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HEC promoting quantity at the cost of quality

HEC effort under Dr Atta-ur-Rehman was not convincing
Islamabad, Aug 19: Dr Muhammad Waseem from Lahore University of Management Sciences has said that Higher Education Commission (HEC) is promoting quantity at the cost of quality.

Dr Waseem was addressing the 3-day "Teaching and research methodology skills workshop for teaching faculty and PhD students", hosted by Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, in collaboration with Higher Education Commission that concluded here Tuesday.

Dr Waseem said that effort of HEC under Dr Atta-ur-Rehman to increase the number of universities and enrolment in public sector institutions of higher education was not convincing. He said that in numbers we are not even closer to Indian model where there are hundreds of universities. He recalled that HEC was going for centralisation of knowledge under a Model University Ordinance (MUO) but a delegation of QAU, which met former president Musharraf aborted the unwise move. He lamented that the framework of MUO was applied through other means.

Prof Waseem said that it is quite unfortunate for the country that education policy-makers are based and operate from outside universities and have no interaction with faculty or students. He lamented that funding for natural sciences in QAU is much higher than that for social sciences.

Dr Waseem who earlier served as chairperson IR Department and acting Dean Social Sciences, QAU, regretted that knowledge in Pakistan is subjected to power politics. He also criticised Foreign Office for not taking in puts from IR and DSS Departments. He said that there are no institutional linkages between academia and government departments. He gave a detailed presentation on comparative analysis of conceptual framework of social sciences on the occasion.

Dr Tahir Amin from IR Department, QAU, in his talk on "Philosophy of sciences" said that there is no objective reality and everything is subjective in natural as well as social sciences. He said that even religion is subjective as it is revealed to us by a person.

Talking about biases against social sciences, he said that Tenure Track System was initially devised only for natural sciences. He said that there is a variety of paradigms and one should be open-minded. He said that we should adopt holistic approach in our research.

In response, Dr Rifaat Hussain, Chairperson of DSS Department, said that everything is not subjective. He also gave a presentation on measurement and quantifiable techniques of research.

Dr Tahir Hijazi from Comsats University in his discussion on improving teaching techniques laid emphasis on interactive way of instructions in which students' participation is at least 50 per cent.

Zafarullah Khan from Centre for Civic Education discussed communication skills. Dr Waseem Shahid Malik from QAU and Murtaza Noor and Munir Ahmad from HEC also addressed the gathering. Certificates were awarded to the participants in the end.

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Science of computers Part I
It is very gratifying to get literally hundreds of emails from young students at home and abroad with suggestions and requests to write on various topics, mostly on engineering disciplines. This column is in response to such requests and is meant for the student community and not for experts and trained professionals in this field who definitely know much more than I do. I hope this information will be useful to future computer engineers and scientists. Since many foreign universities teach artificial intelligence (AI) in computer science, I am also briefly touching this topic. It should be realised that computer technology is one of the most fundamental disciplines of engineering and, together with mechanical engineering, metallurgical engineering, electronic engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering and bio-engineering, forms the basis of the industrial development of a country. I am thankful to my old colleague, Eng Nasim Khan, for invaluable input for this column.

The computer is an essential part of 21st century life. Computer science is a fast-moving subject that gives rise to a range of interesting and often challenging problems. The implementation of today's complex computer systems requires the skills of a knowledgeable and versatile computer scientist. Artificial intelligence the study of intelligent behaviour is having an increasing reference on computer system design. Distributed systems, networks and the internet are now central to the study of computing, presenting both technical and social challenges.

How do we understand, reason, plan, cooperate, converse, read and communicate? What are the roles of language and logic? What is the structure of the brain? How does vision work? These are all questions as fundamental as the sub-atomic structure of matter. These are also questions where the science of computing plays an important role in our attempts to provide answers. The computer scientist can expect to come face-to-face with problems of great depth and complexity and, together with scientists, engineers and experts in other fields, may help to solve them. Computing is not just about the big questions; it is also about engineering making things work. Computing is unique in offering both the challenge of science and the satisfaction of engineering.

Computer science is an inter-disciplinary subject. It is firmly rooted in engineering and mathematics, with links to linguistics, psychology and other fields. Computer science is concerned with constructing hardware and software systems, digital electronics, compiler design, programming languages, operation systems, networks and graphics. Theoretical computer science addresses fundamental issues: the motion of computable function, proving the correctness of hardware and software and the theory of communicating systems.

Computer science includes the study of computers, but there is more to it than this alone as it is generally also concerned with information management and the process of information. Only a small part of the discipline is devoted to making the computers' elaborate numerical calculations. By far the largest part is concerned with those general computing techniques that are useful, whether the data is numerical or non-numerical. Computer science is based on electronics, physics and mathematics and needs a thorough understanding of these disciplines.

Long ago foreign universities realised the importance of computer science and set up independent departments. The critical requirement was curriculum guidelines and procedures for accreditation of degrees. This task was undertaken by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), founded in 1948 as a scientific and professional organisation concerned with the development and sharing of new knowledge about all aspects of computing. The ACM began publishing curriculum recommendations for computer science (CS) and for information systems (IS).

Later, three more professional bodies were formed:

1. The Association for Information Systems (generally called 'AIS') was founded in 1994. It is a global organisation serving academia that specialises in information systems. Most academic members of the AIS are affiliated with schools/colleges of business or management. The AIS began providing curriculum recommendations for IS in cooperation with the ACM and the AITP (see below) in 1997.

2. The Association for Information Technology Professionals (AITP) was founded in 1951 as the National Machine Accountants Association. In 1962 it became the Data Processing Management Association (DPMA). It adopted its present name in 1996. The AITP focuses on the professional side of computing, serving those who use computing technology to meet the needs of business and other organisations. It first provided curriculum recommendations for IS in 1985.

3. The Computer Society of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (often referred to as IEEE-CS or the Computer Society) originated in 1946. This is a technical society within the IEEE that is focussed on computing from the engineering perspective.

Prior to the 1990s, each society produced its own curriculum recommendations. Over time, the advantages of cooperation among them became obvious. Today they cooperate in creating curriculum standards and, in this way, send a single message to the computing community.

This discipline developed a considerable body of research, knowledge and innovation that spanned the range from theory to practice and the initial controversy about its legitimacy soon died down. Also during the 1990s, industrial needs for qualified computer science graduates exceeded supply by a large factor. Consequently, enrolment in CS programmes grew very dramatically.

Software engineering: it has emerged as an area within computer science that focuses on rigorous methods for designing and building things that reliably do what they are expected to do. In addition to its computer science foundations, software engineering also involves human processes that, by their very nature, are harder to formalise than are the logical abstractions of computer science.

Information systems: it had to address a growing sphere of challenges like accounting systems, payroll systems, inventory systems, etc. By the end of the 1990s networked personal computers had become basic commodities. Computers had become an integral part of the work environment used by people at all levels of the organisation. Organisations had more information available than ever before and organisational processes were increasingly enabled by computing technology. The problems of managing information became extremely complex and the challenges of making proper use of information and technology to support organisational efficiency and effectiveness became crucial issues.

Information technology: it began to emerge in the late 1990s. By that time computers and networked computer systems became the information backbone of organisations. While this improved productivity, it also created new workplace dependencies, as problems in the computing infrastructure can limit employees' ability to do their work. IT departments with corporations and other organisations took on the new job of ensuring that the organisation's computing infrastructure was suitable, that it worked reliably and that people in the organisation had their computing-related needs met, problems solved, etc.

The information given above has been taken from the ACM website. Detailed information on the above programs can be viewed on the ACM website

(To be continued). -By Dr A Q Khan (Dawn)

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