Punjab private schools still open | Rawalpindi teachers

Private schools still open; stern action
Lahore, June 04: Summer vacations in schools across Punjab were supposed to start from June 1, but a large number of private schools are still open and the Education Department has announced to take stern action against them from Monday.

The School Education Department announced that all public and private schools in the province would remain closed from June 1 to August 23, until Eidul Fitr; however, many private schools refused to follow the schedule and announced different dates for closure.

A large number of parents of children studying in private schools had complained that schools had not announced summer vacations, despite the fact that mercury was constantly rising and many children had fallen ill due to the harsh weather conditions.

Hamna, the mother of a Class 5 student studying at a private school said that she had tried to convince the management of her daughter's school that they had to close the session, but they refused to do so by saying that they had to complete the course.

"They said that they cannot close the school before June 15," she said.

Iftikhar, the father another schoolchild, told this scribe that his son had fallen ill due to the hot weather conditions prevailing in the city. "Now I am forced not to let my son go to school," he said, adding that private schools just wanted fees, due to which they were not closing schools. "They fear that they will not be able to charge fees after a notification by the high court," he said.

EDO (Education) Pervaiz Akhtar said that schools were only allowed to conduct activities from 7am to 10:30am during the summer camps, and "if any school is found open after these timings, it will be served a show-cause notice to justify the act. If they fail to do so, their registration will be cancelled".

Pervaiz said that he had a very low staff for the inspection of more than 5,000 private schools in the city; therefore, "there might be some schools left open during the surprise visits". He urged parents of students to inform the Education Department about opened schools so that action could be taken against them.

To a question about completion of syllabus during the summer vacations, Pervaiz was of the view that the department had allowed schools to operate for four hours a day, which was enough. "Schools can complete their syllabus during these timings."

However, the All Pakistan Private Schools Owners Association (APPSOA) raised objection against it. APPSOA Punjab President Abubakar Naseem said the main reason for not closing the schools was that they were unable to complete the syllabus during the remaining academic year, as there were several vacations during the year. Daily times

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Of tuition centres, students & parents
Rawalpindi: Teachers whether they belong to a government or private school are either running or working in tuition centres called academies, foundations or centres.

"Nobody questions the need for such academies/centres despite the fact that their kids are left with no time for play and it is affecting their health," says Tufail Sheikh, a child psychologist. These academies offer courses for students preparing for examinations and require an enormous amount of extra study from them."

"We spent a lot of time looking at the materials and we believe we have devised an excellent course. We love to have students take our course," says Sharif Qureshi, running a famous academy. He added: "Our tests can be daunting for any students seeing them for the first time, but the already stressful exam situation is smoothened by the fact that the test results can have life-changing consequences for these young people." Actually, increasing competition has created a huge demand for tuition centres.

Aziz Mufti, father of a 10th class student, recounts how he was forced to send his son to a the tuition centre despite financial difficulties, "Last year when my son was about to appear in the examination, I noticed that his curriculum was unfinished. I complained to the school principal about the matter but it fell on deaf ears. I had no alternative but to send him to a tuition centre."

Ghazal Zahid, a mother of three students says, "I think tuition fee is a huge burden on our family budget. I don't understand why tuition is necessary when the school, college managements pay their teachers for doing the same job."

"Perhaps it's the low pay-scales that make teachers lose interest in classrooms," says Samina Khan, a teacher from a private school. "How can you imagine gifted and bright people taking up teaching as a profession sans reasonable salary? Just take my example, I have Master's degree in chemistry but live an ordinary life and that also in a rented house. Those who are running tuition academies are rich now and hire services of people like me on a low pay," adds Samina.

The low salary-scales have also compelled certain teachers to take full-time jobs at various tuition centres. "I at first joined a school. But after weighing my options, I decided to join a tuition academy. I am getting a lot more money than what any other school, government or private, would have offered to pay me," says Shafique.

There are hundreds of tuition academies and centres in the city, a figure that is increasing day by day. According to reports great majorities of the students receive private tutoring or go to tuition academies and centres by the time they reach class ten. Nowadays every student is running for tuition academies for getting success. They do not believe in self-study.

"The fact is the society has simply accepted the existence of tuition centres and both the teachers and the students have attuned themselves to the system so it is just impossible to bring any major change in the system despite the domination of the education sector by some profit-making guys," says Shakeel Ahmad, a teacher associated with a tuition academy.

"Any drive to hold back tuition academies can't solve the problem. Raising teachers' salaries is a key to the problem," he adds.

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300 VCs from OIC states to attend forum
Islamabad: The Comsats Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), in collaboration with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), Higher Education Commission, Pakistan, and the Ministry of Science and Technology, is organising a two-day Vice Chancellors' Forum on 'Higher Education in the Islamic World: Challenges and Opportunities'. The forum will be held on June 11-12 in Islamabad.

Over 300 vice chancellors, rectors and presidents of universities and higher education institutions of the OIC member states will attend the event. Higher education institutions play a fundamental role in imparting education and bringing about economic and social changes in a society. To facilitate the coordination on higher education among the OIC countries, the forum would dilate on the major issues of governance, knowledge management, science, technology and innovation and quality assurance. The objective of the forum is to help establish linkages and promote networking among the participating universities/institutions. The forum would help in pooling resources but not limited to offering scholarship for higher studies. To facilitate the resource sharing among the institutions of higher learning in the member countries, the forum would promote exchange of students and faculty among the participating institutions.

The Forum is expected to further the initiatives of the ISESCO that recommend the OIC member states to initiate and strengthen their national innovation systems in higher education to support scientific capacity building and partnership among public and private national stakeholders, including legislators, media and civil society to enable application of scientific knowledge and results to achieve viable economic development.

The forum will provide a platform to the university leaders from the Islamic world for fostering collaboration, strengthening cooperation and encouraging dialogue among them and the institutions they represent.

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Rawalpindi: Muhammad Sohail Afzal, a students of the National University of Sciences & Technology has successfully completed M.Phil in Bio-Medical Sciences, says a press release.

He was also awarded gold medal at a ceremony held at the convention centre, which was received by his father Seth Muhammad Afza Hilal, as Sohail is studying in PhD in France.

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SUSIT imparting education to over 15,000 students: VC
Islamabad: Taking start with only 68 students in just two disciplines in 2001, the Sarhad University of Science and Information Technology (SUSIT) has currently over 3,000 students enrolled in over a dozen disciplines in the seven faculties of the university and has produced thousands of skilled and qualified lot to serve the society and abroad in different fields.

The university has also been imparting education on minimal charges to over 15,000 students under distance education programme for which a total of 33 distance learning study centres have been set up in the province, Islamabad and abroad, said Professor Dr Salimur Rahman, Vice-Chancellor of the university in an interview.

Twenty-six of the distance learning study centres have been set up in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, four in Islamabad and three abroad, as according to the university charter and Higher Education Commission's rules, they cannot open such centres in other provinces without prior permission of the respective governments of those provinces, he added.

Dr Salim, who is one of the founding members of the university, said that they started the project in 2001. "Initially, we had only two faculties - Faculty of Computer Science and Faculty of Management Sciences," he said.

In 2004, the faculties of life sciences and biotechnologies were launched to offer degree courses in pharmacy, he informed. He added that the engineering and technology programmes were started in 2005 for which two separate faculties were established. He informed that currently they were offering degree programmes in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.

He said that the university was also offering B.Tech, physical education, Urdu and education courses. Dr Salim said that they start a new programme after every two years.

He said that they also have a programme for distance learning, which they had started from Punjab in 2002 but due to restrictions from the HEC, they had to wind up the programme in other provinces and focused it in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federal capital.

He said that in the distance learning programme students were imparted education at the doorstep on the pattern of open universities like the Allama Iqbal Open and Virtual University. At the study centres for the programme, science laboratories have been set up where the students can come to have experiments. The centres help the students out on all points except examinations in which they could play no role, the vice-chancellor said.

He informed that they started another programme two years ago to offer CT, B.Ed, M.Ed courses outside the main campus of the university. In this programme, the students need to take the services of the university recommended tutors in their respective areas. A two-week workshop is compulsory for the students of this programme in every semester, he added. Soon they would start liberary science in this programme, he said.

Dr Salim said that till 2005 they had only bachelor degree programme after which they started post-graduate and doctorate courses. He said that the university has offered a number of M.Phil and Ph.D degree holders in various disciplines. But they are not too many in number due to the strict admission criteria for the programme. "We give admission to only those students who have done their master's in first division and have passed the NTS," he said.

He said that the university was also have a good position in the HEC ranking, which would further improve next year, as the research publications of the university have crossed 100.

The university also undertook soft skill training with the support of USAID under which over 1,000 students were trained. The university has also set up two career development centre with the support of USAID to know the aptitude of the students and provide them proper guidance after they take admission in a particular discipline, he maintain.

He further said that they also have an entrepreneurial development centre established in 2007 with support of Small and Medium Entrepreneur Development Agency (SMEDA) in which the students are trained to start own businesses. The news

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