Graduate-level science education on the decline
Karachi, Jan 25: Graduate-level science education in Karachi's colleges is facing major issues, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, according to statistics and data gathered by this reporter.
Numbers of senior teachers at major public sector colleges specifically held the Sindh government responsible for the state of affairs as, according to them, the academic situation was comparatively good in Punjab.
They claimed that a lack of interest in pursuing higher science education has caused a serious shortage of competent teachers of the basic sciences, and warned that if corrective measures were not taken soon, the situation would only deteriorate further and begin to affect institutions of higher learning and research.
According to University of Karachi figures, enrolment in the Bachelor of Science (BSc) programmes of colleges affiliated with the university has dropped by 28.29 per cent in the last decade. From 2,870 students in the BSc programmes in 2000-01, the figure fell to 2,058 in 2008-09. Older data is unavailable, according to the KU, as the university has only been gathering computerised data on enrolment since 2000.
While numbers in the sciences are dropping, enrolment in the Bachelor's of Commerce (BCom) programme has increased by 91.28 per cent in the last decade, rising from 8,398 in 2000-01 to 16,064 in 2008-09.
College teachers, however, believe that the 28 per cent drop in BSc enrolment is not indicative of the "actual change" that has taken place in student preferences over the years, with some claiming that actual enrolment has dropped by almost half in these programmes.
"In my opinion, there has been a sharp decline in enrolment to graduate level science programmes, perhaps by almost 50 to 60 per cent in 20 to 30 years. There used to be 100 to 150 students in each year of the Bachelor's programme at government colleges two decades ago. Today, there are government-run degree colleges where the total number of students in each session of the Bachelor's programme is not more than 8 to 10," said Dr Mohammad Arshad, a veteran teacher who has been at the DJ Sindh Government Science College for 30 years.
Dr Arshad believes that the massive drop in graduate-level science education is significant, considering the fact that the enrolment to primary- and secondary-level education has increased, as has the population, over the years.
"It is solely financial needs and a hope for a better future that are driving more and more students towards commerce education. Earlier, it was computer studies. That trend stopped after the field reached saturation point. The trend towards commerce will also change after some time," he said.
Dr Arshad's viewpoint was seconded by a number of teachers said. These included Prof Dr Nasir Ansar, Principal of the Adamjee Govt Science College, Prof Saeed-uz-Zafar Khan, Principal of the Govt College for Boys, North Karachi, Prof Iftekhar Mohammad Azami and Prof Syed Rizwan Haider of the DJ Sindh Govt Science College, Prof Dr Khursheed Bano of Khursheed Govt Girls College and Prof Rizwan Hairi of Pakistan Shipowners' College.
Commenting on the state of affairs, these teachers said that the few who were choosing higher science education were those who were forced to do so.
"They are disheartened and dejected. As a result, their performance is poorer even than an intermediate student's," remarks Dr Ansar.
Poor infrastructure, lack of jobs to blame
Pointing out the reasons for the lack of student interest in pursuing science education, Dr Nasiruddin Khan, the head of the centralised science laboratory at the KU, said the reasons were rooted in the poor infrastructure of primary, secondary and higher secondary education, obsolete syllabi and the lack of better job opportunities in science subjects.
"The initial years of a child's development are very significant. This is the time when you create an interest in a specific field. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to formulate any plan for the country's human resource needs," he said.
Though the decline of interest in science subjects "is a global phenomenon", it also has to do with "official apathy" in Pakistan's context, he said.
Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, the dean of science at the KU, finds cause for concern in the current education trends, and feels there is a need for investment in science education, as well as for a job market to exist for graduates from science programmes.
"We can't think of development without attaining excellence in basic sciences. A strong foundation in basic sciences helps in building expertise in technology, boosts economic growth and, consequently, improves living standards. To achieve that, we need to invest in education at all levels. And this can be done by the government alone." DawnYour Comments
KU announces BS exam forms date
Karachi: The Controller of Examinations, University of Karachi has announced that examination forms and fees of BS Physiotherapy 2nd Year (Batch 2008) and BS Physiotherapy 3rd Year (Batch 2007) will be accepted at their respective colleges till February 3 with total fees of Rs4,950.
Forms with Rs4,050 fee for BS Physiotherapy First and Fourth Year Examination could be submitted by February 3. The forms for second and third years BS Physiotherapy exam could also be submitted with Rs4,590 fee by February 3.
Later, An aptitude test for admission in MS/PhD and MD in various departments was held, which was attended by more than 2,500 candidates.
Dean Faculty of Science Prof. Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, Dean Faculty of Arts Prof. Saleem Memon, Dean Faculty of Management Sciences Prof. Abuzar Wajidi, Dean Faculty of Pharmacy Prof. Dr Waseemuddin and Dean Faculty of Medicine Prof. Dr Sadia Kareem supervised the test.
Registrar Prof. M Rais Alvi visited the test centres. The KU also allowed those doctors to appear in the test whose registration expired three months ago. Results will be issued on the official website of KU www.uok.edu.pk.
It is important to mention that candidates are required to score at least 50 per cent marks to pass the test. The news
KU plagiarism inquiry
Karachi: The Karachi University syndicate seems to have decided not to press ahead with the proposed inquiry into two plagiarism cases on the grounds that the teachers concerned have retired.
It, however, decided to appoint an inquiry officer for a third case. A meeting of the KU syndicate held on Saturday decided that the inquiry officer to be appointed in the plagiarism case of Prof (Dr) Jalaluddin Ahmed Noori, the dean of the Islamic Studies, would initiate proper proceedings against him. Prof Noori's services had been suspended a few months ago with two other teachers.
The decision to appoint an inquiry officer was taken on the advice of the university's legal officer during the syndicate meeting.
The two other cases that pertained to chairman of the chemistry department Prof (Dr) Saeed Arayne and former dean of pharmacy Prof Dr Najma Sultana (wife of Dr Arayne) were not taken up on the grounds that both teachers had since retired and their cases were no longer under the purview of the university.
Referring to the university code, a syndicate member said that the earlier inquiries were part of a fact-finding effort to determine plagiarism and the inquiry officer to be appointed now would initiate proper proceedings against Dr Noori.
"The inquiry officer would only investigate Dr Noori's case since Dr Arayne and Dr Sultana have retired. Disciplinary action could be taken on the report of an inquiry officer and in this case such an action could be taken only against Dr Noori, who is still in service," he said.
Though it seems that the university has decided not to take disciplinary action against the two retired teachers, it had been established twice earlier that both of them had committed plagiarism of serious nature. A KU internal committee had described the level of plagiarism as 'major' and stated that "there is evidence of several other cases of plagiarism by Dr Arayne".
The report prepared by retired justice Saleem Akhtar, who investigated their case on a KU request, also made similar comments. Dawn
Will the BBMC ever see the light of day?
Karachi: The ambitious Benazir Bhutto Medical College (BBMC) project, the construction of which began in December last year, is still waiting to be recognised by the Pakistan Medical Dental Council (PMDC), a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.
As such, faculty and other staff members cannot be hired without accreditation from the PMDC. The official said that nothing was done even after the Sindh chief secretary was alerted to this fact, and there are fears about the project being shelved.
Sindh Chief Secretary Fazal Ur Rehman, however, refuted all claims regarding the project being shelved. He said that the recruitment of faculty and staff members had begun; the project was complete; and will be inaugurated on January 27 by President Asif Ali Zardari.
Rehman added that the inauguration had been postponed due to some prior commitments of the president, and that, all issues will be dealt after the college is inaugurated.
"One wonders how applicants are being recruited without a selection board to test and interview them," Sher Mohammed Raees, an active member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), said. "The registration of students, appointment of the faculty and most importantly, a selection board, are some of the vital things that need to be thought about before the college is inaugurated, not after."
Apparently, classes at the medical college were supposed to begin in the first week of January, Lyari Town Nazim Mahmood Hashim said. At present, however, the location of the medical college is the main hurdle. "The building where the medical college is being started was previously the Ayaz Sammo Nursing School. The structure is small, and not suitable for a medical college, because the latter needs laboratories and space for equipment," he said.
Apart from this, the old building has warehouses whose tenants refuse to leave. "Some of them have a lease till 2036 and therefore cannot be asked to leave the place. Some leases, however, expired as far back as 1995; these warehouses are being used illegally," he said.
The PPP government announced a Rs930 million development project for Lyari earlier in 2009, under which the BBMC and a cardiac ward at the Lyari General Hospital were to be established and later inaugurated by President Asif Ali Zardari. Since its inception, however, the medical college has been facing one problem after another. To start with, the date of the inauguration has been changed thrice, adding to the worries of the administration involved with the project. Linked to the starting of the project is the law-and-order situation in Lyari which keeps hampering the construction process, "which is proceeding on a snail's pace anyways," Raees said.
Moreover, with Sindh Health Secretary Hashim Raza Zaidi removed from his post in a continuous reshuffling in the government, Raees hopes that the construction and development of Lyari tops the priority list of the newly-designated secretary. The news
SSUET teacher training
Karachi: The Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), which has been granted 'W' category by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), has established a quality enhancement cell to ensure high standards and quality of its educational process. The establishment of this cell is mandatory under the provisions of the HEC for 'W' category institutions.
The category also makes it mandatory to carry out training of teachers to keep them updated about the latest advances and techniques. Under the cell, the university has started a teacher's training programme with the objective to monitor the quality aspect and overcome weak areas.
Faculty of Engineering Dean Prof Dr SM Makhdoomi inaugurated a two-month training programme at the university and said a research-oriented faculty and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art facilities are the basic requirements for judging the status of a university. Makhdoomi said that with the growth of a knowledge-based society, it is imperative for all of us in the teaching profession to acquire latest knowledge and the trends in imparting education.
He pointed out that SSUET understands the need to acquire and dispense knowledge on modern lines. In the programme's first phase, 30 teachers have been nominated and a prestigious training organisation would conduct the training. APP
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