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United kingdom and joint Task Force on education

Pakistan-UK joint task force on education
Islamabad, Sep 24: Pakistan and the United Kingdom are thinking of establishing a joint task force on education "that will work to implement the strategy being developed by the government of Pakistan". The UK government thinks it could help in filling the "implementation gap" and also make sure "that funding provided for education by the UK, the US and other donor countries was spent on education".

This was revealed in a London meeting between Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and his British counterpart, David Miliband. We think the task force can only help in an environment where money meant for education is either not spent or simply eaten up. More significantly, the British side of the task force could blow the whistle, in camera, if Chapter Four, inserted into the PPP government's Education Policy 2009, is used to defeat the very purpose of education.

Pakistan's leading educationist, Dr AH Nayyar, in his latest article on the Education Policy is forced to say that the Policy needs to be carefully discussed at the national level. He thinks that, the way it is now, it is an extension of the education policy of General Zia-ul Haq who used Islamisation to produce the kind of violent culture we now have in Pakistan. His contention is that the PPP government got scared at the last moment to add the chapter on Islamiat. He says:

"The new education policy declares that Islamiat is to be a compulsory subject from class I up to class XII, and if one reads carefully, this condition could extend even to higher education. It seems little changed from the old policy". Moreover the integrated course set for the schools will force the non-Muslim children to read the same Islamiat books. What is more, the curriculum includes indoctrination in jihad, which will subordinate the state-run schools to the madrassa worldview.

The new policy says: "Islamic teachings shall be made a part of teacher-training curricula and the curricula of other training institutions. Arabic teachers preferably having the qualification as qaris shall be appointed in such institutions". The system will require 250,000 teachers of Islamiat. Needless to say, these teachers will come from the madrassas. In the past even in professional universities it was not the science faculty which became the most influential part of the campus but the Islamiat faculty.

As the world insists that we punish the terrorists who were once part of Pakistan's education policy - one presently on bail was head of the Islamiat department in a state-run professional university - the new Education Policy still favours them. How will the UK associate itself with a task force that is supposed to implement this policy? Of course London can prevent the government from spending foreign money on the implementation of a policy that is still heavily tilted in favour of jihadi thinking.

No government in Pakistan will touch the madrassa system because the madrassa is powerful and draws its deterrent strength from the jihadi organisations now aligned with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The state-run sector has run aground and is outside the capacity of the state to reclaim. But most politicians in and out of government have repeatedly expressed their resolve to attack the "three systems" current in Pakistan to "remove the elitism of the private sector".

With the deluge of madrassa teachers flowing into the private sector now required to fulfil the requirements of Chapter Four, it is the English-medium schools which will bear the brunt of this anger against an idiom that is accused of inclining governments in Islamabad "to become slaves of the US and the UK". No one listens to the Islamic scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi who spoke last Saturday on a TV channel and explained that the madrassa in its present form was simply of no use to Pakistan unless it is reformed to start specialised Islamic training after 12 initial years of general job-linked education.

The UK has been a victim of British Pakistani youths who come to Pakistan, stay in madrassas, and go back to plot suicide-bombing of public places and airlines. If it is going to be any help in the joint task force, the UK will have to assert itself. The state-run schools in Pakistan are dysfunctional and the private sector education is under threat from ideological prejudice. One will be Islamised further; the other might have to follow suit to survive.


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Govt looking to Turkey on madrassa education
Islamabad: The government is considering emulating the Turkish model to bring madrassa education into the mainstream, it has been learnt.

"The Turkish government has successfully modernised their religious institutions and Pakistan may benefit from the Turkish experience through exchange of visits," sources quoted Federal Education Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani as informing a recent cabinet meeting. They said Bijarani was responding to ministers who had asked whether the government's attempts to introduce contemporary subjects in the syllabi of madrassas was proving successful at modernising the religious schools.

The government has been attempting to bring madrassa education into the mainstream through the introduction of modern subjects for several years, but madrassa organisations have been resisting these efforts, claiming they are a plan by foreign countries to make their students secular. The sources said the education minister had also quoted a UNESCO report that had revealed 50 million Pakistanis were illiterate, while 5 to 6 million children were not attending any schools.

Pilot project: To a question on free education, the cabinet was informed the government had decided to launch a pilot project for residential schools to provide free education to the poor. "This pilot project will initially be launched in selected districts on behalf of the federal government and would be extended to other districts if it succeeds. Poor students would be given free education in these residential schools, including free books, uniforms and meals," Bijarani added.

Massive increase: The minister said the education allocation in the budget was about two percent of the Gross Domestic Product. "Investment in education shall be increased to seven percent of the GDP by 2015," he said. The sources said the federal cabinet had also unanimously agreed that the term "handicapped children" should be replaced with the term "special children" in the education policy. Daily times


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Chevening scholarship date extended
Islamabad: Funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and administered by the British Council, the British Chevening Scholarship has been announced and the last date for its form submission is October 4.

The scholarship has been announced in the disciplines of International & Social Development, Management (except MBA), International Security, Interfaith Studies, Human Rights, Gender Studies, Public Administration, International Conflict, Public Sector Reform, Media & Communication, Law & Judicial Reform Governance & Democracy, Environment & Climate Change, and Economics.

The Chevening programme currently provides around 2,300 new scholarships each year for postgraduate studies or research at UK institutions of higher education. In Pakistan, scholarships are awarded to Pakistani nationals of high intellectual ability, who will play a formative role in Pakistan's development. Pakistani applicants for Chevening scholarships can apply online for the said subjects.

The Chevening scholarships are offered in over 150 countries and enable talented graduates and young professionals including future leaders, decision makers, and opinion formers to become familiar with the UK and gain new skills or update current professional skills with an ultimate objective of benefiting their countries upon return.

The scholarships are for one year taught postgraduate study in the UK and cover the full cost of study. The eligibility criteria include Masters degree or a four-year Bachelors degree from any recognised university in Pakistan or the equivalent from an overseas institution. The candidates must have a minimum of three years of work experience, must be Pakistani citizens (dual nationals are not eligible to apply), and must not have received any British government-funded academic award in the past three years. The news


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