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.

This, mind 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.

HSC students 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 personalities.

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 space.

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 in Delhi.

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

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"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."
Email: mqsiddiquipk@yahoo.com
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

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