Use of mobile phones in schools
Lahore, Jan 06: Just a few days ago, the Punjab Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution banning the use of mobile phones in schools and colleges without arguing for a minute on this serious issue that has otherwise ignited heated debates across the planet if these devices really interfered with the teaching and learning processes in classes and if the radiation they emitted actually carried any potent health risks.
While countries like United Kingdom, United States, India, Germany, Russia, France and Austria etc have seen diverse opinions surfacing on this subject during the last few years, one doesn't of course expect from the rather 'highly literate' Pakistani legislators, whose own educational qualifications are challenged every now and then, to discuss the health-related consequences of mobile phones for students.
In fact, it might just be very naive on part of the Pakistani public to pin hopes on their representatives sitting in legislative houses to even ponder if the electromagnetic radiation released by these wireless devices really caused cancers and affected the developing brains.
But what the Punjab law-makers could at least have done, for which they did not have to be Harvard graduates, was to deliberate on more general aspects as to how these devices were distracting the teaching/learning processes in schools, to what extent was this technology really beneficial for students and how effective could the slapped ban in this context be.
A research conducted by The News International shows that although an over-whelming number of schools across the world have limited the use of mobile phones and have set up restrictions on the use of these devices as they were surely been used for cheating in exams, bullying, harassment, facilitating gossip and other social activity on the campus and causing threats to the schools security, pupils continue to trick and outwit their tutors in every nook and corner of Earth-making it a huge universal issue.
Talking about India first, the Central Board of Secondary Education in India had banned use of cell phones in schools controlled by it on July 29, 2009, saying students would have to learn to live without the omnipresent handset for as long as they were on campuses.
(Reference: The Times of India edition of August 3, 2009)
The Central Board of Secondary Education in India circular had stated that mobile phones were a major distraction and, at times, even misused.
It had specifically mentioned the devices with in-built cameras, apprehending such phones could also be misused.
However, no penalty was imposed or recommended if a student or a teacher was caught with one on campus.
"The Times of India" had quoted the Principal of Ahmedabad's Calorx Public School as saying: "Mobile phones in schools have more drawbacks than advantages. Even if mobiles are in a silent mode, students can make use for SMS during class."
The Delhi Public School Principal, Sunil Trivedi, had chipped in saying, "We had banned mobiles long ago, but we will ensure even more stringent adherence with this circular. We even have emergency help-lines for students in our admin offices."
Interestingly, "The Indian Express" (September 4, 2011 edition) had carried a story from Chandigarh dateline, which said that with mobile phones emerging as a prime cause of distraction among students, city schools were devising various techniques ranging from imposing fines to counseling the students as well as their parents in a bid to discourage the on-campus use of these devices.
The afore-cited "Indian Express" edition had gone on to write, "Despite having prohibited the students from bringing mobile phones to schools, most of these institutions have been catching more than five students with mobiles during every surprise check. The authorities also state that the problem is more specific to the senior section. Parents permit their children to carry phones so that they can know the well-being of their child when he is away. But for children, mobile phones are totally about exchanging instant messages, clicking pictures and using other multimedia features. While they are in school, they need to concentrate on teaching and other useful activities. But their addiction to the mobile features robs their attention from productive work."
In August 2009, all Indian schools in Qatar had also banned pupils from using mobile phones on their campuses and teaching officials across the Gulf state's Indian schools had welcomed the ban.
In United States, more than 100 students were suspended in March 2010 at the Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, Connecticut State, for using cell phones.
According to the Microsoft and the National Broadcasting Company (MSNBC), an NBC News family cable news channel based in the United States and also available in Germany, South Africa, the Middle East and Canada, the 100 suspended pupils weren't bullying, cheating and were not even caught smoking in the bathrooms.
This MSNBC report dated March 2010 had gone on to write: "The school's total ban is at one extreme of a debate under way in schools across the country. As ever more powerful cell phones come closer to mimicking the laptop computers many pupils carry each day, teachers and administrators are wrestling with whether their utility as a teaching tool outweighs the disruptions they can pose in the classroom. Pupils can now use their phones during lunch, and, what is more significant, teachers have the discretion to allow them in class, even working them into lessons."
The afore-cited report had stated that more than 70 per cent of American high school students carried a cell phone, sending about 440 text messages a week, a quarter of those - more than 100 every week - while in class.
Publishing results of some reputed surveys, MSNBC had stated: "About a third of high school students admit having used cell phones to cheat in class. About 52 per cent say they know students who store information on their phones to use during quizzes. Some 57 per cent say they know students who text friends for answers during quizzes. Similarly, 41 percent say they know students who have taken pictures of quizzes to send to their friends and 45 per cent say they know students who search the Web on their phones for answers during quizzes."
The United Kingdom has also done a few experiments about banning cell phones in schools.
In 2009, there were reports that most pupils across Britain used mobile phones in school despite the blanket ban.
The report, carried out by the Cranfield School of Management in Bedford, said the increasing amount of unofficial use of the internet and mobile phones in schools had undermined the capacity for independent study, leading to poor grammar.
The report revealed that six in 10 UK school children were found to have copied information from websites without properly reading it.
The research showed that technology obsession hindered spelling skills, implicitly encouraged plagiarism and classroom learning was eventually disrupted.
Other studies in UK have found that almost half of teachers could not understand written work by some students because they used text shortcuts.
"The Daily Mail" (October 14, 2009 edition) wrote: "A secondary school is to be the first in the country to let pupils use mobile phones as a learning tool. MP3 players such as iPods and gaming platforms will also be allowed into the classroom at Notre Dame High School in Sheffield. Senior staff believes the versatile devices should be regarded as small computers for schools to use without extra cost, instead of banning them as most schools do."
The Cellular Phone Task Force, US-based nonprofit organization dedicated since 1996 to halting the expansion of wireless technology and providing information about the injurious effects of mobile phones has carried the following information on its website:
"In the year 2000, the UK Department of Education had recommended that children under 16 should not use cell phones except in an emergency. In 2002, the Interdisciplinary Society for Environmental Medicine (3000 physicians in Germany) had proposed banning cell phone use by children and banning cell phones and cordless phones in preschools, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, events halls, public buildings and vehicles.
In 2005, Austria's Public Health Department had banned cell phones in public schools and in August 2005, the Austrian Medical Association had warned against Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and cell phone use by children."
The Cellular Phone Task Force website has stated: "In 2006, Germany's government had stated it would not install WiFi in its schools until it had been shown to be harmless.
In 2006, a few Irish and British schools had removed their wireless networks. In 2007, the German Parliament had recommended against installing Wi-Fi in schools. In 2008, Ontario (Canada)'s Lakehead University had banned Wi-Fi on its campus. In 2008, schools in Madhya Pradesh (India) had barred use of cell phones in schools. It was again in 2008 that the National Library of France and other public libraries had removed Wi-Fi connections because of health concerns. The Sainte-Genevieve University of Paris had also followed suit."
The website reveals further," In 2008, the Russian National Committee for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection had warned that cell phones were unsafe even for short conversations, proposing that children under 16, pregnant women, epileptics and people with memory loss, sleep disorders and neurological diseases should never use them. In 2008, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute said children should never use a cell phone except in an emergency and Voice (the UK Teachers Union) had called for a ban on Wi-Fi in schools same year. In 2009, all schools in Karnataka State (India) had decided to ban cell phones in all schools."
The Cellular Phone Task Force website further says," In December 2010, the French parliament passed a law prohibiting advertising cell phones to children under 14. The law prohibited children up to age of 14 from using cell phones in pre-schools and public schools. On August 30, 2011, the Israeli ministry of education published guidelines strictly limiting the use of mobile phones on all school grounds, citing increased risk of malignant tumors for students and the "passive exposure" experienced by kids who did not use phones."
In May 2011, the 47-member Council of European States had urged to ban mobile phones and wireless networks in schools. (Reference: Daily Telegraph edition of May 14, 2011)
"The Daily Telegraph" said that in opinion of this powerful European body, mobile phones and computers with wireless internet connections posed a risk to human health and should hence be banned from schools.
The esteemed British newspaper had written in its afore-cited edition: "Fears have been raised that electromagnetic radiation emitted by wireless devices can cause cancers and affect the developing brain. The findings were seized on by campaigners who oppose the spread of wireless devices. The conclusions contradict advice from the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health, which says exposure to electromagnetic fields poses little or no risk to human health."
Talking about a few vital statistics regarding mobile phones, in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions had grown from 12.4 million to over 4.6 billion, penetrating the developing economies and reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid. (References: Associated Press and CBS News reports of February 15, 2010).
The world's largest individual mobile operator by subscribers is China Mobile with over 500 million mobile phone subscribers and over 50 mobile operators have over 10 million subscribers each. (Reference: The Guardian edition of January 11, 2010).
Over 150 mobile operators around the world had at least one million subscribers by the end of 2009.
As far as Pakistan's standing among countries with highest cell phone usage is concerned, it was ranked 9th among 222 countries in 2009 by the CIA World Factbook 2009) with 88,020,000 users in 2008.
Pakistan was only behind China (547,286,000 users), European Union (466,000,000), India (362,300,000), United States (255,000,000), Russia (170,000,000), Brazil (120,980,000), Japan (107,339,000) and Germany (97,151,000 users).
SSUET fee submission date extended
Karachi: Registrar of Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) on Thursday announced that the fees submission date for admission in the BS Programme has been extended up to January 11 in view of the rush of students. The previous last date was January 4, he said.
KU LLM results
Karachi: The controller of examinations, University of Karachi (KU), declared the results of the LL.M (Previous) Annual Examination-2011 on Thursday. According to the gazette issued, 182 candidates were registered for the exams of which 163 students appeared. Meanwhile, 77 candidates were declared passed. The overall pass percentage was 47.24.
Karachi: The Board of Secondary Education Karachi (BSEK) said on Thursday the Oriental Languages-2011 exam scheduled for January 9 had been postponed and now would be held on January 17 at the same time and examination centres. The exam was postponed due to a holiday in schools announced by the Sindh government on account of the Urs of Hazart Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, said the controller of examinations, Rafia Mallah. The news
Qaim asks HEC to release funds for medical varsity
Larkana: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has urged the Higher Education Commission to release more funds to expedite work on the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Medical University in Larkana.
He said after presiding over maiden meeting of the university's senate and launching F.M 97 radio for health awareness at the proposed site for SBBMU near Arija on airport road on Thursday that PPP leadership was keen to make this institute a world class university.
He said that after the passage of 18th amendment education had become a provincial subject but universities were still under the purview of HEC.
He urged the HEC to release more funds for the project and announced a grant of Rs20 million for the university.
He was optimistic the government would be able to collect handsome amount of revenue under sales tax in the wake of 18th amendment.
About F.M 97 he said its transmission would be available within 30 kilometre radius.
Established at a cost of Rs3 million this radio would be a great help in spreading health awareness, he said.
He praised the efforts of SBBMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Akbar Haider Soomro for contributing a great deal to the establishment of this institute within a short span of six months.
He said that it was Benazir Bhutto's dream to see a world renowned medical university here and her dream would be translated into reality. Over 220 acres of land had been allotted for the university, he said.
Provincial ministers Agha Siraj Durani, Ayaz Soomro, Mohan Lal Kohistani, Commissioner Syed Asif Hyder Shah, members of senate Prof M. Sultan Farooqui and others also attended the meeting. Dawn