US to spend $200mn on education in Pakistan
Washington, Jan 18: The United States plans to spend $200 million this year to revamp Pakistan's deteriorating public education system as it fears that the present system has become a major barrier to the efforts to defeat militancy, a major US newspaper reported on Sunday.
American policy planners believe that the curriculum in some Pakistani schools glorifies violence in the name of religion and ignores basic history, science and mathematics, The Washington Post observed.
The $200 million education programme is the US Agency for International Development's largest worldwide, the Post said.
The idea is to improve the capacity of the country's fledgling civilian-led administration, and to promote trust between the US and Pakistan, the report said.
The money comes from the Kerry-Lugar aid bill, which was passed in late 2009 and promises Pakistan $7.5 billion in civilian assistance over the next five years.
The funds are intended to signal a substantial shift from earlier years, when US assistance to Pakistan was overwhelmingly focussed on helping the military, which is battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the NWFP.
The Post pointed out that while western officials tended to blame madressahs for their role as feeders to militant groups, Pakistani education experts believed the root of the problem was the public schools in a nation in which half of adults could not sign their own name.
The United States is hoping an infusion of cash – under the Kerry-Lugar aid package -- will begin to change that, and in the process alter the widespread perception that Washington's only interest in Pakistan is in bolstering its military.
The Post, however, warned that any effort to improve the system faced the reality of intense institutional pressure to keep the schools exactly the way they were.The report quotes education experts as saying that for different reasons, the most powerful forces in Pakistan, including the army, the religious establishment and the feudal landlords who dominate civilian politics, have worked against improving an education system that for decades has been in marked decline.
The report claimed that the nature of the education system was reflected in popular attitudes toward the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other Muslim extremist groups that in recent months had carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Pakistan, many of them targeting civilians.
Although the groups in many cases have publicly asserted responsibility for the attacks, a large percentage of the population refuses to believe that Muslims could be responsible for such horrific crimes, choosing to believe that India, Israel or the United States is behind the violence.
The Post also noted that while madressahs multiplied in Pakistan as public education deteriorated. But madressahs still educate only about 1.5 million students a year, compared with more than 20 million in public schools.
The newspaper recommended that "if Pakistan is to improve its dismal literacy rate and provide marketable skills to more of the estimated 90 million Pakistanis under the age of 18, it will have to start in the public schools".
Under the proposed $200 million programme, the US is suggesting a combination of reforms, including infrastructure improvements, teacher training and updates to the curriculum. Unlike in past years, the money will not be filtered through non-governmental organisations and contractors but will be given directly to Pakistan's government.
"Pakistan's current spending on education -- less than 3 per cent of its budget -- is anaemic, and far lower on a relative basis than in India or even Bangladesh. Much of it never reaches students," the Post observed.
The report pointed out that Pakistan's public education system included thousands of "ghost schools", which existed on paper only and yet received state funding.
Those schools that do operate lack basic facilities -- a 2006 government study found that more than half do not have electricity and 40 per cent have no bathrooms. About a third of students drop out by the fifth grade. Teachers, meanwhile, earn as little as $50 a month, less in many cases than that of a domestic servant. The low pay mirrored teachers' perceived value in Pakistani society, the report added.
Pervez Hoodbhoy, a noted nuclear physicist at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University and a long time proponent of education reform, told the Post that Pakistan needed something more fundamental.
"I don't think it's a matter of money. The more you throw at the system, the faster it leaks out," he said. "There has to be a desire to improve. The US can't create that desire. When Pakistanis feel they need a different kind of education system, that's when it will improve." DawnYour Comments
World level student assessment by year 2015
Islamabad: Ministry of Education envisages offering Pakistani students for international level academic assessments by 2015, making them participate in mathematics and science assessments, conducted under the umbrella of Trends in International Mathematics & Science Study (TIMSS).
TIMSS is one of the assessment systems and acts as a quality measure that caters to a number of requirements of the education system. The assessment of students can be used to measure the overall system efficiency as well as individual students' performance for movement in the education system.
Officials in the Education Ministry say that the recent work of the National Education Assessment System and Punjab Examination Commission will be continued and furthered in reforming the system across the country.
To encourage analytical thinking in the assessment mechanism, student performance will be based on assessing competence in a specialised area that requires a given skill set. There will be periodic reviews of the assessment system, officials said.
A comprehensive assessment design would provide feedback for improvements at all tiers, starting from changes in the classroom to improvements in the national systems.
The current assessment system has several deficiencies, which is a hurdle in promoting quality education. One of the bad outcomes is the practice of rote learning, which stops the mental growth of the child and blocks innovative learning. Concerted efforts are needed to inculcate critical and analytical thinking skills for producing lifelong independent learners.
The new education policy sets the target to make the education system internationally competitive. According to the policy, multiple assessment tools in addition to traditional examinations will be explored to ensure the right balance between the uses of formative assessment approaches combined with the summative approach of high-stakes examinations.
National standards will be developed to reduce the differences in quality across regions. Assessment processes will be standardised and made uniform across the boards over time, so that students appearing in examinations under different boards are assessed against standardised benchmarks.
Preparing for exams without electricity
Islamabad: The capital residents, especially students preparing for examinations, complain of unscheduled suspension of electric supply over the last one week.
Most of such complaints come in from E-11, F-10, F-11, G-10, G-7, G-6 and G-11. Lalarukh Farooq, a local university's student said on Sunday that electric supply remained suspended for long hours without schedule badly affecting her studies. She said load shedding inconvenienced much the students whose examinations were imminent.
She also criticised Power Minister Pervaiz Ashraf for setting one deadline after another for end to load shedding.
Some students complained they had to wait for long hours for having prints of documents at Photostat shops due to unscheduled suspension of electric supply. Kamran, who owns a Photostat shop in G-6, said he had three copying machines but was unable to deliver orders on time due to hours long load shedding. He confirmed frequent power cuts had really stressed out students preparing for imminent examinations.
He also complained of bad business during this 'season of examinations' and feared things would deteriorate if smooth electric supply continued any longer. An F-10 shopkeeper made a similar complaint. He said his business was running into losses due to load shedding for long hours. Women earning livelihood by stitching clothes on electric sewing machines are also badly hit by load shedding.
One such woman, Mehak, said frequent power outages had made her work quite cumbersome. When contacted, Mohsin Gilani, a senior IESCO official, said the electric supply company had been strictly following the load shedding schedule. He claimed cold weather and fog prompted unscheduled load shedding, especially during nighttime.
He said electric supply to the city's each sector was suspended for five to six hours a day. "The load shedding duration will decrease by the end of January," the official claimed.
NUML 2nd convocation
Islamabad: The National University of Modern Languages (NUML) students are upset over long delay in the holding of the university's second convocation.
The convocation was originally scheduled for September last year but delayed on security grounds.
Later, the university management announced to hold the event in November but was again put off for an indefinite period citing delicate law and order situation in the city.
The varsity management says the event will be held soon after security situation in the city improves.
Students, who are to be awarded degrees in the convocation, say the university has charged Rs 2,000 each from them. They demand early holding of the convocation or refund of the fees charged from them. Daily times
Cultural exchange programmes
Islamabad: The Pakistan-India cultural exchange programmes would have a positive impact on the education sector of the country while the campaign 'Aman ki Asha' could play a significant role in promoting these programmes.
Vice Chancellor Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Professor Qasim Jan said this while giving an exclusive interview. According to him, peaceful relations between Pakistan and India would encourage collaboration in the education sector and help to learn from the experiences of the Indians, as they are far ahead than us in this field.
"The Indian government realised the importance of education long ago and emphasised on science and technology, which our government ignored. Our students can learn a lot from them if scholarships are granted from Indian universities," he said.
He said the strained relationship between the two countries culminated in nothing but three wars, which each time increased the defence budget for arms building, hence, the social sectors were ever ignored. "A peaceful relationship means more allocation for social sectors including education, which is inevitable for the country's progress," he asserted.
Qasim maintained that at the time of partition, Pakistan only had two major universities - Punjab University and Sindh University - while now, there are more than 130 universities across the country, but it is really not enough if we compare it to the level of development in India's education sector.
"There are three main factors due to which India managed to exceed in the field of education - Indian resources, continuity of governance and stable policies - and our country is lagging behind in all three," he said adding that it is time to learn from the positive experiences of our neighbouring country, especially in the education sector.
He said the overemphasis on education has lead India to gain excellence in science and technology, which helped in the development of their industrial sector. "Using their expertise in science and technology, Indians are minting money despite the fact that they have nothing worthy to export," he said.
Qasim said there are two major issues that are the main reasons behind the conflict between both the countries - 'Kashmir issue' and 'water issue'. "The need is to draw consensus in such a way that people of either country do not feel left out. There has to be give and take in order to resolve the issues on a permanent basis," he added.
He said no other country could influence or facilitate the peace process between Pakistan and India, so they should not rely on any one except for bilateral dialogue. "The population of the subcontinent comprises 20 per cent of the world population and if they get united and collaborate in various field, it will result in a win-win situation," he said.
Qasim said that peaceful relations could have a very fruitful impact over the economy of both the countries, as they don't have to pay extra money to import goods from far off places. Similarly, they could benefit from each other's experiences in research, agriculture and industry.
"It is indeed commendable that 'Jang Group' and 'Times of India' has taken the initiative, which is truly a depiction of people's aspirations," he said and added that this thrilling initiative has stirred the people of both the nations, who want bilateral peace.
"There should be continuity in the process and the need is to raise the amount of discussion and debate over the issue in order to make the decision makers realise the importance of peaceful relations for the progress and stability of both the countries," he said.
Grants for special schools
Rawalpindi: Principal Hassan Academy for Special Children Dr Ahmad Hassan has appealed to the government to patronise the educational institutions for physically and hearing impaired children, being run by the private sector, and allocate special grants for them.
Talking to teachers and parents at a monthly meeting of Hassan Academy of Special Children, he said the financial assistance from the government would help these institutions to educate the special children in a better way.
He said the physically and hearing impaired children at his institution are being imparted education in a conducive and friendly environment.
Dr Ahmed Hassan said as many as 200 special children are getting education along with normal children at his academy, which is demonstrating best performance within very limited sources. The news
Post your comments