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Education reform | BoGs in Punjab colleges

Education reform in Pakistan
Dec 14: The World Bank has decided to extend a $300m loan to Pakistan to finance reforms in the field of tertiary education. The Higher Education Commission will implement the programme, the rationale behind the decision being that the funds will "sustain healthy growth" while helping ensure the country's smooth "transition towards a knowledge-based economy". Much was done during the Musharraf era to promote tertiary education. This policy, though it has yielded positive results, has not been without critics. It has been said that there has been too much focus on higher education and it has come at the cost of the primary sector. While the development of tertiary education is vital, it is true that the majority of the country cannot be denied access to basic education by neglecting the primary sector. Today, it is obvious that much is wrong with the state of education in Pakistan. For example, the UN says that this year's devastating floods have affected over 10,000 schools; some have been damaged partially while others have been totally destroyed, denying millions of children access to education. Even without natural disasters wreaking havoc on the sector, the state of education in Pakistan was already abysmal to say the least. Public schools across Pakistan are in bad shape: if they are not closed down for being 'non-viable' (as in Sindh) they are bombed by extremists who despise modern education (as in parts of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

Much money has been spent on education in the past, but we have yet to see visible changes. This indicates that the question is not only that of funding, but also of administrative and policy reform. Only sustained, well-thought-out policies can stem the rot in Pakistan's education sector. For one, financial mismanagement and indiscipline must be stamped out to save public schools. Overall, a balance needs to be struck between promoting tertiary education and revamping the primary sector. Higher education has to be promoted and the goal to achieve a 'knowledge-based economy' is indeed a commendable one. But none of these lofty goals can be achieved without reforming primary education in tandem. Dawn

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All parties against BoGs in 26 colleges
Lahore: The PML-N government in Punjab has started facing strong opposition from almost all the mainstream political parties for establishing Boards of Governors (BoGs) in 26 colleges of the province to run 4-year BS programmes there.

It is a little known fact that the idea of starting the new 4-year degree programme was, basically, envisaged few years ago during the PML-Q regime in Punjab, however, the then government miserably failed to launch the same. It could not even settle basic modalities.

Nevertheless, the 26 colleges selected across the province by the incumbent government for launching the new academic programme are, more or less, the same as identified by the PML-Q government.

The Punjab government, after launching the 4-year degree programme, has become a target of almost all the parties, including the PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and PML-Q, as it established the BoGs in the colleges with an aim to ensure that the new academic programme work successfully.

The issue drew attention of the political parties last week, on Wednesday, when Punjab Police resorted to baton charge teachers and students who were protesting against the establishment of BoGs in colleges forced their entry into the Punjab Assembly.

Before the political parties jumped in, the Joint Action Committee (JAC), comprising teachers and students, was solely opposing the BoGs. They started protesting as they believed that by establishing BoGs, the Punjab government was in fact trying to privatise these colleges. They also argued that by doing so the government would be unable to control the fee while government teachers would also be at the mercy of the BoGs. Another allegation levelled against the government was that it was promoting agenda of the IMF and the World Bank by establishing BoGs in government colleges.

On the other hand, the Punjab government is relentlessly rejecting the allegations, maintaining that establishment of BoGs is only to ensure financial and administrative autonomy to the colleges to run the new degree programme successfully.

According to the Punjab government officials, Rs 500 million special grants to the colleges is evidence of the fact that the government will not allow any increase in fee. Regarding the teachers, they claim that the BoGs will not be empowered to transfer or post the teachers.

The government, through advertisements in newspapers on Sunday, made it clear once again that neither any college was being privatised nor was fee being increased. The government said, "Are those distorting the facts and instigating students to violent protests not anti-education?" It is pertinent to mention here that Punjab Minister for Education Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman has said on various occasions that a particular student organization, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), is opposing the move for its vested interests. This is an important fact that IJT is the most active student organisation which has joined the JAC in its campaign against the BoGs.

The fact cannot be denied that many of the selected colleges, including provincial metropolis' Govt College of Science, Wahdat Road, and Govt Islamia College, Civil Lines, are strongholds of the IJT, a student wing of religiopolitical party Jamat-e-Islami (JI). It is also important to mention here that after the Wednesday's incident, those student organizations which remained detached from the JAC's protest campaign, including the Insaf Students Federation (ISF), had now started opposing the government's move too. The ISF, the student wing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Sunday organised a protest demo outside the Lahore Press Club, criticized the government for establishing BoGs in colleges and demanded it withdraw the same.

The rapidly changing scenario is evident of the fact that all the parties are uniting against the PML-N in Punjab and the force uniting them is education.

Another worth mentioning fact is that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been strongly advocating the provincial education departments to start offering 4-year BS Hons programmes in public colleges, making Pakistani degrees compatible with the degrees awarded by universities in developed countries.

An HEC official, seeking anonymity, said it was unfortunate that politics was being done on an academic issue, adding that there was no harm in running the colleges under the BoGs as the same would ensure good governance as envisioned by the Punjab chief minister. Academic circles are of the view that if political parties consider establishment of BoGs in colleges harmful for education and students and teachers, they should also raise voice against the colleges which are already functioning under the BoGs in Punjab. They also suggest that the government instead of making the BoGs issue a matter of prestige should consult all the stakeholders and evolve a consensus in the larger interest of the students.

Nevertheless, there are also those who suggest that political parties instead of merely indulging in point-scoring and trying to get political mileage out of the issue should work together sincerely for the cause of education. The news

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Students need to improve English language for better careers
Lahore: A common man thinks an educated man can speak good English, which, from a certain perspective is quite right. Despite this perception, a minor ability to speak fluent English can also help get attention of many people.

But, in our society, majority of graduate and postgraduate students are unable to speak English fluently, for which the outdated syllabus can be blamed first. Besides, the students, even while having the facility of Internet and cable TV channels at their houses, still need to go a long way in learning one of the most essential tools for making a good career in almost any field.

Pakistan boasts a large English language press and media. Many major dailies are published in this international language.

English is taught to students at all school levels in Pakistan, and in many cases the medium of instruction is also English. There are at present three kinds of schools in the country private schools that cater to the upper class, government schools which serve middle or other classes of population, and madrassas (religious schools). At college and university level all instruction is in English.

Private schools have become a necessity for the contemporary Pakistani society since the government has failed to provide quality education through public schools. Even parents with low income prefer to get their children admitted to private schools as they offer all instruction in English, which government schools do not. The medium of instruction in government schools is either Urdu or a local language.

Apart from private schools, a number of institutions that claim to make people proficient in English language have been running various courses. Youngsters, who cannot read or write or are reluctant in speaking English, usually get admissions to these institutes.

A graduate student, Amir Ali, said he got admission to a language coaching centre because he felt he could not speak English with ease. He said that fluency in speech and better understanding was needed for better career development. "Many multinational and local employers now hire employees whose accent and understanding skills are higher than others," he added. He observed that English in Pakistan served as a gateway to success, higher education, and white collar jobs.

Educationists and experts believe that the country's primary education system has not been delivering the way it should.

Punjab University's Department of English Language and Literature Chairperson Shaista Sirajuddin says that English language learning is in poor condition in "our public sector institutes." She says that although the students of private institutes may speak better English, but they (private institutes) still need to raise their standard. She added it was not just English but "our youngsters are also weak in other regional languages." She was of the view that the youngsters could utilise Internet and cable TV channels as a medium to make their English better. She opined that curriculum should be reviewed, saying that the Higher Education Commission (HEC), in addition to higher education, should also focus on primary education.

Senior educationist Nighat Agha said that students should practice to better their English speaking, listening, writing and reading. She also said that students of public sector educational institutions needed special training in this respect. Daily times

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