Whither quality education at government schools?

Primary education in public schools has always been substandard
Karachi, Jan 20: The first ten years of schooling typically build the foundations for a bright professional career of an individual. High quality education up to secondary level therefore merits the attention, investment and high priority of the government. However, in our education system, primary education imparted at the majority of government and public schools has always been substandard.

Whatever may be the reasons but the poor standards of school education have compelled parents to work get their children educated in private schools. Consequently the market for schools where the Cambridge system of education is in place has been thriving while parents are not even afraid to work overtime to meet the financial requirements of an expensive education.

Yet only a segment of society, most likely those with finically sound backgrounds, are able to avail this facility. Moreover, this dual standard of secondary and intermediate education is also creating a class difference where the rich can get quality education both locally and abroad but the poor can't even get good education locally. In fact, the ever increasing inflation coupled with high tuition fees of private schools has compelled people to undergo a great deal of hardship to bear the education expenses of their children.

The poor standards of our education system are exposed when students are required to take international exams like IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT etc. While those educated through local examination boards struggle to even pass these exams, students of Cambridge System and top private schools do exceptionally well in these exams. Be it English, Math or any other subject, school education plays a vital role in the career development of individuals and thus is of key importance.

Under the given conditions, the SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls Secondary School, Nishtar Road, Garden is a ray of hope for every child who wants to get quality education for free. One and a half years ago, the school was a typical government school where stray dogs wandered in class rooms and posed a threat to students. There was no discipline or sense of education, while mismanagement was at its peak. Visitors used to describe the apathetic learning environment and infrastructure, while even teachers would not admit their children in the same school because of pitiable standards.

Luckily, Zindagi Trust in Collaboration with Book Group adopted the school and converted it into a model school that could be compared with the best private schools of the city. Some 1500 girls, mainly from poor families, are now enrolled at the SMB School.

The coalition government in Sindh also has no option but to support what they collectively termed as a successful project. In fact everyone who visited the aforesaid school did not believe that the SMB was a government school because of the improved conditions.

What is even more important at this stage is that SMB School alone cannot educate all the children who dream of and deserve to get the best education. It is the responsibility of both the Sindh Government and the City District Government Karachi to replicate the model of SMB School in all government schools in the city and the rest of Sindh. By supporting the project the government will be able to help millions of children acquire quality education, which would increase the literacy rate. Moreover, the local and provincial governments should also hire volunteers or competent teachers for managing the affairs of government schools which are following the model of the SMB School.

However, it is most unfortunate to note that some sections of society do not want the volunteers to continue. The same elements have also raised objections and expressed reservations about the aforesaid NGO for reasons best known to them. In fact, it is these elements who should be questioned as to why they are against a project that poses no obvious threat. Why don't they support people who are helping the government to improve education standards of government schools?

The adage "actions speak louder than words" will eventually prove who the real advocates of universal quality education are, and which interests are more likely to hinder progress made in this regard. -farooq.baloch@thenews.com.pk

Workshop on importance of Nutraceuticals tomorrow
Karachi: The International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) at the University of Karachi (KU) is holding a workshop titled 'HEC-British Council Workshop on Nutraceuticals' on Wednesday (tomorrow) at the ICCBS auditorium. The workshop is jointly being organised by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and British Council Pakistan.

According to an ICCBS press release that was issued on Monday, the objective of the research is to discuss the importance of functional and bioactive components in Nutraceutical foods, and to promote the production of Nutraceutical foods at industrial scale. Edible products with healing capacity are known as nutraceuticals. An important objective of the conference is to highlight the relationship between the treatment of diseases and nutraceutical foods. The bioactive constituents of many foods have been identified during evidence-based scientific studies and are used frequently in community and clinical nutrition. Such foods include turmeric, carrots, fruits/vegetables, sea foods and mushrooms.

KU Vice Chancellor Prof. Pirzada Qasim will inaugurate the workshop while Prof. Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, Coordinator General, COMSTECH and former Chairman HEC will be the guest of honour at the inaugural ceremony. The News

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Offer letters issued to 741 lecturers by mistake, SHC told
Karachi: The selection of 741 lecturers by an improperly-constituted Sindh Public Service Commission in 2006 was flawed and the offer letters were issued to them in June 2008 by mistake, the Sindh High Court was informed on behalf of the chief minister on Monday.

A rejoinder submitted by Assistant Advocate-General Adnan Karim Memon after seeking instructions said the chief minister was fully empowered to accept or reject the commission's recommendation without assigning any reason under Section 7 of the SPSC Act.

In the lecturers' case, however, the CM scrutinised the record and found many discrepancies "in result making and mark sheets". Besides, SHC Justice Faisal Arab, who conducted an inquiry into the selection of district and deputy district attorneys by the SPSC, also detected several defects in the selection procedure. The matter was discussed by the provincial cabinet and it decided that the SPSC recommendations in respect of the over 740 successful candidates should be rejected, the CM said in the statement submitted on his behalf.

The CM said the cabinet also decided to withdraw the offer letters issued by the government in June 2008 by mistake. The decision to accept the recommendations was taken by the caretaker government in Nov 2007-February 2008 without any mandate to decide long-term policy matters. The caretakers should have confined themselves to day-to-day affairs of the government and arrangements to hold free and fair elections. Accordingly, the CM said, the provincial cabinet asked the education department to withdraw the requisition made by it in 2005 and make a fresh requisition to the reconstituted SPSC. The candidates recommended earlier would be free to be reconsidered without applying afresh, the CM said.

Representing the petitioner lecturers, Advocates Shua-un-Nabi and Zamir Ghumro submitted in the petitions and in their arguments that the candidates were duly selected by a legally and validly constituted service commission. The caretakers had nothing to do with their selection. They appeared in the written and viva voce examinations in 2006 and were finally selected in 2007 after clearing police inquiry and medical test. They were not to blame if the SPSC was not properly constituted. They passed through a lengthy and cumbersome procedure to earn a vested right to employment.

The counsel said the offer letters were issued by the present government headed by the respondent chief minister in June 2008. They could not be deprived of a precious vested right on the pretext of a 'mistake'. They argued that neither the requisition and SPSC advertisement of 2005 nor their tests and interviews in 2006 nor their selection in 2007 nor the offer letters could be withdrawn. Many of the candidates might have exceeded the prescribed age-limit. The petition had not been rendered infructuous by the CM's reply, they contended.The bench put off hearing to Jan 29 to decide whether the petitioners should file a new petition to challenge the new requisition. Dawn

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