Goals of education changing over different eras
Jan 04: "Without a narrative, life has no meaning. Without meaning, learning has no purpose. Without a purpose, schools are houses of detention, not attention." - Neil Postman.
The goals of education have been changing over different eras. These inform, shape and guide the curriculum, the assessment system, learning processes and pedagogical techniques. It is this reason for education which Postman considers as the narrative. These narratives keep on changing with social, political, cultural and economic trends.
Currently we are living in the narrative of neo-liberalism. The desire for financial gains is the essence and soul of this narrative. These financial gains justify their means as there is not much talk of values and ethics in this narrative. The maximisation of profit in itself becomes an inspiring value. The slogan of quality is used to sell the product of education. The notion of quality, in this paradigm, however, is confined to measurable aspects of efficiency and productivity.
Recently there has been a lot of rhetoric to improve the quality of education in Pakistan but most efforts have hinged on the physical, measurable change as it is easy to bring about such a change and convenient to demonstrate it. The problem, however, with this kind of change is that it focuses only on the quantitative aspects and numbers tend to dominate more than individuals.
The school management believes in and encourages a machine-like, automated system of teaching and learning as it is handy to monitor, convenient to document, easy to evaluate and suitable to serve the interests of the management based on a hegemonic paradigm where there is little room for the in dividual freedoms of teachers, for personal initiative, out-of-the-box thinking, reflective stance and creative space.
Thus the goal of education has been confined to produce mono-cultural minds, possessing a robotic thinking, acting in a mechanical manner, demonstrating efficiency and productivity by moving in set grooves and approving unequal social relations dictated by the powerful groups of society.
Postman in his provocative book, The End of Education, laments the state of schools at large. Schools, being an important source of the socialisation process are unable to construct their own narrative or reason. In most cases the schools help approve, certify, validate and perpetuate the powerful narrative or ideology of society's powerful social groups. In contemporary times it is the ideology of neo-liberalism, based on the maximisation of profit, that is acting as a driving force in our educational system and in turn being justified by the existing educational system. This mutual relationship of convenience flourishes through privatisation of education and making the latter into a commodity.
It is true that the role of schools as a constituent of social reality has been constrained and curtailed with the emergence of a powerful media, popularising the ideology of consumerism, but even the little space for movement that remains with schools is not being exploited in a creative manner. The reason is the overemphasis on the development of piecemeal skills assessed through a discreet point-testing system depending heavily on objective-type questions. This kind of assessment is popular for a number of reasons including its so-called objectivity and easy-to-mark tests.
Such tests can be easily marked with the help of computers in a very short time. The problem, however, with such a testing system is that its scores do not reflect the competence and ability to critically reflect and apply knowledge in a new situation.
Such a point assessment system that encourages recall and memory has a direct impact on teaching and learning interaction in the classroom. In such a system where competence and efficiency are measured through a recall-based assessment system, the teacher is encouraged to teach with the sole objective of facilitating the students to get better grades. The vicious circle of recall-based assessment, transmission-oriented pedagogy and mono-cultural efficiency of students goes on to carry forward existing power structures and amplify and perpetuate socially constructed stereotypes.
How can a school be empowered to construct a reason for education? The answer lies in breaking the vicious circle and entering the benign one of assessment, critical pedagogy and intellectual pluralism. This may appear to be a straightforward task but in reality is highly complex and cannot be realised through quick fixes. Such quick-fix initiatives were taken in the past and assumed the form of crash courses for teacher training, widely publicised by political governments to enhance their images as they showed an inflated number of 'trained teachers'.
Similarly tinkering with the curriculum is another convenient activity for all governments. The key to empowerment is a holistic approach to change. Assessment, pedagogy and teaching materials should be revisited simultaneously. It is this holistic change which would create space for teachers' individual freedom and creativity and lead to a more meaningful teaching-learning process necessary for producing thinking citizens. It is in such a milieu that schools can explore alternative reasons for education.
The writer is director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics and the author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.
Sacked teachers want KC records sealed
Lahore: Teachers sacked by Kinnaird College (KC) on Sunday demanded that the Punjab government seal college records until the completion of an investigation into college affairs, out of fear that Principal Dr Bernadette Louise and Registrar Dr Naima Khursheed might tamper with files.
The seven faculty members said that the principal and the registrar both likely to be among the focal points of the government investigation and who have access to all the records must be stopped from working until the completion of the impartial inquiry. They demanded that the government confiscate the college records including the details of finance.
They claimed that according to rules, the principal should not be overseeing college affairs until the inquiry had been completed, but she along with the registrar and KC Finance Manger Muhammad Iqbal was still maintaining records.
A faculty member the authorities must consider the "sensitivity of the matter" and immediately stop the principal from working.
Meanwhile, students, faculty members and employees have planned a protest inside the campus when classes resume today (Monday). The sacked faculty members have alleged that the principal is trying to portray that "all is well" in front those likely to conduct the inquiry into reported irregularities by Dr Bernadette Louise and Naima.
The principal sacked the seven teachers on December 23 for protesting against the appointment of the college's first-ever registrar, Naima without consulting the Punjab government. The Lahore High Court has already stayed the sacking of four of the teachers, and directed the KC principal and the Punjab higher education secretary to file comments by January 8.
Other faculty members, students and the Old Association of Kinnaird Students (OAKS), have branded the sackings "a dictatorial decision".
According to sources, the government inquiry is likely to begin this week, and a report would be filed with the Punjab chief minister.
The sources said that a tribunal would look into allegations levelled against Dr Bernadette Louise and Naima, whose appointment recently sparked protests within KC. The tribunal would also look into Naima's role in the administration, the examination system, the principal's alleged discriminatory attitude, the sacking of the teachers and repatriation of four senior teachers to the Punjab government.
The sources said the inquiry would focus on six major allegations including financial irregularities in admissions conducted in 2009 against the principal and the registrar.
A faculty member said faculty members hired by the principal had not been offered the same salary packages, which "is a violation of rules". Daily times
Danish schools establishment, trees in danger
Lahore: If current proposals are anything to go by then the Punjab government's Danish School System will wipe out thousands of trees located in forests that enjoy the official status of 'reserve' i.e. land that cannot be used for anything other than plantation.
At least three of the proposed Danish schools are being planned in the reserve forests of Chichawatni in district Sahiwal, Kharian in district Gujrat and Takht Parri in district Rawalpindi.
To clear the proposed 150 acres of land for just one school will mean the elimination of 46,000 trees. Media reports suggest that a much-needed amendment in forestry laws is not going through because it will hinder the setting up of schools in forests by making it illegal to use 'reserve' land for any purpose other than planting trees.
If nothing else, this will give Danish schools a negative image even before they start to function.
To save its latest educational initiative from controversy and allow it to start and run smoothly, the Punjab government would do well to keep it away from the forests. Forest reserves are by no means the only places left in the province where the schools can be set up.
But it is not for the sake of the Danish schools alone that forested land deserves to be spared the axe. The need for trees in a climatically stressed and environmentally vulnerable country like Pakistan cannot be overstated.
Already too many forest areas have disappeared in the country to allow any more green patches to disappear.
Danish schools should not become the enemies of the conventional wisdom, re-emphasised during the recent global summit on climate change, that forests are the lungs of the earth.
Squeezing the lungs to create room for expanding the minds of future generations can hardly be called a wise move. Dawn
IT labs in schools
Lahore: Punjab Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has said that illiteracy and ignorance will have to be eliminated for rapid development by promoting education throughout the province. Due to importance of the education, Punjab government has made promotion of education its top priority. Young generation is custodian of our future and revolutionary steps have been taken for equipping them with modern knowledge.
He was presiding over a high level meeting held to review the implementation of various development projects particularly improvement of education sector in the province, here on Sunday. Chief Secretary, Inspector General of Police, Commissioner Lahore Division and concerned senior officers attended the meeting.
Chief Minister said that foundation of revolution has been laid in education sector by completing the historical project of IT labs in high schools of the province in record time and now the scope of this technology has to be extended at primary level. He said that besides promotion of quality education and information technology, the project of Danish Schools will be completed speedily and this project will prove to be a milestone in education sector.
He said the project of Danish Schools would play an effective role for providing education to the poor students of far flung and backward areas and improvement of education sector.
He said that those modern educational facilities would be available to hundreds of poor students of these areas at their door-step which were available to the elite at prestigious institution of any big city of the province.
He further said quality education would be provided in Danish Schools and this project had been started form Bahawalpur Division in Southern Punjab.
He said that the process of granting scholarships to those talented students who were facing financial constraints has been started from Punjab Educational Endowment Fund and now any talented student of the province will not leave study due to lack of resources.
He said that holding of speech and essay-writing competitions had been made permanent part of educational policy for polishing the mental abilities of the students.
Shahbaz said that now these competitions are being held regularly throughout the province and prizes worth tens of millions of rupees are being given to the position-holders. He said that the position-holder students were sent on study tours to UK, Germany and Iran.
He said that these study tours had not only enhanced confidence among the students but also promoted the trend of competition by visiting prestigious institutions of these countries. The nation
LUMS conference 2009
Lahore: The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Model United Nations (MUN) 2009, which commenced on December 30 and ended yesterday on January 3, marked the sixth anniversary of the conference.
The conference themed "Let us not Fight" brought together students of various age groups and educational institutions from across Pakistan to a common platform 'a world where dialogue is the only weapon'.
The conference began with a traditional opening ceremony where Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri was the chief guest. While addressing the gathering Kasuri highlighted the importance of Pakistan's role in United Nations diplomacy.
"LUMUN has become a sort of platform for the youth of Pakistan which aims to inculcate the spirit of reconciliation and the desire for peaceful dialogue," said Bilal Qadir, head of the LUMUN '09 host team.
All the delegates thronged the campus lawns to set up stalls for the countries allocated to them as the Global Village kicked off. This event was full of colour as all delegates downed the traditional outfits of their respective countries.
The Kuwait delegation won the best delegation award with Switzerland bagging the award for best food and Egypt going home with the award for best costume.
The second day of the conference started the actual MUN-ing as the committee sessions geared up. With two to three committee sessions every day, it was a big task for the young diplomats.
The committees that were in order included DISEC, HGA, IAEA, ILO, UNSC, SOCHUM, SPECPOL, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR, UNIFEM, WHO, WTO, Middle-East multi-lateral Summit (MEMS), and the Indus-Water Committee.
The LUMUN Social Events Team arranged a series of social events to provide some entertainment for the delegates who had worked hard for the conference.
There was a much-awaited New Year's concert, 'Please don't stop the music' with Call the band headlining. Then there was a magical night, which was titled 'the show must go on' where Lahore Grammar School 55-Main staged "Saligia", LUMS' Dramaline performed "Global Village" and a play "Bhoot Manzil" was performed by the National College of Arts (NCA). A formal dinner "A Tale of Two Cultures" was arranged for the fourth night.
Under the Social Responsibility Programme (SRP), underprivileged children from public schools were invited for an art competition. The E1 Grand Prix event aimed at creating awareness about a pollution-free environment and the importance of bicycles.
The MUN came to an end on January 3 as all the committees passed resolutions and debates were closed. LUMUN 2009 formally came to an end with a closing ceremony where awards and shields were handed out to various delegates from all the committees, with Karachi Grammar School bagging 8 Best Diplomacy awards and consequently winning the Best Delegation award.
"LUMUN 2009 has been a revolution of sorts. It has been a miracle that all of you have gathered here amidst the uncertainties that surround Pakistan today. You all know what is happening in Lahore, what is happening in Pakistan.
Yet all of you have come here and made it the best LUMUN ever. You have come here and solved your issues with the power of words," Bilal Qadir said while addressing the closing ceremony. Daily times
Medical colleges setup
Lahore: Punjab Minister for Population Welfare Neelam Jabbar Ch said that work has been started for setting up four medical colleges in the province said a DGPR handout.
Talking to various delegations at her residence, she said that model emergency wards would be set up in 10 district hospitals of the province where MRI and CT scan facilities would also be available for the patients. Neelam Jabbar Ch said that rural and basic health centres were being upgraded and free medicines to the patients were being provided at DHQs and THQs. She said Rs 6.5 billion had been allocated for this purpose.
She further said that health budget had been raised and additional resources have been provided to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She said focus was on protecting the health of people through strengthening Primary Health Care & Disease Preventive Programmes.
"Huge funds have been allocated for water supply and sanitation schemes as supply of safe water is of key importance for saving the people from viral diseases ", she concluded. The news
Post your comments