Big jump in allocation of public expenditure on education
Islamabad, Oct 5: The education policy announced recently envisages a big jump in the allocation of public expenditure on education from the current level of two per cent of the GDP to seven per cent over the next five years.
Many well-meaning commentators, political leaders and external agencies also believe that the problem of education deficiency in Pakistan can be attributed to the lack of funding. However memories are short and we have forgotten that a multi-donor, multi-million dollar project - the Social Action Programme in the 1990s - was a failure. It did not increase enrolment rates or achieve any other goal; in fact, it left the government with a higher debt.
We should avoid making the same mistake again and putting the economy in further jeopardy. The total expenditure on education by all tiers of government would jump by almost 50 per cent in one year if we raise it by one per cent of the GDP only. As much as Rs400bn would become available for spending in one year. Unless we pay attention to the serious governance problems facing our education sector we will end up with more ghost schools, ghost teachers, greater absenteeism, misuse of grants to private schools, inflated building contracts and other leakages and waste.
The availability of funds for education from donors is also not a constraint as almost all external donors are vying with each other to finance education projects. The duplication, overlap and competition among the suppliers of funds would add to the already poor state of governance in our schools, colleges, universities and educational administration.
Does this mean that we should not pursue the target of higher allocation for education? No, but there are some prerequisite governance reforms that have to be undertaken before the allocation is stepped up. The National Commission for Government Reforms had carried out a two-year study, field visits and consultations with stakeholders and produced practical recommendations for improving the quality of governance in the education sector. There are at least 10 critical reforms that have to be put in place.
First, there is a clear need for delineating responsibility for the provision of education among the three tiers of government. The federal government should deal with curriculum and higher education financing, standards and regulations. The provincial governments should be responsible for college education and technical and vocational training while the district governments should take charge of primary, secondary and high schools.
Second, to bring about coordination, ensure uniformity in the standards of public, private and non-profit schools, a district education board should be established in each district. The board must consist of eminent persons enjoying a good reputation and the district education officer act as the secretary of the board and implement the decisions taken by it. The detailed terms of reference of the board have been developed.
Third, like the Sindh and NWFP governments, there should be separation between management and teaching cadres in other provinces and the federal government. While the selection to the management cadre would be open to teachers with the requisite aptitude, all teachers could progress in their teaching careers to higher grades without becoming headmaster, principal or education officers.
Fourth, teachers' cadres should be de-linked from national pay scales. Educational levels in backward districts will not improve unless the compensation package is aligned with local market conditions. If, for example, a science teacher in Musakhel has to be paid Rs15,000 per month to attract her to work in this backward district, she should be given that package.
In contrast if qualified science teachers in Karachi or Lahore are available at a salary of Rs12,000 per month, they should be paid that amount. Otherwise the present distortions - teachers appointed in backward districts are transferred to big cities because of political influence - will continue to persist.
Fifth, all teachers should be appointed from among the candidates domiciled in a district through a test conducted by the Public Service Commission on merit alone. These posts should be non-transferable. Other posts for which suitable candidates are not available locally can be filled from outside the district. The powers of recruitment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary action must reside with the district education board.
Sixth, the school management committees (SMCs) and/or parent-teacher associations (PTAs) should be empowered to effectively oversee the internal management of a school, i.e. keeping the school infrastructure in good shape, ensuring teachers attend school and managing other problems. Budgetary resources would have to be given to the SMCs but they would be accountable to the district education board for results.
The head-teachers/principals would be given appropriate administrative authority to carry out the day-to-day operations of the school. They would also be given powers to initiate action against recalcitrant teachers.
Seventh, the district education board should be allocated funds annually for carrying out the approved infrastructure projects, operations and maintenance and training of teachers in all schools. The training would be delivered by the provincial governments, who would also test the competency of the teachers and the learning achievements of the students on an annual basis. Funds allocated to the district boards must be audited regularly.
Eighth, children from low-income families should be given the option of going to private schools provided these schools meet prescribed eligibility criteria. These schools must be given per capita grants for the students from low-income families. The activities of the education foundations in the provinces should be expanded and supported to find other suitable means of fostering public-private partnerships.
Ninth, a decentralised and empowered education network can function efficiently only if it is monitored continuously. A management information system (MIS) should help the district boards in monitoring the performance of the schools. For example, if a primary school is producing a constant stream of pupils for enrolment in higher classes, the upgrade to elementary school could take place immediately.
Finally, all talented students from poor families and backward districts who secure admissions to private schools, professional colleges, business administration institutes and institutions of higher learning should be awarded scholarships for pursuing their studies. Eligibility criteria must be announced beforehand and advertisements placed inviting applications for scholarships.
These reforms would take some time to take root and must be initiated before the spigot of money for education is opened.
The writer was the chairman of the National Commission for Government Reforms. Dawn
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Government working on many policies to improve teacher quality
Islamabad: Federal Minister for Education Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani said the government is working on a number of policy actions to improve teacher quality and raise their social and economic status.
He stated this during an exclusive talk with APP in connection with World Teachers' Day, falling on October 5 (Monday). The minister said the standard of education could only be raised if teachers are given their due role in society.
The new education policy envisages concrete steps to raise the morale of teachers, he said adding that the measures include upgrading teacher salaries, creation of a separate teaching cadre, teachers' professional development, and a reward system based on performance.
The government is acutely aware that reforms are required in all areas including pre-service training and the standardisation of qualifications of teachers, teacher remuneration, and governance and management of the teaching workforce. The minister repeatedly stressed the need for elevating the status of teachers, calling teaching a 'profession of prophets'.
Recently, the government took an important step by making permanent the ad hoc teachers in the schools and colleges of the federal territory, he informed. The new policy contains measures, which if fully implemented will go a long way in strengthening the role of teachers as an important pillar of the educational system. Bijarani urged teachers to fulfil their professional responsibilities and build up their image as reformers of society.
Going through the policy, one notices that it focuses on teacher training arrangements, accreditation and certification procedures, which will be standardised and institutionalised.
The policy states that teacher education curriculum will be adjusted to the needs of the school curriculum and scheme of studies. The curriculum will include training for student-centred teaching and cross-curricular competencies. A separate cadre of specialised teacher trainers will be developed.
The governments will take steps to ensure that teacher recruitment, professional development, promotions and postings are based on merit alone. All teachers will have opportunities for professional development through a programme organised on a three-year cyclic basis. Progress in career will be linked to such professional development.
In service teachers training in mathematics will be given due attention to develop conceptual understanding, procedural knowledge, problem solving and practical reasoning skills, while in service teachers training in science will be based on real life situations, use of science kits and their provision to all primary and middle schools.
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American Studies conference concluded at QAU
Islamabad: The three-day 12th International American Studies Conference themed 'Media in America; American in the Media', organised by the Area Study Centre (ASC) for Africa, North & South America at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), concluded at Islamabad Club.
Dr Rukhsana Qamber, director of the host centre and a former staffer of 'The Muslim', a defunct newspaper, while addressing the closing session, talked of her experience in the daily and recalled a letter published in the paper and the tremendous response of the public.
She said that her PhD supervisor had warned her that her thesis should not appear journalistic. Dr Rukhsana called for feedback from the audience to improve future American Studies conferences.
Dr Ghulam Taqi Bangash of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology said a CIA report stated that the daily 'The Muslim' gave a 'feel of fresh air' in the atmosphere of Islamabad, as it was a time when many newspapers of today had not been launched.
Dr Hans Frey, who chaired the last session, thanked the audience for their contribution.
Earlier, on the first day of the conference on Friday, Director ASC for China & Central Asia, University of Peshawar Dr Sarfaraz Khan read his paper titled 'Good Versus Evil: Argument to Begin Global War on Terror', while the title of a joint paper of Zainab Moin and Masooma Batool from Fatima Jinnah Women's University (FJWU) was 'Responsibility of Electronic Media During War: a Study of CNN', and that of Dr Safer Awan from International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), was 'War of Words: Images of the Muslims Since 9/11 in American Media'.
In the second day session, Roudaba Shuja of Humak College for Women, Rawalpindi, spoke on 'Emergence of American Literatures' and Dr Iftikhar Shafi of Karachi University read his paper on 'The Violence of Literary Media(tion): Refracting Sufi Thought Through Literary Criticism'. Shahid Waseem of US Embassy talked on 'Blogs & Facebook: Transforming Global Media Culture from Americanisation to Localisation', while Farima Mughal, an analyst, discussed 'Media in America'. Dr Mansur Kundi of Balochistan University read his paper on 'US Veto Patterns & the Media', Dr Starr Ackley of University of Bahrain presented her paper on 'Media Mixed Messages in DeLillo's Libra', and Akbar Sajid of Bahauddin Zakaria University talked on 'Critical Othering: Muslims/Muslim Women in American Newspapers'. Junaid Ahmad's paper was on an interesting topic of 'The Islam Industry in America', while Dr Ghulam Taqi Bangash of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology spoke on 'America in the Iranian Media: Iran in the American Media', and Dr Laura Mascarella of University Vic, Catalonia, Spain, read her paper on 'America in the Spanish Media'.
The heads of Cuban, Mexican, Chilean and Argentinean embassies also spoke on the occasion. The discussants included Editor Daily 'The News' Muhammad Mallick, Dr Rubina Kamran, Dr Lubna Abid, Dr M Islam, Director Centre for Media Studies, Maryland University, USA Dr Susan Moeller, and Suhail Khan of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Inaugurated by Federal Education Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani at the auditorium of Pakistan National Council of the Arts on Friday, the second day sessions were held at the auditorium of Earth Sciences Department of QAU while the closing session took place at Islamabad Club. The reason behind this constant shifting of venues was perhaps security and monetary considerations, as US Embassy officials were also in attendance at the inaugural session.
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Tribute paid to Dr Faheem
Islamabad: Late Dr Faheem Hussain was a scholar, a scientist and a revolutionary at the same time, said Dr AH Nayyar, former professor of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University.
He was speaking at a reference organised in memory of Dr Faheem Hussain, who died on Tuesday last at the Italian coastal city of Trieste at the age of 67. The reference was organised at Fafen's office here on Saturday.
Dr Nayyar said that in a video conferencing, despite knowing that cancer is at the last stages, Faheem was rational, humorous and hopeful. The incurable disease had penetrated deep in his bones but he was not worried and bravely faced the fate by remaining rationalist till his last breath, he said.
Prof Nayyar said his friendship with Faheem started in 1968 when Faheem joined QAU in mid-60s. Hippism was at the top at that time and it was impossible for Faheem not to emulate it. He said that the Vice-Chancellor seeing him shouted who is that hippy, shunt him out and was told that he was a professor.
Dr Nayyar said that anti-imperialism was his cardinal principle. Palestine was another of his focal point. He also opposed US intervention in Iraq. Faheem used to support any power which opposed USA. Women activist Tahira Abdullah said that he was forceful supporter of women rights movement and his first wife Jane was one of its founder members. She said that her first meeting with Faheem was in a session of Women's Action Forum. He remained loyal to the rights of women till his last breath, she concluded.
Dr Khalid Rasheed from Mathematics Department said that Faheem used to play very good cricket, held study groups and discussion sessions. He said that Faheem once in a discussion in 1979 preferred philosophy to physics.
Prof Ashfaq Saleem Mirza said that a great army of students was crated by universities though no revolution could be brought about by this. He said that Faheem's one point agenda was anti-imperialism. Hajera Pervaiz Hoodbhoy said that she was flabbergasted by his lecture at her college where he came in his technical colour dress. He was hard-working and loving personality, adding that he was fond of music and hiking.
Veteran journalist and media consultant, Tax Ombudsman Office, Mahmood Hamdani said that Faheem worked selflessly in PLF. One could see him in every demo with his wife and son without making speeches. This developed romanticism in labour leaders for him. One always felt happiness by meeting him as if we knew each others for centuries, said Mr Hamdani. He said that when during Zia period, a 'jagirdar' opposed his efforts to set up dispensary and school in a Bhakkar area, Faheem with Riffat Baba came there for his rescue.
Sarwar Bari who conducted the proceedings said that his last meeting with Faheem was in front of KFC at Super Market when he was in the forefront to stop all US-franchised food outlets in a country when US was about to invade Iraq. He said that Faheem and his friends wiped out the differentiation between social and natural scientists.
He said that Majeedabad (QAU huts) was another gathering point of all progressives in the QAU and Dr Faheem, his colleagues and students opposed all CDA efforts to demolish these 'khokas'. He said that all the persons who spearheaded the movement for the restoration of independent judiciary were those and their disciples who stood against military dictatorship from Ayub to Zia.
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Elders want forces to vacate school, hospital
Miranshah: The elders of Dattakhel tribe in North Waziristan have demanded of the government to vacate a school and hospital, which had been in use of security forces for the last three years.
Talking to reporters on Sunday, the elders including Muhammad Noor, Walibat Khan, Mir Jamal, Dawa Khan, Fazal Janan and Mushtaq Wazir said the people had to visit private clinics for treatment, as the building of the basic health unit was in use of security forces.
"The forces must vacate the Government High School and the building of basic health unit (BHU) to save the people from problems," Muhammad Noor said. The elders also demanded of NWFP Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani and the corps commander to take notice of the issue and order the forces to vacate the school and BHU buildings. The news
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