Education and social justice
What role does education play in realising the dream of social justice?
March 29: Education and society are considered to have an important relationship
in which both inform, impact and transform each other. Education is
viewed as a necessary condition for socio-economic development,
emancipation and freedom; then there is its relationship with social
Before delving further into this topic, it is
important to understand the term 'social justice' since it has multiple
meanings. An oversimplification of the term is to understand it as the
execution of justice at the societal level. A more radical
interpretation would have it refer to a just society where people have
equal opportunities to exercise their freedoms and where there is no
discrimination in the provision of justice on the basis of social
class, gender, disability, ethnicity, colour and religion. So, what
role does education play in realising the dream of social justice? Can
an enhanced literacy rate guarantee social justice?
addressing these questions, it is important to look briefly at the
place of education in society, for it has always been considered
important in order to achieve certain objectives. These objectives were
determined by different societies according to their priorities, which
were in consonance with their times. Tracing the genesis of education
we first come across religious education, focusing entirely on morality
and leading one's life on the straight and narrow. As society
progressed, pragmatism took centre place but there still remained
voices in favour of aesthetics, reflection and critical thinking.
the last three decades, however, the pace of change accelerated at a
phenomenal ratio and objectives at the personal and societal level also
changed rapidly. It is interesting to note that the corporate culture,
in order to sell new commodities, made us aware of 'newfound needs'.
With industrialisation and corporatisation, the expectation from
education also changed and the objective became very specific: to
produce efficient human beings to fit into the workforce required by
This objective continues to gain currency, and in
contemporary times the major objective of education is to prepare an
individual to find a job; 'quality education' is defined as education
that prepares someone to find a better job with a better salary
This narrow objective had a strong impact on the
nature, dynamics, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment of education.
Education emerged as a powerful industry where schools, emulating the
factory model, were turned into massive production centres churning out
hundreds and thousands of students destined to become efficient members
of a country's workforce.
With times thus changing, the notion
of social justice also underwent a major change. According to Foucault,
a French thinker, power and knowledge go together, with power in the
better position to construct, advocate, perpetuate and validate a
discourse. This discourse leads to a certain social reality or
knowledge that justifies the action of power. It is through discourse
that powerful groups in a society manage to gain hegemony over
This is exactly what happened to the term
'social justice', which is now synchronised with the terms
'efficiency', 'productivity', 'globalisation', 'monitoring' and
'accountability'. Since these terms come from powerful organisation,
they are considered undeniable truths and the education system, in
order to achieve the corporate version of social justice, is producing
mono-culture minds by offering only certain subjects, mechanical
pedagogy, insensitive assessment practices and a highly quantitative
system of evaluation.
Let me briefly explain these points. At
the national level, it is considered that in enhanced literacy numbers
lies the panacea for all educational ills. Decision-makers tend to
forget that their notion of literacy is based on purely functional
aspects of literacy, where reflection and critical thinking have no
space to exist. Similarly, most educational institutions offer
programmes in areas that are considered popular in the market. That is
why the humanities and social sciences - which prepare an individual
for social roles - are usually pushed to the back burner: the simple
reason is that they are not considered market-oriented fields.
addition to the choice of subjects, the actual pedagogical practices
also play an important part in realising the objective of social
justice. Interestingly, the teacher's role is further straitjacketed
since in some schools the lesson plan is prepared at a central place
and then copies are distributed to different branches. Critical
thinking, which is considered a core attribute of quality education,
gets buried under teacher-fronted, lecture-based pedagogy where the
emphasis is on transmission rather than transformation. Meanwhile, in
the prevalent methods of assessment, memory and recall skills are
tested but the application of knowledge is barely assessed.
education can produce efficient and productive workers but not thinking
human beings. Consequently our schools are further widening rather than
reducing the gaps of economic disparity and social injustice. Education
should be a precursor to emancipation, freedom and social justice;
instead, it is engaged in the further stratification of society. The
rich-poor divide is becoming sharper and more obvious in terms of
access: 'quality education' is out of the reach of the poor.
the state seems to have given up and passed the buck to the private
sector. Contemporary education imparted in mainstream schools is
perpetuating the existing power structures and the dream of social
justice becomes ever more distant - even though it could be realised
through an educational system that is lively and relevant, and prepares
students as thinking and responsible members of society instead of as
productive technicians. Such an educational system is based on equal
opportunities, mutual respect and recognition of the individual.
writer is director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at
the Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in
Pakistan. -firstname.lastname@example.org (Dawn)
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Student bus service planned in capital
Islamabad: Though establishment of a mass transit system or
public transport service in the federal capital seems a dream, the
local administration has taken an initiative to provide transport
facility to the students.
"The district administration has
prepared PC-II for carrying out comprehensive study and research
through experts or consultancy firms on provision of government
transport facility for students of both government and private
schools," said an official of the local administration on condition of
If the plan is implemented, the facility will be first of its kind to be availed by the students.
The estimated cost of launching the 'student bus service' is said to be
over Rs500 million, including purchase of 60 to 70 buses. It is
believed that the expenditure on initiating the service is not as big
as is required even for construction of a road but its benefits will be
According to the concept, funding for the
project would be acquired from the federal government and students of
institutions under the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) and
prominent private schools would be accommodated. "Buses would be plied
in collaboration with the FDE and managements of private schools," the
Consultancy firms would be invited soon
through advertisements for submission of bids who would have to prepare
the study in three months.
The study would provide details
about total number of school-going students and how many can be
accommodated under the bus service.
The local administration
is hopeful that the service will minimise most of the problems
confronting the students, their parents, school administrations and
traffic controlling authorities.
The service will also
provide safer mode of transportation to the students who are mostly
compelled to travel on rooftops of buses.
Sources in the
local administration said the idea of student bus service had been
under consideration for the last one year but it could not be
materialised due to bureaucratic hurdles and inordinate delay in
decision making process by the top office of the local administration.
However, Commissioner Islamabad Tariq Pirzada reinitiated the case and got the PC-II prepared, they added.
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Student gets gold medal after six months
Peshawar: An outstanding student of the University of
Peshawar at last got his gold medal after hectic efforts of about six
months due to 'lethargic' attitude of the university administration.
Sahibzada Usman Mahmud, the final year student of MSc Economics, was
declared eligible for the gold medal when he topped the examination in
2008-09. But he suffered a lot in receiving the gold medal due to
uncooperative attitude of the university administration.
Sahibzada Usman said, "Fortunately I was declared
eligible for a gold medal because I secured first position in the
one-year MSc Economics programme 2007-08". The result was declared on
15 December, 2008.
Usually, gold medals are awarded to the
top position holders in the convocation by the chancellor or
vice-chancellor. The convocation was announced for 30th October, 2009
which couldn't take place due to worsening law and order situation.
In November 2009, he said, he wrote an application to degree section of UoP to receive the gold medal and MSc degree.
also submitted the supporting documents, the distinction certificate
clearly reflecting the first position, details marks certificate
verified by the controller of examinations, the recommendations by the
chairman of the department and Dean of Social Sciences. The preparation
of these documents took about six months, he said.
said he was made to run from pillar to post to sign and countersign the
documents. "I paid around 50 visits to the economics department and
secretary of UoP. Each time the officials gave me new documents to be
signed from the respective departments", he alleged.
he said he was awarded the gold medal on March 25 (Thursday). There
were five other students who got the gold medals for securing top
positions in different departments including Nosheen Umar, MSc Botany
session-2008, Nigar Khan MCom, session-2008, Attaullah MA Quranic
Studies, 2007, Shams ur Rehman MBA session 2002-03.
said, at least there should be a small gathering of students while
awarding the gold medal. "The Controller Examinations Ifthikhar Hussein
Khan simply handed me over the gold medal at his office", he said and
termed it a joke with the prestigious award of gold medal.
The gold medalists were also given cheques of Rs5,000 by the account
section of the UoP, he said, adding, the cheques were stale. Now the
gold medalists have been asked to write an application to revalidate
the cheques which could take a lot of time again, he said.
The Controller Examination Iftikhar Hussein was contacted on his cell phone but he didn't receive the call.
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IJT activist arrested
Peshawar: Police have arrested one of the accused charged in
the murder case of a student of the University of Engineering and
An official of the Campus police station said that Nauman Khattak was arrested from his Takht Nusrati village,
Karak district. He said Nauman was arrested by the Karak police and
later handed over to the Peshawar police.
He said Nauman was also a student of the engineering university and living in the hostel.
He said Nauman was associated with the Islami Jamiat Talba.
He said the other nominated persons, Sibghatullah, Muqeemuddin, Umer
Farooq, Mohammad Ibrahim, Zahid Khattak, Azizur Rehman, Fahad and
Zulfiqar, were at large. Dawn
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