National education policy implementation level

Education system is widening the gap between the rich and the poor
Islamabad, Sep 14: The minister of education has announced the National Education Policy (NEP) for the next decade. It is interesting that the previous education policy, for the period of 1998 to 2010, had still not expired.

The justification for a new policy given by the minister is that the last one was not producing the required results. But this could be said about all earlier policies which were a lot of rhetoric and always fell short of reality. Even a layperson would know that the problem was at the implementation level.

This was the case with the previous education policy. The goals were quite noble but there was no political will to realise those goals. Instead of tidying up the implementation process, the government opted for an easy solution - a new policy. By offering this, every government gets an opportunity to make attractive promises and sellable declarations.

The worth of an education policy is no more than a political ploy as one can see a 'disconnect' between policies and practices in Pakistan. For instance, the education policy which now declares that English should be a compulsory subject is not new as this decision was taken in Musharraf's regime and was announced by the then education minister, Zobeida Jalal. Similarly there is a 'disconnect' between policy declarations and budget allocations. NEP 2010 however, is different from previous education policies on the count that its process of designing started almost three years before. A number of seminars and meetings were organised apparently to draw the consensus of different groups of stakeholders.

The NEP looks like a long wish list. It's replete with promises ranging from allocation to achievement of ambitious goals. Those who are familiar with the fate of previous policies consider the new policy as 'too good to be true'. Let us look at some salient features of the document. The most important announcement is that the allocation for education would be seven per cent of the national GDP by 2015.

Can we trust this statement? Despite our desire, there are problems. If we look at the trend in the allocation to education in the last three years, we realise the reason for the reluctance to believe in the promise made by NEP 2010. In 2006-7 the allocation was 2.5 per cent of GDP and in 2007-8 this was reduced to 2.47 per cent. This year (2008-9) the amount further came down to 2.1 per cent of GDP.

These declining figures allude to ground realities where one can see a gaping chasm between professed ideas and actual deeds. Similar good news was shared by Mr Shaukat Aziz, the then prime minister, who promised that the allocation to education would be raised to four per cent of GDP. Instead of catching up with the raised figure, we sadly saw a decline.

Without suspecting the intentions of the minister of education, one can identify practical difficulties in releasing the promised amount by the ministry of finance. Speaking on a TV show, the minister of education admitted that the dynamics pertaining to the release of funds have not been sorted out. This aspect becomes all the more important as, in the past, actual release/spending was far less than the allocated amount.

Another 'too good to be true' announcement is that the level of public-sector schools will be lifted to match the levels of good private schools. And the deadline for this humongous task is 2010. Such statements tend to backfire. A natural response to the statement is, 'how'.

Is there a magic wand which can turn sick units of public schools into private-sector schools? What does it take to improve the quality? Is it just buildings, or books, or teachers, or administration, or assessment or school milieu or a blend of all that constitute the notion of quality? How can this be done in a year?

Another very ambitious declaration is that, "a common curricular framework in general as well as professional education will be applied to educational institutions in both the public and private sectors". The question remains the same: how? There is no strategy mentioned in the policy document that could make us believe that this goal is attainable.

The NEP claims that the literacy rate will be enhanced to 86 per cent by 2015. This seems to be another promise which looks good on paper but its implementation is not that easy. Besides quantitative expansion, i.e. increase in the literacy rate, it is important to have a specific strategy for qualitative improvement of education in the country. The policy fails to provide a vision on the most important issue - social injustice and economic disparity. How can education be used to reduce gaps between the haves and the have-nots? How can it prepare thinking human beings? How can it challenge some of the taboos, fixed mindsets, and intolerance in society? Unfortunately the existing education system is widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

The central issue that needed to be tackled in the policy is the educational apartheid: elite and poor education. So the problem will not be solved by declaring free education up to matriculation. The issue involves the opportunities a public-sector school gives to a matriculate as compared to a student who gets an 'O' level certificate from an elite English-medium school.

The state seems to have given up on its responsibility to provide education and is thus relying too much on the private sector. This has turned public-sector schools into sick units. The policy does not talk about any strategy to bring qualitative improvement in public-sector educational institutions. On the whole, the policy focuses on the whys and whats but skilfully ignores the real issues of who and how. One wonders why such a significant document was not presented in parliament. A thorough discussion in parliament on the document could have enhanced its ownership and credibility.

The writer is a director at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan. -Dr. Shahid Siddiqui (Dawn)

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Online technical courses by Pak-China Technology Centre
Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday advised that technical courses offered at the joint Pakistan & China Technology Centre in the country should also be offered to students from all over the country on the Internet. He was talking to a delegation of M/S Huawei Technologies of China led by its Chief Executive Officer Ye Jingyue who called on him at the Presidency. The meeting was also attended by Luo Zhaohui, Ambassador of China in Islamabad.

The Huawei Technology of China and COMSATS University have jointly launched the Information Technology Training Programme which will offer multiple courses of short, medium and long term duration.

Spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the joint venture was launched in pursuance of the President's recent visits to China.

The Chief Executive Officer of Huawei Pakistan and Chairman COMSATS assured the President that students from all over the country will be admitted to the courses offered in the programme.

The programme will reach fully capacity by January next and hundreds of student would benefit from it every semester. APP

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QAU launches seminar series
Islamabad: Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU)'s Department of Administrative Sciences (DAS) has launched a weekly seminar series to keep students abreast with latest trends in corporate world.

The first seminar was held on 'Recruitment and Selection Process in Corporate World'.

Ayesha Asad, an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK, with 26 years of practical experience related to human resource management and administration, shared her experiences with the students of MBA and MPA.

She said the goal of recruiting was to give enough information about the job to attract a large number of qualified applicants and, at the same time, to discourage the unqualified. Daily times

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Private schools colleges hold mehfil-e-naat
Islamabad: Dozens of students from private schools of the capital took part in a 'Naat' Competition organised by All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Owners Association (APPSCOA) at Islamabad Community Centre on Sunday.

International Human Rights Observer president was the chief guest on the occasion, while APPSCOA president presided over the Mehfil, said a press release.

Among the primary level students, Abdul Azeez of Al-Awan Model School got first position, while Tania Saleem of International Islamic School stood second. The third position went to Ziauddin of Shan Public School.

Among the secondary level students, Reema Aurangzeb of Nargas Foundation won the first position, while Abdul Basit of Abdul Qadir School and Kunza Mehmood of Margala Valley School stood second and third respectively. APP

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Calligraphy workshop at PNCA
Islamabad: To coincide the Holy month of Ramazan, a three-day calligraphy workshop for children and adults is being organised here at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) today (Monday).

Master Calligrapher, Muhammed Azeem Iqbal will conduct the training with a prime focus on different modes and techniques of calligraphy.

The certificate distribution ceremony of the workshop will be held on September 16 with a National Calligraphic exhibition at National Art Gallery.

Students from various educational institutions of the twin cities are invited to attend the workshop in which Azeem Iqbal will deliver lectures on the history and development of Islamic Arts and their unique place among the contemporary arts.

Azeem Iqbal is a popular name in the field of calligraphy who got many awards for his stunning works at home and abroad. His innovative art highlights the true spirit of Islam, Divine peace, love, kindness and harmony for all human beings.

"My creative calligraphy art portrays divine rhythmic beauty and exaltation in the spiritual domain. I am a self taught artist taking my inspiration from nature and believe that calligraphy is a field of love and devotion," said Azeem Iqbal.

"I have introduced a unique and new dimensional style in the Islamic Calligraphy covering the golden era of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) to the present century," he said.

Azeem Iqbal has presented his latest masterpieces with the title 'Ahad-e-Nabwi', which blends natural elements to accentuate the divinity association with calligraphic art. The news

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