Higher Secondary School Certificate conundrum
The HSC conundrum
|Nov 01: Classes in colleges for Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC Part I &
II) commenced last month but a visit to these places of instruction unveils the
true picture of this vital tier of education. Rowdy students outside
classrooms, unconcerned teachers huddled in dingy staffrooms, a smug and
unconnected administrative staff busy counting down the minutes towards off time
… an overall aura of apathy and boredom are more than obvious.
you, is not the situation of the colleges treading at the bottom. The celebrated
institutions, attracting the best of students also displays this scenario. And
the performance standards show a downward slide that continues to drop with the
passing of each year.
There are several reasons for this state of
affairs. HSC is a short stretched level that spans two academic years. However,
it is also the defining moment for a sizeable number of pupils as it makes or
breaks their career paths. The scores at this level are the principal factor
that decide the eligibility and merit ranking for higher education institutions.
For the lesser privileged students, the predicament is even more acute as the
choices are very few. In a majority of the cases, seeking placement in a
public-sector institution is the only option. In the pyramidal hierarchy of
educational opportunities, the numerical strength of students gradually declines
for each upward tier. Thus students make an all out effort for success in
obtaining admission in professional institutions or at least in a general
university. This overwhelming pressure forces them to resort to all available
means to attain the desired level of marks. One finds a thriving business of
tuition centres, coaching classes and private tutors that guarantees high grades
for their clients. In reality, these outlets extend training grounds for
mastering examination tricks and techniques to score. The purpose and objective
of education is simply set aside in this shady enterprise.
earlier used to enjoy a full academic life during their two-year stay in
college. The college faculty took pride in their work despite the meagre
salaries. Time management, diligence and performance monitoring were some of the
common approaches adopted by the teachers to impart knowledge of acceptable
merit. Weak or financially deprived students were given extra attention after
the normal study hours. Private tuitions or coaching were non-existent entities.
The boys (or girls) common room was a space often utilised for group study by
the students themselves. College teachers would also drop in for any kind of
advice. Peers used to organise extra-curricular activities with rigour and
enthusiasm. Sports, quiz/general knowledge competitions, poetry recitals,
cultural events, participation in student programmes organized by Radio Pakistan
along with other literary activities would nurture young minds with the
appropriate exposure nedded to transform them into cultured and creative
Training and education were imparted together in the
rightful combinations. Encouragement received from the teachers regarding any
talent or creative ability motivated students to walk the extra mile and polish
their abilities towards refinement and excellence. It didn't matter whether you
were a student of arts, commerce or science, the participation in
extra-curricular activities was almost uniform. It was also not affected by any
sort of gender divide. Many of our noted writers, poets, dramatists, performing
arts wizards and even singers owe their success to the fertile milieu of
respective colleges. It is sad to note that the same institutions have
apparently become barren without the creation of an alternative
Colleges have lost pupils to coaching centres by design, not by
default. The low quality of education which is meted out in them automatically
creates a service demand to be satisfied by the coaching centres. A professor
who would not ordinarily take his class in college can be most punctual and
enthusiastic to deliver to his highly-paying clientele.
It is also
reported that many teachers deliberately keep low teaching standards in colleges
in order to promote the demand of private tuition centres. The students slowly
lose interest in taking classes and can be routinely spotted wasting their time
in college canteens, common rooms or isolated corners. The ultimate losers in
this state of affairs are the students from the low and lower-middle income
groups who cannot afford private tuitions or coaching centres. Their only option
is the college, which has very little to offer. For this perpetual handicap,
chances for the underprivileged children to enter institutions of higher
learning are eclipsed. An average student from an affluent background usually
makes it to a good university through catalytical crutches of tuition while
similar cases from lower income backgrounds are denied this option. In other
words, poor attainment opportunities at the college level perpetuates the status
quo against the down trodden.
The past two decades have seen a periodic
rise in the influence of political groups in colleges, even at the intermediate
level. A peep into the boys' common rooms reveals the clandestine take over of
student affairs by the planted agents of dominant student wings of major
political parties. The college managements, in some cases, also enter into
marriages of mutual convenience for promoting their agenda in a trade union-like
style. Efforts of innovation and uplift are frustrated at the very onset by the
joint fronts enacted by the collusion of the two cadres.
The recent move
by a non-governmental organisation to acquire the management of some government
educational institutions was sabotaged by the connivance of the respective
college managements and members of a fanatic religio-political group. The
spineless provincial administration went back on its decision then, sealing the
fate of hundreds of students who lost access to quality education. Of late, the
political parties use boys' college campuses to settle the score of their
frequent disputes using firearms and automatic weapons of sorts. Many lives have
been lost during the past few years while weeks of unwanted closures causes
anguish to genuine seekers of knowledge. The government absolves itself from the
responsibility of tackling the root causes by simply deploying a few sentries or
a police mobile at best.
The objective and purpose of HSC must be
re-visited. The government must undertake an impartial situation analysis to
examine the status of various handicaps. A broad based consultation must be held
where the findings and options related to this crucial level of education must
be deliberated in a pragmatic manner. The social status of the teaching faculty,
salary structures, performance monitoring, discipline, campus management,
curriculum and examination systems are some issues that deem a focused analysis.
But very little improvement can be expected unless we have the courage to call a
spade a spade.
By Dr Noman Ahmed
The writer is professor and chairman, Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University, Karachi (Dawn)
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India set to establish SAARC University
New Dehli: The Indian cabinet approved a legislative proposal on
Thursday night paving the way for the establishment of a South Asian University
It will be the first international university in India with its
branches across all member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional
Co-operation (SAARC). The university is expected to start functioning in 2010.
Explaining the salient features of the new university, Indian Finance Minister P
Chidambaram told a press conference on Friday that the university's jurisdiction
would extend to the country and the SAARC region.
A project office was
set up near the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi this year with a view
to acquiring land for the university. The draft South Asian University Bill
provides for collaboration with other universities and bestows certain
privileges and immunities on the university and its officials, as accorded to
all SAARC bodies, based on the UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities. Daily Times
"name of the university shold be of SAARC UNIVERSITY & it become to establish in AFGHANISTAN funded by all members countries & source to be utilized for collection of funds from all world."
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan
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