We are committed to keeping education accessible
Jan 24: Wide disparity in the availability and quality of education available in Pakistan has been a subject of debate for some time now. The fact that there are various parallel systems in place has added to the reigning confusion and whenever a new system is proposed, several concerns are raised.
However Ann Puntis, chief executive of the University of Cambridge International Examinations, who was recently in Pakistan to introduce a new programme for students of the primary level, told this reporter that the system, dubbed the Cambridge International Primary Programme, was designed to accommodate and respect local sensitivities.
"We wouldn't have expanded in the way in which we have over the years if we were insensitive to local (culture). I think probably the most important sensitivity is that we don't try to do everything. We provide English, maths, science … a sort of spine of the curriculum. But the local cultural studies, social studies, even art and creative subjects are from the Pakistani perspective. It would be quite negative to impose a complete programme on schools. We work in partnership," she said.
Explaining the background of the primary programme, she said it was designed to ensure a smooth transition between primary and secondary level students.
"For so many years we've had secondary school qualifications and they've proved enormously successful. A little while ago schools in Pakistan asked whether we could develop primary provision so that they were sure they had coherence in their schools from (age) five up to 18.
"So we developed the primary programme first of all to meet the needs of schools in Pakistan and then, because it was so well-liked and adopted, we internationalised it."
As for the response from Pakistani schools to the programme: "The take-up of the primary programme is strong in Pakistan but it's strong in lots of other countries – in New Zealand, in Argentina. The schools in Pakistan who take the programme become part of a global community."
She clarified that the programme has not been implemented in schools "following the local curriculum. It is implemented in local schools following the Cambridge programme."
She added that the programme specifically focussed on the fact that for the local students, English would be a second language.
"In the English programme we recognise that students are working in their second language so we're very sensitive to that. Also in terms of the maths provision, we had to think very carefully and talk to the schools quite closely about what the sequence of maths education was so that the introduction of algebra and geometry is appropriate to schools and to the teachers as the teachers have to feel comfortable with it."
Ms Puntis said her organisation also offers teacher training but pointed out that perhaps this area could do with greater focus.
"I'm honest enough to say the amount we provide (for teacher training) could probably be doubled or tripled to meet teachers' expectations because they're certainly really hungry for this type of provision. We're a university educating not just students but the teachers (as well). We provide as much as we can."
How has the organisation's interaction with the Pakistani government been like?
"We work with the federal board. We've been talking to them about whether the way in which we write our examination papers could be something that we discuss together. We also work with the Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen so that matters of equivalence and the sharing of best practice are well-developed. The development of syllabuses such as Islamiat and Urdu are areas where we very closely have to take government requirements into consideration."
Until quite recently, there was a perception that the Cambridge programme and similar systems were limited to the elite of Pakistan and were beyond the reach of the majority of citizens. Ms Puntis said there was an effort within her organisation to make quality education accessible to as many people as possible. "The university is very committed to access. It doesn't want to see itself as offering elite provision around the world. The more (our programme) impacts people's lives, the better we feel about it. It's not affordable by everyone, I do understand that, but (we are) pretty committed to keeping things accessible."
On a more personal note, Ann Puntis said that she has quite a personal link with Pakistan as this was "the very first country I visited on appointment as chief executive. I came in 2005 just after the earthquake. I was really pleased to make that my first port of call. It's a country pretty dear to my heart. I care about education and I think Pakistan does too." QAM
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BZU dean and syndicate posts lying vacant
Multan: The Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) has failed to appoint the Islamic studies and languages dean and to nominate one syndicate member.
The post has been vacant even after the passage of seven months after the expiry of Dr GR Pasha's three-year tenure as dean on June 22, 2008.
The university administration sent the list of deans to the governor for the appointment of a member of syndicate in July and another two reminders in October and November, but the governor has yet to finalise the name.
Similarly, the post of the dean of the Islamic studies and languages has also been laying vacant after the expiry of Dr Zaffar Iqbal's three-year tenure on Oct 7, 2008.
The university proposed Dr Zaffar Iqbal, Dr Nooruddin Jami and Dr Muhammad Sharif Sialvi for the slot and sent their name to the governor on Oct 14.
In the meantime, Dr Rubina Tareen (Urdu department) approached the governor, saying that her service had also started with Dr Nooruddin Jami so she was also eligible for deanship. The chancellor directed the university to include Dr Rubina in the nominees for the deanship. Her name was later included on the list against the university rules as if there are two people with same joining date, the older one in age would be considered senior.
The university administration received a letter from the Governor's Secretariat deputy secretary (admin), Riaz Husain Tahir, on Dec 30 that existing ordnances/acts and statutes of the Public Sector Universities in Punjab do not provide for any specific criteria for the appointment of deans by the governor that causes difficulty in selecting the most suitable candidate for appointment as a dean. To make the selection of dean transparent and merit-based, the governor secretariat has evolved new criteria.
As per the criteria there are 10 marks for length of service, 20 for research publications, 40 for academic performance, 10 for annual confidential reports for the last five years and 20 marks were for educational administration. It was learnt that the university has sent the marks of all four candidates to the chancellor.
BZU Registrar Malik Munir said the university had sent letters to the chancellor for the appointment of the dean and for the nomination of one syndicate member. He admitted that the name of Dr Rubina was included in the list at later stages.
Injury to student: teachers exonerated
Khanewal: Kabirwala Deputy District Officer Azra Bano on Friday absolved two teachers (one of them also headmistress) of ordering a schoolgirl to cut fodder for their cattle through a machine that chopped off the girl's fingers.
The incident took place at the Government Primary School of Qitta Tehsildar, Mauza Gobindpur, about 40 kilometres from here.
In an inquiry report, the DDO said she visited the school on information that eight-year-old Samina Parveen has had her fingers chopped off while obeying the command of her teachers. During a visit to the school, she found that the machine was kept at an adjacent outhouse.
A few days ago many students were playing there during break and Samina and some other students started cutting fodder with the machine. Samina's two fingers went chopped off by the blades and her fellows informed headmistress Irshad Bano and teacher Azra Bibi who took the girl to a private dispensary.
Having found no doctor there, the headmistress took the girl to a dispenser who provided first-aid to the girl and sent her home. The report said the charges levelled against the teachers couldn't be proved, except negligence and irresponsible attitude on the part of the teachers who allowed the girls to go outside.
"The charges of ordering Samina to cut fodder couldn't be proved as she herself admitted that she was playing with the machine. However, the teachers are responsible for allowing students to go outside," said EDO (Education) Shakoor Anjum.
He informed that the inquiry conducted by the DDO was fair and transparent. "We have already suspended from service the headmistress and the teacher." Dawn
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