Military operations badly affected education sector
Peshawar, Oct 26: The militancy and military operations in parts of the Frontier province and adjacent tribal areas have badly affected the already neglected education sector the most. An evidence of this was the NWFP government's decision to keep all the educational institutions closed for another week.
After a pause of about seven days, educational activities in almost the entire country are being resumed today, but students across NWFP and the tribal areas would not attend their classes as per the directives of the provincial government.
The NWFP government at first was reluctant to close down the schools despite announcements by other provinces to pause educational activities for some days due to the wave of terrorist activities across the country. However, the suicide blasts at International Islamic University, Islamabad followed by defusing of two bombs at a girls' school in a suburban locality of the provincial metropolis forced the government to close all the public and private sector schools.
And now when the Inter-Services Public Relations, federal government and other provinces have announced reopening of the school, the Frontier government has decided to extend the unusual vacation for another week for security threats.
Education has certainly been affected the most by the specific law and order situation in the province and tribal areas for the last more than one year. With the surge of militant activities in Swat and elsewhere in the province, schools, particularly the girls' schools have become the targets of the militants who continue with torching and blowing up sprees.
Around 200 educational institutions have been blown up in Swat alone. Similarly scores of schools were damaged in the twin districts of Dir, Bajaur Agency, elsewhere in the province and tribal areas.
Then came the military operation due to which the students and their teachers along with their families had to shift to the safer districts in search of peace, depriving them of studies for about four long months. The government offered some relaxation to the students by awarding them one-step promotion, but this cannot compensate for the loss of their precious time and studies.
The higher secondary education students had to miss their examinations. Though the board declared all of the intermediate students of Malakand division qualified and awarded them marks equivalent to the marks they had obtained in their previous class, many students were not happy with it, as they thought that they failed to acquire seats in the professional - medical and engineering - institutions for not appearing in the examinations.
Not only the students of the militancy and military-operation-affected areas, but those of the non-affected district also suffered loss of time, as their schools and colleges were used to house the internally displaced people for several months and they had not been able to attend their studies.
The most interesting is the sufferings of the students of the remote Chitral district where there exists no law and order problem. But with the announcement of the government about closure of education institutions, educational activities came to a halt in Chitral as well.
The two-week closure of schools would affect the cold regions of the province the most, as the management of educational institutions are planning for long winter vacations there and the teachers and students want to cover the specified portion of their courses before the winter vacations.
In Peshawar and other central districts, where the studies of the students are being affected due to the closure of their institutions, many of them will have to face a delay in examinations and admissions.
The Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education Peshawar has postponed its practical tests of the ongoing secondary school certificate examinations. Khyber Law College University of Peshawar has delayed its exam. The University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar has also suspended its B Tech examinations. The University of Peshawar cancelled its tests for admissions to the MA/MSc. New dates for the examinations have not been fixed yet. The news
Teachers role in the process of learning
Lahore: The teacher's role in the process of learning is central. Teachers interact with students and teaching materials and in the process play a vital role in the improvement of education. Recognising this, teacher education programmes are available at the national level for the 'training' of teachers.
It is interesting to note that though there are some quantitative attributes of good teaching, beyond a certain level teaching becomes qualitative and difficult to measure. That is why teaching is considered simultaneously a science and an art. The latter attribute is difficult to quantify and thus even good teachers are unable to give a recipe for good teaching.
As a teacher educator I have observed that teachers are generally fed on 'given knowledge' and are prepared in the narrow and confined alleys of 'training'. In this paradigm teachers are considered consumers of knowledge and are given a set of strategies in the name of training to be used in the classroom. There is no role for the teacher's own reflections or personality in this paradigm. Teachers consider themselves helpless and do not dare take initiatives based on creativity and innovation.
This view of the teacher is perpetuated in most of our teacher education programmes. The ultimate outcome is that mechanical gadgets and acts have taken over our classrooms and have turned them into dull places devoid of life.
I have worked with teachers in different contexts in Pakistan. My impression is that there is tremendous potential in our teachers but they lack confidence in themselves. One major reason for this lack of confidence is that teachers are trained to rely on the crutches of techniques and fashionable jargon. I have been asked one question a number of times by teachers: 'what is the best teaching style?' This question usually emerges after discussions on theories of education or teaching styles. One purpose of such discussions
in a teacher education programme is to expose the participants to the various possibilities in terms of historical developments and philosophical outlooks.
Another important point to consider is that for teaching purposes issues are put into different slots for the sake of explanation through comparison and contrast. In real life, however, we do not find such watertight compartments as perspectives may overlap. The question 'which is the best teaching style?' is in fact a desire to have access to the 'ultimate recipe' for good teaching. However, there is no single, fixed, recipe for good teaching.
The individual style is the best style. This response focuses on the personal role in teaching, which means how the teacher's own self is used to make sense of texts and their context. The role of the self makes the process of teaching and learning more meaningful and helps teachers make modifications according to the needs of the learners.
This blend of the teacher as a professional and a person is vital for effective teaching. Each teacher has different experiences and different strengths. Thus instead of longing for the best teaching style a teacher may come up with a style based on his/her own experiences.
This, however, does not mean that knowledge and research should become irrelevant. On the other hand a teacher must have awareness of the latest happenings in the field. But knowledge should not be taken at face value. It is the teacher's own personal practical knowledge that makes the learning process meaningful.
How can a teacher realise the significance of his/her own practical knowledge? Most of these programmes have stereotypical curricula, which is executed through highly conservative teaching methods, where participants are bombarded with 'knowledge' and their own reflective faculties are either denied or underplayed.
The result is that in Pakistan although we find thousands of 'trained teachers' who have got certificates in teaching, the majority have just passed their exams by cramming the contents.
There is little change in their concepts, teaching methods and attitudes. Such 'trained teachers' are unlikely to bring about any positive change in the lives of students.
One can identify a number of factors that play a part in the sustainability of educational change in a school. Some of them include school policy, the cooperation of colleagues, role of the head teacher and the expectations of the management.
All these factors are valid but a very important one in sustainability is the teacher's own personality and role. If the teacher, at the individual level, is enthusiastic and motivated there are greater chances that he/she can play an effective role in educational change and in its sustainability.
It is this individual factor that is missing in our teacher education. There is an urgent need to make teachers realise how important their 'selves' are. Teacher education programmes need to prepare teachers to recognise, enrich, enhance and apply their personal experiences in classrooms.
Teacher education in Pakistan can only become effective if it crosses the narrow alleys of training and enters the open field of education. The change requires a shift at the conceptual and pedagogical levels, as well as a change in attitudes. This is only possible when teacher education programmes stop producing mere technicians and start developing reflective practitioners.
The writer is a professor and director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics. DawnYour Comments
Government, private schools security
Islamabad: Schools across the country, shut down following the attack at the Islamic University in Islamabad, are adopting additional security measures in the hope that this will enable them to keep their pupils safe. Boundary walls are being heightened, security gates installed, guards hired. Some have erased the names of their institutions from boards installed outside buildings and from buses. The question is how long this can continue for and what impact it will have. Bomb drills are now a routine part of life at schools; administrators have found themselves considering aspects of management that have never before been a part of their duties. The Punjab government has said schools will remain closed till further orders.
However, there is little reason to believe there will be any dramatic improvement in the security situation soon. The conflict in Waziristan could continue for weeks. Even if it is short, there is no guarantee at all that the threat from militants will go away. The groups carrying out the latest spate of attacks after all come from many places. We need to think what this means for all of us. The impact goes beyond the question of disrupted education. The trauma experienced by children is real and intense. Some are too terrified to go to school. Others ask why the bombers want to kill them. Whispered rumours that flow quickly through campuses add also to the sense of fear. This too is something that needs to be addressed. The terrorists have, in psychological terms, acted wisely. They are aware that the threat to children arouses the worst sense of terror for many. The security apparatus and the governments in the provinces and the centre need to sit together and plan how to deal with this menace, so that children grow up in a world that is safe and not as prone to violence as the one they see around them now. The news
Books, the online price war
London: Independent bookshops in the US have urged the justice department to investigate a "predatory" online price war between huge retailers such as Wal-Mart, Amazon and Target that has cut the price of hard-back bestsellers to $9.
Works by popular authors including John Grisham, Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, typically selling for $25 to $35, have been the subject of deep discounts by powerful US players this month in a battle for online supremacy in book sales.
The American Booksellers Association says the consequences will be "catastrophic" if the price cuts continue, with small stores at risk of closure and creativity left in jeopardy.
"If left unchecked, these predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public," the ABA warned regulators.
The price war broke out a week ago, when the largest US retailer, Wal-Mart, cut some pre-order prices to $10. The titles include a memoir from the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and a volume of short stories by Grisham.
Amazon and Target matched the cuts and the three have slugged it out, cent by cent: Amazon went down to $9 in the US, Target cut to $8.99 and Wal-Mart went one better, down to $8.98. In Britain, discounting has been less extreme, although Amazon is offering advance orders of Grisham's book at £10.44, compared with a recommended retail price of £18.99.
Local bookshops in the US say the big retailers are selling far below cost, losing up to $8.50 a book to lure customers to their websites. "They're using our most important products, mega-bestsellers, as a loss leader ... The entire book industry is in danger of becoming collateral damage in this war," the ABA says.
Wal-Mart and its rivals have shrugged off the criticism, arguing that they are simply offering attractive prices to customers during a period of economic hardship. -The Guardian
Schools in S. Arabia, Turkey shut
Riyadh: Authorities in Saudi Arabia and Turkey ordered schools to be closed in various parts of the two countries after three people died from swine flu.
Saudi Arabia shut two schools in Qassim province northwest of Riyadh after two students died from swine flu, a newspaper reported on Sunday quoting a government statement.The deaths took the country's toll from A(H1N1) virus to 39.
Saudi Arabia has intensified its watch for swine flu outbreaks amid concern the disease could spread among some two million foreign visitors arriving over the next month for Haj In Turkey, Ankara's governor ordered all schools in the city shut down after a person died of swine flu.
Governor Kemal Onal said schools would remain closed for a week starting from on Monday.
The number of swine flu cases in Turkey stood at 958 on Saturday, the ministry said. Dawn
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