Overhaul of exam system for tackling cheating

Complete overhaul of exam system suggested
Nov 17: Karachi, Nov 17: Adviser to the Sindh governor Khan Yousuf Jamal has underscored the need for a major overhaul of the examination system to improve the fast deteriorating standard of education and to tackle the menace of cheating in exams.

He was presiding over a brainstorming session and workshop on 'Evaluation of examination system at secondary and intermediate levels' held at the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK) on Saturday.

The idea of undertaking such an exercise was proposed by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, who is also the controlling authority of all educational boards of the province.

Chairmen and controllers of examinations of educational boards of the province, senior officers of the education department, office-bearers of the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA), schoolteachers' bodies, retired professors and former directors of schools and colleges attended the meeting.

Mr Jamal said that similar exercises would be held at Hyderabad and Sukkur within a month and recommendations of all three workshops would be forwarded to the governor.Stressing the need for a campaign against cheating in exams, Mr Jamal said that apart from students, teachers and education officials, town nazims, members of civil society and the media could play an important role to eradicate the menace and could help promote a culture of acquiring knowledge.

He admitted that there was a general perception among the public that the present examination system was fast losing its credibility and hoped that the participants of the workshop would recommend concrete measures aimed at removing factors responsible for tarnishing the image of the examination system.

In this regard, he suggested that motivated retired teachers and professors could be assigned the task of monitoring the process of examination.

He hoped that the recommendations of the workshop would be result-oriented and would have an impact on the system of education.

Coaching centres

About the mushrooming growth of coaching and tuition centres, he said that it was beyond his comprehension why no survey had been carried out to know their exact numbers and the methodology of their teaching.

He said these centres were only preparing students for examinations through so-called guides and notes.

Suspecting that vested interests could be behind the flourishing business of coaching centres, he said that the working of these centres should be monitored.

BIEK Chairman Prof Anwar Ahmed Zai proposed that there should be a TV channel exclusively for the promotion of education.

The adviser to the Sindh governor endorsed the proposal and said that he would recommend the proposal to the governor.

Earlier, participants of the workshop were divided into different groups to formulate their recommendations on 'Prevalent examination system and needs of its improvement', 'Areas of correction and role of stakeholders', 'Policy issues', 'Legal instruments, if needed', and 'Awareness campaign'.

Chairman Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Sukkur, Prof (Dr) Mehboob Ali Shaikh, said that the present examination system was not satisfactory and could be described as the collective failure of all stakeholders which include teachers, the education department, district education officers and parents.

He attributed the cause responsible for the unsatisfactory examination system to lack of protection to invigilation staff, interference of pressure groups and improper working of boards.

The SPLA Karachi chapter's president, Prof Ather Hussain Mirza, stressed the need for creating awareness among students that by resorting to unfair means they might clear their exams but won't be able to acquire 'knowledge', which is an essential ingredient for leading a successful life.

He underscored the need for making the vigilance system more effective.

Former director of colleges Prof Haroon Rasheed said that it was the responsibility of the government to provide proper security to vigilance staff during an examination. He was, however, critical of the role of teachers' organisations. He urged them to shun their practice of threatening boycott of examinations on 'frivolous' grounds.

A former director of schools, Mrs Mujibunnissa Essani, was of the view that the existing examination system was promoting only 'rote learning', hence there was a need to change the system of delivering lectures, covering the A to Z of a subject.

She suggested that since a new pattern of examinations, having objective-type questions and short answers, was being introduced for Class IX and XI annual examinations-2009, teachers should adopt the methodology of having question-answer sessions with students.

Prof Ahmed Zai said that the workshop, organised on the instructions of the Sindh governor, was aimed at re-assessing the examination system at the secondary, intermediate and equivalent levels in the province. Dawn

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Name: shireen
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Can science save the world?
The decisions that we will make both individually and collectively in the foreseeable future will determine whether twenty-first century science yields benign or devastating outcomes

For most people, there has never been a better time to be alive than now. The innovations that drive economic advances - information technology, biotech, and nanotech - can boost living standards in both the developing and the developed world.

We are becoming embedded in a cyberspace that can link anyone, anywhere, to all the world's information and culture - and to every other person on the planet.

Twenty-first century technologies will offer environmentally benign lifestyles and the resources to ease the plight and enhance the life chances of the world's two billion poorest people. Moreover, the greatest threat of the 1960s and 1970s - nuclear annihilation - has diminished. This threat could recur, however, if there is a renewed standoff between new superpowers. And there are other risks stemming from humanity's greater collective impact on the planet, and from the growing empowerment of individuals.

Soon after World War II, physicists at the University of Chicago started a journal called the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to promote arms control. The logo on the Bulletin's cover is a clock, the proximity of whose hands to midnight indicates the editors' judgement of the precariousness of the world situation. Every few years, the minute hand shifted, either forwards or backwards. It came closest to midnight in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When the Cold War ended, the Bulletin's clock was put back to 17 minutes to midnight. But the clock has been creeping forward again. We are confronted by proliferation of nuclear weapons (by, say, North Korea and Iran). Al Qaeda-style terrorists might willingly detonate a nuclear weapon in a city centre, killing tens of thousands.

Even if the nuclear threat is contained, the twenty-first century could confront us with grave new global perils. Climate change looms as this century's primary long-term environmental challenge. Human actions - burning fossil fuels - have already raised the carbon dioxide concentration higher than it has ever been in the last 500,000 years, and it is rising by about 0.5 percent a year.

More disturbingly, coal, oil, and gas are projected to supply most of the world's growing energy needs for decades to come. If that continues, the concentration of CO2 will rise to twice the pre-industrial level by 2050, and three times that level later in the century.

The world spends nearly $7 trillion a year on energy and its infrastructure; yet our current research and development efforts are not up to meeting the challenge of climate change. There is no single solution, but some measures, like better insulation of buildings, would save rather than cost money.

Efforts to economise on energy, storing it, and generating it by "clean" or low-carbon methods deserve priority and the sort of commitment from governments that were accorded to the Manhattan Project (which created the atomic bomb) or the Apollo moon landing.

The top priority should be a coordinated effort by Europe, the United States, and the other G-8+5 countries to build demonstration plants to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. This is crucial, because whatever technical advances there may be in solar and other renewable energy sources, we will depend on coal and oil for the next 40 years. Yet unless the rising curve of annual emissions can be reversed, the CO2 concentration will irrevocably reach a truly threatening level.

Mankind must also confront other global "threats without enemies" that are separate from (though linked with) climate change. Loss of biological diversity is one of the most severe such threats. The extinction rate is 1,000 times higher than normal, and is increasing.

Biodiversity is a crucial component of human well-being and economic growth. We are clearly harmed if fish stocks dwindle to extinction. Less evidently, there are plants in the rain forest whose gene pool might be useful to us.

The pressures on our planet depend, of course, on our lifestyle. The world could not sustain its 6.5 billion people if they all lived like present-day Americans. But it could if even prosperous people adopted a vegetarian diet, travelled little, and interacted virtually. New technology will determine our lifestyle, and the demands that we make on energy and environmental resources.

Nevertheless, our problems are aggravated by rapid growth in the human population, which is projected to reach eight or even nine billion by 2050. If the increase continues beyond 2050, one cannot help but be gloomy about most people's prospects.

There are now, however, more than 60 countries where the fertility rate is below replacement level. If this were true of all countries, the global population would start to decline after 2050 - a development that would surely be benign.

All of today's developments - cyber, bio, or nano - will create new risks of abuse. The American National Academy of Sciences has warned that, "Just a few individuals with specialised skills...could inexpensively and easily produce a panoply of lethal biological weapons...The deciphering of the human genome sequence and the complete elucidation of numerous pathogen genomes...allow science to be misused to create new agents of mass destruction."

Not even an organised network would be required; just a fanatic with the mindset of those who now design computer viruses. The global village will have its village idiots.

In our increasingly interconnected world, there are new risks whose consequences could be widespread - and perhaps global. Even a tiny probability of global catastrophe is unacceptable. If we apply to catastrophic risks the same prudent analysis that leads us to buy insurance - multiplying probability by consequences - we would surely prioritise measures to reduce this kind of extreme risk. The decisions that we will make both individually and collectively in the foreseeable future will determine whether twenty-first century science yields benign or devastating outcomes. -DTPS

Martin Rees
Lord Rees is Britain's Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society, Master of the University of Cambridge's Trinity College, and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics (Daily Times)

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