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No home-grown education system

Nov 10: Some commentators contend that the present education system in this country is a legacy of the British colonial rule, and that therefore it does not go well with our nativity.

They would replace it with one that is rooted in our own historical experience and values. They assume that there was once a system that worked to good effect, and that it should be revived.
This assumption is not entirely valid.

Government-funded primary and middle schools, open to all those who might wish to enter, did not exist during the medieval ages. Education was provided mostly by seminaries, focusing on the scriptures and preparing young people for careers connected with religion. Colleges surfaced in Baghdad, Cairo, Rome, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge but these also started out as seminaries and only later took in mathematics, humanities, and the hard sciences.

During the same period certain individuals in the Muslim world and Europe emerged as great scholars. Most of them began their education at the feet of a tutor, a local learned man, and then moved on to study with better-known scholars in larger towns. Having built a solid foundation, they continued to pursue knowledge on their own.

There is no model here capable of providing education to the generality, say, millions, of our young people. Public education began in our subcontinent with the advent of British rule. The schools and colleges the British established taught subjects that their counterparts in Great Britain did. Children in primary school learned elementary reading and writing, simple arithmetic, a bit of geography (their own district and province), stories of historical events and personages, and some readings to enhance their language skills. They learned the same things at progressively higher levels of complexity, plus English, some physical science and a classical language as they went on to finish high school. A measure of specialisation came as they moved on to college. Still newer subjects of study became available (biological and earth sciences, social sciences, logic, ethics and history of countries and peoples beyond India and Great Britain).

This colonial education system produced not only hundreds of thousands of reasonably competent individuals in various fields of endeavour but also a number of world-renowned scientists, philosophers, historians, economists, poets and creative artists.

I cannot figure out what there is in this system that might be taken out to make it worthy of a post-colonial independent country. It is customary in certain quarters to say that Pakistan is an ideological state, and that its ideology (Islam) should inform all aspects of its people's individual and collective lives, including their education. That Pakistan is an ideological state is factually incorrect, and so far as its ruling elites are concerned the proposition is farcical even as an aspiration.

Even if these aspirations were genuine, education could not be Islamised except marginally. Conclusions of mathematical equations and the findings of physics remain the same regardless of the teacher's or the student's religion. They are value-free abstractions or facts of the physical universe. Ideology may have a role in normative studies (such as ethics) and areas where opinions and personal preferences matter.

One must in any case guard against the danger of distortion. Take the case of opinion-makers who teach that the history of Pakistan begins with the advent of Islam and the appearance of Muslim rulers in the areas that now constitute this country. They want to ignore the fact that the ancestors of many of us were once Hindu and were ruled by Hindu princes. These historians may say that theirs is the version they like but they must also face the fact that they are misinforming their students.It is likely that syllabi, required qualifications of teachers, teaching methods, textbooks, and examination systems in Pakistan are outmoded to some extent. Needless to say, these deficiencies should be rectified. Kids in school should learn the 'new math' and should become computer literate. Students at all levels should be encouraged to be inquisitive.

But much more worrisome is the fact that education in the public sector, like everything else in the public domain, has fallen prey to corruption. Teachers in public schools want to get paid but they do not want to work for their pay. I have talked with students from the primary to the college and university levels and heard that their teachers do the minimal amount of teaching in the classroom during the appointed hours. The teachers urge their students to meet them at their homes for private tutoring for which they charge hefty compensation. Those who cannot meet this additional expense come out of school unimproved, and many of them simply fail the exams.

This gross shirking of duty did not happen during colonial rule. Teachers then were very hard-working and dedicated. Corruption of public education is a gift we have received from a reawakening of our nativity under the aegis of national independence.Education in private institutes is not as blemished. While none of them is making waves in the generation of new knowledge, quite a few of them are doing a decent job of opening up minds and preparing young people for competently managing the affairs of the world. The more notable among them are certain schools of management such as the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), and the Lahore School of Economics (LSE). The Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology in NWFP is internationally known for its high levels of attainment.

All of them are very expensive and therefore beyond the reach of the vast majority of Pakistanis who may want a good education. Regretfully it must be noted also that the majority of these private universities and colleges are primarily money-making business enterprises. As places of learning they may be slightly better than many of the public institutes, but their performance on the whole will have to be rated as only fair. Their students are not getting their money's worth.

Education cannot be treated as something standing apart from all the other departments of life. Like the rest of them it has been monetised and made vulnerable to greed and corruption. It seems to me that efforts to improve education will have to come as part of a more general and inclusive reform movement aimed at cleansing the public domain.

By Anwar Syed
The writer, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, is currently a visiting professor at the Lahore School of Economics. (Dawn)

Your Comments
"Reference to article --No home-grown education system by Anwar Syed in which he has remarked -That Pakistan is an ideological state is factually incorrect; Likewise he has also criticized those who contend that history of Pakistan began with advent of Islam in India As for his view that ;Pakistan is not ideological state; then how it could be made consistent with the views of Allama Iqbal who demanded a separate state for the enforcement of Shariat not for the Indian muslims rights alone ? Here i would refer to his( Iqbal) letter to M A Jinnah dated 28 May 1937 where in he writes that ; After a long and careful study of Islamic Law I have come to the conclusion that if this system of law is properly understood and applied, at last the right to subsistence is secured to everybody. But the enforcement and development of the Shariat of Islam is impossible in this country with out a free Muslim state or states This has been my honest conviction for many years and i still believe this to be the only way to solve the problem of bread for Muslims as well as to secure a peaceful India; As for the second point- i would refer to the well known sentence of MA Jinnah in which he had stated that Pakistan came into being the very day when the first Indian become Muslim., In the light of it could Q A M A Jinnah be also criticized for having such views? "
Name: Anwar jalal
City, Country: peshawar, Pakistan

"The incident is a lesson for parents or other adultsto be careful as children are at the learning stage and could imitate anything which they see. It is important that parents instead not accepting the issue, keep on insisting that it is a minor thing. Please keep in mind, you start with minors and then grow up. Expulsion was not the solution as well. Schools are to train the kids and they could have worked with the parents to resolve the issue and get help from the physcriatic. Thanks MAlik"
Name: Ijaz Malik
City, Country: USA

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Playgroup student expelled over 'unnatural' behaviour
Lahore: A private school has expelled a playgroup student, allegedly on charges of pulling down a fellow student's shorts. However, the school administration says the child was involved in some 'unnatural' and objectionable activities.

S, a three-year-old child, was a student of playgroup at a private school in Sabzazar. The school has several other branches and has a good reputation for its academic results and extracurricular activities. Following his expulsion, S' father, Shahid, sent a legal notice to the school in addition to writing an application to Chief Secretary Javed Mehmood against the expulsion of his child. The administration said that it had been forced to expel the child from the school, adding that they had discussed the issue with S' parents. However, the parents denied this while talking to us.

Sodomy: The school administration, however, maintained that it had talked to S' parents and claims it had asked them to get him admitted in some other branch of the school. S' father claims that the administration has refused to accommodate his son in any other branch. The administration said that it had received several written complaints against S from the parents of other students, adding, S had tried to practice sodomy, without knowing what it is, with several students.

Shahid said that the school principal had asked him to visit another branch of the school, adding that he went with his wife. He said that when he arrived, he was informed by the administration that his son had been expelled for pulling down another student's shorts. He said, "They told me that they could no longer teach my son. I asked them why they had established a school with playgroup in it if they could not control the children. I submitted Rs 5,000 as admission fees and other charges. My child's future is at stake, how can a school expel him for such a little thing? Something several children do as a joke?" He said that the school administration had not spoken to him about any act of sodomy in reference to his son, adding that he was positive that his son could not even think of something like that.

Uncle: The school's founding member, Tahir Yousaf, said that it was unimaginable, however, the child had tried to practice sodomy. He said that the administration had called S' mother earlier and spoken to her about the child. "The child said that he had learnt it from his uncle (Chachu). I don't know whom he is referring to - it may be his real uncle or someone else. We offered them psychiatric help but they did not agree and kept insisting on getting the child admitted in the same class," he said.

Impossible: A child psychologist working with the Child Protection Welfare Bureau (CPWB), Yasir Barket said that a three-year-old child could not perform any acts of sodomy, adding that the child could only imitate the act. He said that if a child had seen the sexual act, he could practice it without knowing what it really was. He said that children could be exposed to obscene scenes on television, adding that parents should be extremely careful as such things could have adverse effects on their minds. Daily Times

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