities was made by MPAs and MNAs of the ruling party, therefore, opposition members had to face discrimination. They said the first phase of the programme had completed while the second had started in 2007 and would end in 2009. According to a senior official associated with the PESRP, an awareness campaign comprising advertisements and talk shows etc was also part of the programme to highlight its achievements i.e free textbooks and Rs 200 stipend for girl students.

He, however, said the campaign had to be stopped as the previous government used it for its political benefits. "An amount of Rs 450 million was spent on the awareness campaign during the last four years which, however, did not leave a positive impression on people," he added. He said the name of the programme was the Punjab Education Sector Reform Programme while "Parha Likha Punjab" was another programme run by the Literacy Department.

However, when contacted, PESRP Director Ahmed Javed Qazi said 9,339 schools had been provided with electricity under the programme during the last four years, registering an increase of 16 percent. He said toilets were built in 13,403 schools and boundary walls were constructed in 12,512 institutions.

"Some 17,287 classrooms have been constructed in schools during the last four years, but still a lot of work should be done," he added. Mr Qazi said enrolment had increased in government schools because of the provision of missing facilities, free textbooks, qualified teachers and Rs 200 stipend in 15 low literacy districts. "Infrastructural and HR requirements have also gone up with the increase in enrolment," he added.

Talking about the launch of the PESRP, he said an assessment had been made in 2003 for facilities in public sector schools across the province. "It revealed that primary schools and female institutions had been neglected in the past and they required immediate attention," he added. Mr Qazi said there was no credible database available with the government before 2003, while now a school census was made every year, which threw up ground realities for future planning.

"Now we have a better environment because of the management information system (MIS)," he said, adding, "Along with the MIS, decision support systems have also been developed under the PESRP and decisions, such as transfer of college teachers, have been greatly facilitated because of it."

Commenting on the monitoring mechanism, he said the system, in fact, worked as "eyes and ears" of the government. "Now the government has direct access to schools, even those situated in remoter areas, because of district monitoring officers (DMOs) and monitoring and evaluation assistants," he added. He said the PESRP had a sector-wide approach. "It took education as a whole and improving the quality of education was a priority concern under phase II. The quality depended largely on good books, better classroom environment and good teachers, besides factors, like improved governance and community involvement," he added.

Corporal punishment 'behind high school dropout rate'
Islamabad: Terming corporal punishment in schools and homes a 'culturally accepted form of child abuse,' speakers at a consultation with media representatives said it had resulted in high dropout rate from schools and an ever-growing population of runaway children.

The event titled 'Media Consultation on Child Rights and Protection Issues' was organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (Sparc) in collaboration with Royal Norwegian Embassy and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The speakers said Pakistan had one of the highest school dropout rates in the world that was 50 per cent, while there were about 70,000 street children nationwide. "It also adds to the army of child labourers because if 25 million children are out of school, they either work as labourers or become potential child labour," they pointed out.

They demanded repeal of Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code that allows parents, teachers and guardians to punish their child and urged the government to prepare a code of ethics for teachers.

"The school administration policy should have a monitoring component to check corporal punishment and the government should have its own monitoring mechanism for at least public schools," the speakers demanded.

In his introductory remarks, Sparc Executive Director Qindeel Shujaat said that society had a contradictory approach towards children. "On one hand a marriage fails to work if there are no children but on the other we observe extreme cases of corporal punishments by parents and teachers," he said.

He regretted that last year saw a new development of child suicide bombers in the country. "This trend of violence is also a product of what has been taught and the way it had been taught to our children," he added. He said that the legal system failed to provide protection to children against the menace mainly due to poor implementation.

Qindeel suggested that all children of age group from 5-7 years be enrolled in schools and those who were dropouts between the ages of 8 to 12, should be offered fast track non-formal courses and be maintained in regular education. He demanded that children, who were illiterate and above 13 years of age, should be educated in basic literacy and vocational training.

He said that union councils should be asked to ensure that every child in their locality attended school. "The international experience suggests that realistic development of countries became possible when education was accessible to all children," he said.

Highlighting the causes and consequences of corporal punishment, Sparc National Manager Promotion Fazila Gulzar said that it promotes the culture of power and blind obedience to authority. "The act is made lawful through Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code which empowers parents, teachers and other guardians to use corporal punishment as a means to discipline and correct the behaviour of under-12 children," she said.

She regretted that parents and teachers consider it a justified way to train a child but most of the time they took out their frustration on the child for the kids were in vulnerable position and could not retaliate.

"In addition to physical harm, the corporal punishment leaves deep psychological scars on innocent minds of children which are demonstrated in the form of violence when they grow up," she pointed out.

Discussing alternative ways to discipline a child without injuring his or her self-respect, dignity and values, Sparc School Project Coordinator Humaira Butt said that the difficult but correct way was to develop communication with the child and involve him or her in some responsibilities. "Setting a good example is another tried and tested formula," she said.

A documentary on child labour in connection with the International Labour Day was also screened on the occasion. Producer Sajjad Gul also showed clippings of his upcoming programme on kids' court that focuses on empowering children by educating them about their rights. The News
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