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An academic, a researcher and writer.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Teacher Education in Transition: A Reform Program in Initial Teacher Education in Pakistan : Annual Review of Comparative and International Education 2014

Teacher Education has been transforming throughout the world to cater to the emerging needs of quality education. Significant developments have taken place nationally and internationally in political, economic, and cultural fields, influencing education in general and teacher education in particular. The quality of education depends to a great extent on the quality of teachers. And, the quality of teachers depends on the way they are educated and trained. Pakistan has a vast education sector and a huge teaching force but teacher education in the country has not been keeping pace with modernization and development globally. Teacher education curricula, dissemination, evaluation and implementation revolved around traditional models for decades. However, there has been a growing realization to reform the teacher education system lately. The education policy (2009) of Pakistan indicates such realization on the part of the stakeholders. This chapter reports on an important teacher education reform program, which is based on collaboration between the government of Pakistan and the USAID. The Teacher Education Project (TEP), assisted by USAID, is a reform initiative that aimed at restructuring and modernizing teacher education in Pakistan. This chapter aims to provide insights into the objectives, importance and achievements of the project in terms of shaping the future direction of teacher education in Pakistan. It reports on the substantial structural and policy changes that took place in teacher education under the project. This chapter also highlights the possible challenges in the way of useful implementation and sustainability of this and similar education reform initiatives in Pakistan.

Teacher Education in Transition: A Reform Program in Initial Teacher Education in Pakistan : Annual Review of Comparative and International Education 2014

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Bullying in educational institutions: A serious issue

Bullying is a serious problem. Bullying in schools is very a serious problem. It is an unfortunate fact that like many other problems faced by a great many students (and teachers) in our schools, this problem does not get adequate attention either in our educational research milieu (which in either case is almost non-existent in our educational institutions) or in our electronic or press media. This very serious problem is treated trivially by most educational stake holders i.e. teachers, educational managers, policy makers and parents. What bullying is all about and why it should be treated as a very serious problem are questions that need attention from all these stakeholders. Let us first try to understand an initial definition of the term. One very comprehensive definition of the term has been provided in a policy document of the Department of Education and Training, Western Australia, called ‘Making the difference: behaviour management in schools’ (1998), as reported by Forlin & Chambers (2003). Bullying according to this document is defined as ‘A wilful, conscious desire to hurt, threaten or frighten. It can be physical and/or verbal in nature and can include racial, religious and sexual harassment, rude gestures, intimidation, social isolation and extortion. It must be recognised that bullying is ongoing in nature and that bullies are reinforced by another’s pain, fear and humiliation.’ It has been observed that bullying of the physical kind though not exclusively but for the most part occurs in single-sex boys’ schools or in co-educational institutions. Boys are more prone to this kind of bullying both as perpetrators as well as victims. In the co-education set up besides boys, girls too, though less frequently, could become victims of physical bullying by boys. In exceptional cases the vice versa can happen when girls could put boys to physical bullying. This happens when older girl students put younger boys to bullying. As far as the exclusively girl schools are concerned usually bullying occurs in its verbal form but this does not mean a total ruling out of the physical form of bullying there. Bullying is a serious problem because it could be like a nightmare to students who are victims of bullying of one kind or another. It can cause immense life-long damage to the self-confidence and steady development of the personality of victims. Though not well researched in the Pakistani educational culture and an unduly neglected phenomenon, the effects of bullying are extremely harmful. Student are at risk of serious harm to their self esteem and to the balanced growth of their personalities besides physical ailments such as serious heart problems and ailments of the digestive, nervous and respiratory systems due to consistent stress caused by long-term subjection to bullying. Continuous subjection to mental and psychological torture as a result of bullying of one or the other form, can lead victims to nurture an acute sense of helplessness, desolation and even to suicidal thoughts. Though not much systematic research on the issue is available in the Pakistani context, it has been commonly observed that quite a number of dropout cases and truancy as well as failures and lack of interest in studies and other school activities are due to the acts of bullying that take place there. One very serious form of bullying in schools is ‘gang bullying’. This is a situation when bullies form gangs. This is particularly very dangerous as this union (of the bullies) enhances their strength both physically and psychologically. Gangs are also very dangerous as they can easily overpower individual victims. Such gangs are even difficult for the school administration and teachers to deal with. Gangs of bullies are usually formed by students from higher classes or by students who fail more than once, repeat classes and thus get older and stronger as compared to other younger classmates. Such students are particularly dangerous on two counts: one, they are older and stronger than the rest of their classmates and two, they are usually of the un-academic type who do not take much interest in their studies, and are more prone to such unhealthy activities. Usually in our secondary schools (schools from class sixth to tenth), students in the age group of fourteen to eighteen and beyond (students who fail more than once in their school life, can remain in the school up-to the age of twenty years) and who consequently get physically and mentally (in terms of experience in school situation) stronger than the younger ones i.e. age group of ten to fourteen are more prone to becoming bullies. Their mental and physical strength give them the edge over their victims. Such students, who repeatedly fail and still remain at school, are even difficult for teachers to keep under control. At times even teachers could fall victim to their bullying tactics. In that case it becomes very difficult for teachers to come to the rescue of student victims of bullying. Another type of students who are prone to becoming bullies are those who have broken families or those families where the parents find little time or inclination to provide for the socio-psychological needs of their wards. Lack of attention at home creates in them a sense of irresponsibility, carelessness and revolt, which can turn them into bullies. Sometimes parents play a direct role in turning their children into bullies by actively encouraging them to be aggressive (which is taken for being brave!) The act of bullying can have a number of motives behind it. Bullies can resort to it for simple psychological pleasure that they feel when they see their victim at their mercy. Bullying also provides the bully with a sense of power and recognition which he otherwise finds hard to come by both at home and at school through legitimate means such as good academic performance. It can also have material and sexual favours as motives. In most boys’ schools bullies in the upper teen age group( when as young adults they become sexually extremely active) put younger children to various bullying tactics for sexual favours and in many cases the ones’ being bullied end up falling victim to their sexual demands. This is a very serious situation as this can result in life-long psychological scars for the victims. Sometimes a simple feeling of jealousy against the higher achievement of the victim can result in his being put to bullying just to keep him stressed and to draw his attention away from studies. Snatching, stealing and damaging of books, notebooks and other such material may also be means to such an end. Factors that contribute to the phenomenon of bullying include the following: lack of awareness or interest on the part of parents, teachers and school administration about the severity of the problem and its very harmful long term consequences both for the bully and the bullied. Intentional or unintentional endorsement of the phenomenon by parents and teachers is also one of the causes. In some very unfortunate cases, it has been observed that teachers are involved in the act of bullying directly or indirectly for their own nefarious designs which can range from material benefit to sexual favours either from the bully (in return for allowing him the freedom to bully other students) or the victim (by compelling him through the bully to approach him for help). This may seem too far fetched but sadly is true, though it may be infrequent. Another factor that can contribute to the phenomenon of bullying is the act of silent suffering on the part of the victim. This can be due to a number of reasons but the most important among them is the socio-psychological distance between the child and parents or teachers. In many cases there is lack of communication and trust between the child and the parents specially fathers. This leads to a lack of confidence on the part of the victim to openly discuss his problems with parents. Same is true in case of teacher-student relationship. The result is silent suffering on the part of the victim and reinforcement for the perpetrator, who finds such a victim (being without support) an easy prey to his bullying tactics. School-home disconnection and lack of communication among teachers and parents can also play its role in adding to the problem of bullying. As an aside it should be taken not of that bullying of various kinds mentioned above is not confined to schools, it happens in homes and in the neighbourhood in various forms. So in order to deal with this highly harmful phenomenon, awareness must be created among all the stakeholders mentioned above regarding the nature and severity of the problem and steps taken to deal with the various factors which support the occurrence of bullying. Dr Muhammad Ilyas Khan is an academic and researcher at Hazara University.Dr Khan holds a PhD in Education at the University of Leicester, UK. Email: ilyasisa@yahoo.com

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Dear Mian Sahib - Dr Farrukh Saleem

Sir, some fifteen million Pakistanis voted the best man back to power. Congratulations. Sir, are you now prepared to commit to three things: austerity, a Public Sector Enterprises Selection Board and fiscal consolidation? Sir, are you prepared to wash your hands of the Rs27 billion prime minister’s discretionary fund (and the chief minister’s discretionary fund especially in Punjab)?
Sir, are you prepared to end the multi-billion rupee Ministry of Information secret fund? Sir, then there are the two major propaganda tools – Rs5 billion for Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation and Rs4 billion for Pakistan Television. What should their future be? Sir, that’s a hefty Rs40 billion right there.
Sir, the cabinet division is spending Rs8 million per day, every day of the year. The Prime Minister’s Secretariat is spending Rs2 million a day, every day of the year. The presidency is spending Rs1.3 million a day, every day of the year. Sir, the budgetary allocation for the prime minister’s foreign trips amounts to a whopping Rs5 million a day, every day of the year. That’s a total of Rs6 billion right there. Sir, can you commit to slash all of these expenditures down to their bones?
Sir, our public sector enterprises (PSEs) are falling like ninepins. Pakistan Railways, Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco), Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) and the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) collectively end up loosing Rs360 billion a year – Rs100 crore a day, every day of the year.
Sir, the MD of PIA is managing to lose Rs7 crore a day, every day of the year. Pakistan Railways is managing to lose Rs5 crore a day, every day of the year. PIA’s half yearly report titled ‘Flying towards a prosperous future’ reports that liabilities went up from Rs62 billion in 2005 to Rs200 billion in 2009. PIA’s annual report titled ‘We stand for national values’ reports that net losses at the PIA have gone up from Rs4.4 billion in 2005 to Rs35 billion in 2008. At Pakistan Railways, the overdraft now stands at a tall Rs48 billion.
Sir, are your ready to dilute the prime minister’s authority to appoint the heads of the falling ninepins? Sir, are you prepared to commit to abide by the guiding principles of the UK commissioner for public appointments? Sir, are you ready to commit to just three principles of ‘merit, fairness and openness’?
Sir, do you commit to undertake fiscal consolidation? The PML-N would have to come up with specific policy instruments and specific structural spending and revenue reforms. The PML-N would have to formulate specific policy measures within our tough economic environment and a challenging setup of patronage politics. The PML-N would have to stabilise debt and to succeed the PML-N would need multiple instruments of consolidation.
Sir, are you ready to commit to the Nolan Committee’s seven principles of public life for all ministerial appointments? These principles are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
Sir, are you ready to commit to end billion rupee dole-outs to Senators, MNAs and MPAs all in the name of ‘development funds’? Sir, are you ready to commit to the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitations Law of 2005?
Dear Mian Sahib, unless “commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes...but no plans.”

Dear Mian Sahib - Dr Farrukh Saleem

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Why Sir Syed loses and Allama Iqbal wins in Pakistan

In the battle for Pakistan’s soul, Sir Syed’s rational approach ultimately lost out and the Allama’s call on emotive reasoning won. Iqbal said what people wanted to hear — and his genius lay in crafting it with beautifully chosen words. Unfortunately, his prescriptions for reconstructing society cannot help us in digging ourselves out of a hole.

Why Sir Syed loses and Allama Iqbal wins in Pakistan

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Problems and Prospects of Collaborative Learning in Asian Cross-cultural Student Group in England.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

14 ‘shoulds’ for a better Pakistan

Pakistan has been in turmoil for a long time now. There is political, ideological, social and economic chaos engulfing the entire country. I hope that the year 2013 will be the beginning of peace and prosperity in Pakistan. To move towards an enlightened, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan, I, as a Pakistani, propose fourteen SHOULDS on this occasion. These SHOULDS, I promise can change the course of our country but this require paradigmatic changes in our national priorities. Here goes the list: 1. Education should be at the top of our priority list with at least 20 percent of our annual budget spent on providing quality education to the people of Pakistan. 2. As a sage once said, 'If you want to see the condition of a nation, see the condition of the teacher'. So teachers should be the most valued (in the real sense of the word) people in the country. 3. Our hospitals should be our second principal priority after education. 4. We should make every effort to establish complete peace with our neighbouring countries including our arch-rival India. In this regard we can learn from European countries such Germany, France, and the UK. 5. We should devote ourselves to spreading a network of playgrounds in each and every city and town and village of our country. 6. There should be a network of libraries in every our city and town with latest books, magazines, journals available, and with computers and internet facilities 7. There should be immediate and complete ban on pressure horns on roads and streets and gradually the ban should come down to any kind of horns, of course people need to be educated through electronic and print media against indiscriminate use of horns 8. There should be a centrally controlled system of mosques in every city and town. The Imams should be properly educated, trained, should be at least secondary school graduates besides their religious studies and should be recruited by the local administrative authority. They should be paid adequately for their services with the help and cooperation of the local population. The Friday sermons and teaching of these Imams should be monitored and they should be trained and educated to present the peaceful, inclusive, humanitarian face of religion to the people .This will guard against the tendency of turning religion into a sectarianism, extremism and the resultant violence. 9. Democracy should be embraced, nurtured and practiced in the true sense of the word and for that to happen efforts should be made to take the power centre out of the feudal class and to bring it down to the reach of the common people. The first step in this regard is for political parties to themselves become truly democratic and shun hereditary and dictatorial practices prevalent inside their ranks. Our armed forces should once and for all decide not to ever interfere in our political system and confine themselves to their constitutionally rightful place: that of the guardian of our (primarily) external security and (if need be) internal security. Let us for the coming thirty years, at least, try democracy in its true sense and then decide which way to go. Let our democratic system correct its own course without anymore interference. Let us show to the world that we can be truly professional in our respective fields, whichever that might be, as soldiers, military officers, teachers, doctors, politicians, lawyers, judges, engineers, bankers, religious leaders, farmers, labourers, craftsmen, technicians, journalists or people from any other profession. 10. A Pakistani nationalism based on an international, humanitarian philosophy should be nurtured through a nationwide system of inclusive education. The purpose should be to broaden the horizons of the Pakistani youth to feel a part of the rest of the world instead of looking at every other nation as an enemy out to destroy our dear country. For this the concept of positive national ego, should be promoted. This will help the Pakistani youth feeling a responsible part of the rest of the world, shouldering the burden of the entire humanity instead of asking others to always extend a helping hand to our sinking ship. 11. Strength in terms of economic and social development should be our primary goal driving our national policies and not just military might and our capability for destruction. Live and let live should be our motive from now onwards if we really want to continue to exist and flourish in the comity of nations in the twenty first century. 12. Rigorous measures should be taken to control our dangerously growing population, which is already beyond our means. Poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and a false understanding of religion are primary source of this menace. The role of religious leaders is of special importance in this regard. 13. An important indicator of the degree of civilization of a society is the way women are treated in it. Women emancipation through a process of education and awareness among the masses should be one of our top priorities. Pakistani women are exemplary in their devotion to their families and the welfare of those around them and this extraordinary source of our strength must be taped by giving them their due place in the social, economic and political spheres of our national life. Again the role of religious leaders is of primary importance in this regard; many of whom unfortunately confine the role of women to domestic chores. These religious leaders consciously or unconsciously use their enormous clout as opinion makers against the economic and social freedom and autonomy of our women. This trend needs to be changed and women be brought into our national life as equal partners and stakeholders. 14. We should, as a nation make it a core principle of our national ethos, that a society cannot live for long in the presence of injustice and endemic corruption. It should, therefore, be one of the top-most priorities to clean up corruption in our legal, administrative and political system, to have an independent, well-paid judiciary and an excellent, efficient and corruption-free police force. P.S: Seems a loony’s dream? Well, maybe, but this country was a dream before its birth, a dream of hope and peace and prosperity before it was turned, by the monsters who ruled it for years on, into a nightmare for its inhabitants. And with the positive energies of our youth, can once more, we have the beginning of a noble dream and a lovely reality. The writer is an academic and researcher at the Department of Education, Hazara University, Mansehra. Email: ilyasisa@gmail.com