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Books on research projects at universities

Books on research projects at Pakistan / Foriegn universities
Islamabad: Prof Dr Moinuddin Aqeel is a strange person. Strange in the sense that he is among those few men of letters whose primary concern is research - in a society that has no love for research and relishes hearsay instead. A research scholar to the core, Aqeel sahib was the first person to carry out a research on Urdu research. His book Pakistan mein Urdu tehqeeq, published some 22 years ago by Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu, surveyed the topics and the standard of Urdu research that had been published till then. An author of some 45 books, most of which are based on pure research, he has not only been associated with research projects at universities in Pakistan, but has an enviable research experience at foreign universities also.

What happens when such a man becomes head of a university's Urdu department? Yes, you are right: research activities - the primary function of any university - get a boost. I may safely assume that of late there must have been a lot of work going on at the newly created Urdu department of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) as it is now headed by Prof Aqeel. An idea of the department's working may be had even by looking over the first issue of its research journal Mayar.

In his brief editorial note, Dr Aqeel has mentioned quite a few points that are worth pondering. He says: "As a result of encouragement and incentives offered by the Higher Education Commission, we have seen a commendable increase in the quality and quantity of research works in Pakistan during the last few years. This holds true not only for social sciences, but the editing and publication of research journals has also experienced a marked improvement. Until a few years ago, the research activities of teachers at our universities were not satisfactory but now most of the government universities, their departments of social sciences and especially the faculties of languages and literature are engaged in meaningful research and the regular publication of research journals from various varsities has created a healthy competitive environment."

Another concern of his is enhancing the standards of research, and he says: "It is manifest by the selection of its topics for research that the nascent department of Urdu at the IIUI is determined to achieve a modern, scientific and international research standard. We discourage research projects that are superficial, cursory or trite or are of personal interest as they have no utility in the wider perspective of society and futuristic approach."

Here, Dr Aqeel has rubbed a vein that hurts most as far as Urdu research is concerned. It is disturbing that Urdu departments at most of our universities cannot think beyond what is apparent. They are content with hackneyed and old topics when it comes to research. Take dissertations, for example, upon which our universities have conferred degrees recently. Most would be limited to a few areas and maximum number of these theses would be titled "XYZ: Shakhsiat aur fun" (personality and art). What is ridiculous is the fact that most of the personalities that these dissertations carry out research on are either third-rate authors or somehow related to the so-called research scholars.

The contents of this newly born star are dazzling and include some real big names of Urdu research and criticism such as Haneef Naqvi, Abu Salman Shahjahanpuri, Muhammad Ayub Qadri, Arif Naushahi and Muhammad Umer Memon. The journal has six sections and each one has some exciting research articles. The first section has papers on research techniques, sources for research and editing of texts. Khalid Sanjrani has introduced a newly discovered letter of Allama Iqbal addressed to a German aristocrat. Another article, written by Muhammad Yameen Usman, in this section gives some interesting information about Begum Atiya Fayzee's life and her writings.

A very special portion is one that deals with documents of archival importance. A rare correspondence between Ghalib and Mir Syed Ali Ghamgeen (1753-1851) has been reproduced. Iqbal's much talked-about poem Shama aur shaer had lured many translators and they tried their hand on it. It was rendered into English in 1925 by M. Rashid and was published in book form from Los Angeles. This rare and the earliest English translation of the poem adorns the English section of Mayar.

Here one has to talk about the editor Moinuddin Aqeel again because in addition to a note to a paper, there are at least three research papers that bear the name of Mayar as author. It simply means that Dr Aqeel has penned them and has withheld his name since he shuns publicity. This aspect makes Aqeel sahib stranger still. Dr Najeeba Arif, the co-editor, has beautifully translated a very useful research paper from English. Titled "Aids to reading Persian manuscripts, from editorial point of view", the paper gives some useful guidelines for editors and compilers of Persian literature.

Citing the references and enlisting the sources has always been an apple of discord in Urdu research and different scholars have been applying different methods. Mayar has set an example in this sphere, too, and the students of research (and their supervisors as well) can learn a trick or two if they study the citations of the papers published in the journal with the intent to update their knowledge in this regard as well.

What makes Mayar rare is its avoidance of self-glorification: the title does not carry the name of the editor though the research journals of other universities print it in bold letters. It does not carry messages from higher-ups either. Written by their personal assistants or secretaries, these messages do not add to any research journal's value, or any publication for that matter.

True to its name Mayar, the research journal, has set a new benchmark for research journals in Pakistan. It is not very often that a newborn journal's first issue becomes a standard in itself by which the quality of others may be measured. If I recall correctly, there had been only one such example in the past, Tehqeeq, the research journal of Sindh Universit's Urdu department. With its first issue in 1988, Tehqeeq became a specimen of what a research journal should be like. The then chief editor of Tehqeeq, Dr Najmul Islam, gave a standard. And now, with the publication of Mayar's first issue, in a changed environment and different perspective, we have another standard of quality. Dr. Rauf Parekh

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Shortage, quality focus of World Teachers Day
Islamabad: World Teachers Day being observed on Monday spotlights global teacher shortage and challenges of being an educator today, besides mobilising support for the teachers.

Teachers play a leading role in giving students the knowledge, attitudes and values that help them understand the world and become agents of change.

Analysis of a report commissioned by OECD shows that teacher quantity and quality issues are clearly inter-linked. School systems often respond to teacher shortages in the short-term by some combination of lowering qualification requirements for entry to the profession; assigning teachers to teach in subject areas in which they are not fully qualified; increasing the number of classes that teachers are allocated, or by increasing class sizes.

The findings and policy concerns could be taken as evidence that teaching is a profession in long-term decline. As societies have become wealthier and educational qualifications increased and employment opportunities expanded, teaching's appeal as a path to upward social mobility and job security does seem to have diminished.

At a time when the global economic slowdown risks putting tight constraints on education budgets, it is critical that governments support the recruitment, training and professional development of teachers, according to Unesco.

Countries are committed to reaching the goal of Universal Primary Education by 2015. In order to achieve this, they need to ensure that sufficient school places are provided, enough teachers for quality instruction employed and school systems function effectively. Many of the countries that are challenged to reach UPE are also facing population growth which further increases the pressure to expand school systems and teaching forces.

Unesco says countries striving towards 'Education for All' around the world will have to ensure that there are 1.9 million more teachers in classrooms than there are today. In addition to creating these new posts, school systems will have to compensate for attrition as older teachers retire.

So to meet the needs associated with EFA and attrition, an estimated total of 10.3 million teachers will need to be recruited in just eight years.

In Pakistan, the National Education Policy 2009 underscores the need for reforms in the teaching profession and admits that the presence of incompetence in such a huge quantity and permeation of malpractices in the profession have eroded the once exalted position enjoyed by teachers under the eastern cultural milieu. In fact, teaching has become the employment of last resort of most educated young persons, especially males.

The education policy recognises that the quality of teachers in the public sector was unsatisfactory. Poor quality of teachers in the system in large numbers is owed to the mutations in governance, an obsolete pre-service training structure and a less than adequate in-service training regime.

The policy states that reform is required in all areas: pre-service training and standardisation of qualifications; professional development, teacher remuneration, career progression and status, and governance and management of the teaching workforce. The growth of private sector was adding new complexities to the teaching profession and needs to be taken into account in any reform of the system.

Though the government pledges to provide opportunities to all teachers for professional development and ensure teacher recruitment, professional development, promotions and postings on the basis of merit, the prevailing situation speaks of alarming situation.

Teachers in Pakistan often complain of low salary structure, poor working conditions and inadequate career development opportunities in addition to politicising of appointment in public sector institutions. The situation in rural areas is much worse than in urban areas.

The Punjab government has taken a good initiative to recognise the brilliance of students by awarding position holders with cash prizes and inviting them to Murree as state guests. But teachers also need to be encouraged and a reward system should be initiated based on performance measures.

APP adds: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has called upon the people to acknowledge their teachers as a role model and source of inspirations.

In his message on World Teachers' Day, he said, "Today, the entire world is celebrating the teachers' day. We too in Pakistan join hands with the world community in paying homage and respect to our teachers, who in so many ways have made a difference in our lives."

He said if one recalls one's student life, he or she can definitely identify the period of his or her education not with subjects or books but with the teachers who inspired them. Dawn

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Civil society should restore glory of teaching profession
Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have urged all stakeholders, civil society organisations and the people to play their role in restoring the teaching profession to its pristine glory and acknowledge role of teachers in education development.

In a message on the occasion of World Teachers' Day falling on October 5, he said the day should serve as a reminder that teacher is the most central element and critical link in the chain of educational development.

The President said, "In the scheme of education a teacher is like the thread that holds the beads together. They are our soldiers in fighting the battle of minds and ideas."

"Just as wars cannot be fought with materials and weapons alone so the fight for minds and ideas too cannot be fought by material resources alone. No material investment in brick and mortar or in the laboratories and text books can replace the intellectual and spiritual stimulus that is provided by the teacher alone."

"The observance of the World Teachers' Day today therefore should awaken us to realise our social responsibility to give the teachers their rightful place in the society."

"Students want to see their teachers radiate sincerity and commitment as they spread knowledge and wisdom. They expect and want to see them as missionaries and as leaders who inspire and motivate them to greater heights, Zardari said adding, "Remember that no matter what height is attained by a student his teacher will always stand at a higher pedestal."

Gilani in his message called upon Pakistanis to acknowledge teachers as role models and source of inspiration.

"Today, the entire world is celebrating the World Teachers' Day. We too in Pakistan join hands with the world community in paying homage and respect to our teachers, who in so many ways have made a difference in our lives," he said.

"When we look back at the turning points in our lives, we invariably find a beacon in the form of a teacher, who though humble in appearance in all odds, with sheer conviction and commitment, has been busy in shaping our lives for our better future," he added.

He thanked his teachers for guiding him through an important phase of his life. app

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