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An academic, a researcher and writer.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

What makes a regional chaudhry?

What makes a regional chaudhry?

"Our leaders remain reluctant to educate our people of these facts, let alone recognise emerging global realities. Politicians and the media persist in keeping our illiterate and semi-literate public in a mythical universe. Those, to name but one, our former ambassador in Washington, who have studied and taught international relations advocate realism in speeches and writings that are published and commented on abroad only to be ignored at home. Educated realists are denigrated on an almost daily basis as if their reference to facts is somehow blasphemous or unpatriotic." Cowasjee Dawn, Pakistan

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Doctors, ethics and materialism

Written in 2007

In a letter to THE NEWS titled ‘ Honourable crime’ one, Lt.Zaheer Abbas from Peshawar had the following observations about our honourable doctors and the way they serve the ‘dukhi insaniat’: “Peshawar is a city which serves as a headquarter for the NWFP, FATA and some other remote areas situated near it. Peshawar thus has the largest number of patients as compared to other cities of Pakistan. The normal practice which is carried out in Peshawar is that the doctors do not see the patients properly in the hospitals, in the morning session, where they have to offer their consultation free of cost because they are serving in a government hospital, rather they give them their cards and tell them to visit them in their clinics in the evening. In the evening if you visit Dabgari garden, a place that is almost completely occupied by private hospitals and clinics, you will find patients in huge queues in front of the doctors' clinics. Normally the consultation fee of a doctor is 500 rupees but this varies from doctor to doctor. The alarming thing is that more than 90 per cent of these patients belong to very poor families and these doctors barely examine them for more than a few minutes at a time.

"The question is why are they charging such high consultancy fees/charges for such brief examinations and that too from such poor people with whom you cannot help but sympathise. They travel from far-flung areas in their ailing states, are poverty stricken, equally ignorant of their malaise and its treatment, not to mention their helplessness against these doctors who are supposed to have taken the Hippocratic Oath and are meant to serve humanity selflessly. What would happen if they take Rs50 or Rs100 instead of Rs500? Instead of making Rs50, 000 a day they will make Rs10, 000 a day, which still means Rs300, 000 a month. Isn't this amount enough for them and their families' luxurious lifestyles? When their private clinics were banned and a new practice was introduced in the combined military hospital, according to which half of the fees would go to the doctors and half to the hospitals, all the doctors put up resignations in protest. Why can't they afford to give half of their fees to government hospitals, which serve the poorest people of our poor nation? I request the authorities concerned to take steps in this regard.” The letter seems to be a voice from the hearts of those who can feel the miseries of the ailing helpless multitude of this hapless land of the pure, and who have the ears to listen to the cries of agony that come from those who suffer in helplessness and die in hopelessness. But let us see how those to whom the letter was primarily addressed, think .

In response to this letters were published from doctors in the same newspaper. One letter coming from a doctor in Rawalpindi has the following to say: “ this is with regard to Lt Zaheer Abbass' letter 'Honourable crime'. The sympathy of the young reader for the ailing poor community in the suburbs of Peshawar was indeed genuine and worthy of appreciation. However his biased opinion regarding doctors' fee was all the more obvious. Soon after reading his letter I went to a car mechanic who charged me Rs250 for merely washing the radiator, Rs380 for tuning the engine and Rs300 for repairing the choke. I must add that nothing new was fitted into the car only repair was done. While I drove back home I stopped by a tire repair shop where a small kid in his teens who spent only15 minutes on my car tyres and handed me a bill worth Rs180. I would like to mention over here that those doctors who charge Rs500 as fee have spent 30 years of their lives studying and have at least 10 years of strenuous work experience. The young reader should refrain from making vivid calculations about how much a doctor earns and should spend time donating to charities.”

The first thing that comes to mind while going through the good doctor’s response is that he is (unintentionally?), comparing a human being with a machine (a car). An ailing human being, unfortunately, is dealt with by most of the doctors, as a machine, which is out of order and can be fixed in the way a machine is fixed. Hence the mechanical behaviour when an ailing person comes to a doctor for cure. The doctor also laments the ‘small kid in his teens’ charging him Rs.180 in just fifteen minutes of work on his car tyres! Dear doctor as a highly educated citizen (cream of the society to be precise) as a doctor is supposed to be, why don’t you object to ‘a small kid in his teens’ working in a tyre repair shop, instead of objecting to his ‘heavy’ charges? But the most telling part of the doctor’s reply is the one where he justifies the heavy fees of doctors by weighing it against the years of hard work done by them and the money they have spent on becoming doctors. This reflects what is in the mind of our doctors while they are at work in the hospitals or in their clinics: you are here to get back multiple times what you have invested in becoming a doctor i.e. time and money. In the end the doctor has a good piece of advice for the ‘young reader’, which he should pay heed to as it has come from a doctor!

There is a response to the same letter from another doctor. This one from one doctor from Peshawar, who writes, “This letter is in response to Lt Zaheer Abbas letter 'Honourable crime’. I agree with Lt Abbas' concern that doctors have been butchering the poor and have been violating the Hippocratic Oath. But if we put it in perspective, I think Lt Abbas will realise that among all the honourable criminals, doctors still are still quite low on the list.

"The doctors working in the government sector, despite negligence and inadequate work still work at least three to four times more than all those sitting in public offices such as the GPO or WAPDA, secretariat who puff more cigarette hours and tea hours than work. Five to six times more than an average military officer and 10 times more than the average bureaucrat who have more time to read newspaper and entertain guests than the military and civil service he/she is entrusted. Highest on the list are the politicians who are the least responsible, most corrupt and most incompetent. Doctors are also the least paid by government standards compared to teachers, bureaucrats, and other salaried staff for the amount of work hours they put in, the teaching they do (to produce more doctors), the research papers they churn out yearly, the amount of study they have done to become doctors and the amount of study they have to do to remain updated (even if you take the least updated doctor).

"Doctors take the least vacations. They are also the least supported and most attacked by government and least garnished with government based luxuries. Per capita professionals, they also pay the highest taxes. In short they are the country's single strongest building block. They can work independently of any government-based structure. The average salary of the highest grade doctor is in the order of 20,000 where as principals and other high grade teachers especially of IT who have studied less than half and worked almost half the amount of hours get salaries nowadays around 100,000 per month. These are rough and probably humble figures and approximations but I will be surprised if I am terribly mistaken. It is just a pity that many doctors have taken things too far and when they can like Lt Abbas said, earn a reasonably handsome amount with honesty, they still go ahead and violate the nobility of their own profession.”

The good doctor does not seem to be terribly mistaken when he compares his profession with other professions in terms of the hard work involved, the number of hours in work and the hard labour required for becoming and remaining in the field of medicine. But he is mistaken when he compares this noblest of professions to others in terms of the monetary benefits involved or when you get solace from the fact that doctors are still quite low on the list of ‘the honourable criminals’.

Now before looking into what is wrong with the way doctors are prepared in our medical colleges, I would like to share a few personal anecdotes regarding the mechanical and materialistic behaviour of our doctors. Sometimes back a friend of mine had some minor surgical problem. The doctor after examining the patient told him that he had to undergo a minor operation. The ‘operation’ lasted for five minutes, which did not need even stitches and the doctor charged him Rs.3000. After a month the problem resurged. When the doctor was consulted again, he told the patient, ‘I charge for this Rs.4000 but as you are an old ‘Gahak’(customer), I’ll charge you Rs.3500. Just look at the word ‘Gahak’ for a patient and everything is clear.

In another incident this writer was standing in a bicycle shop, when one person introducing himself as a doctor wanted to buy a bicycle for his son. An old ailing person coming to know that this person was a doctor came closer and said, “Doctor sahib, I am suffering from some heart disease, can you please help me out?”. The doctor replied, “Chacha I myself suffered from the same problem, I went to the USA to have an operation. This disease has no cure for in Pakistan, if you want to cure it you have to go to the USA”. The old man smiled helplessly and said, “I don’t have the means to go to the USA”. To this the good doctor replied, “then you should wait for your time to come to an end in this world!” Just imagine what should be the feelings of a person who talks to a doctor in the hope of some relief and hears from him to prepare himself for death! And then quite recently newspapers carried the story of a ‘Gurda chor’ doctor, who robbed a young poor boy of ten years of his kidney, when the latter’s father brought him to the private clinic of the doctor for an operation that the doctor had proposed, to cure him of some pain in his body. The doctor reportedly charged the poor man a good sum of Rs.20, 000, for curing his child (robbing him of his kidney as a matter of fact)!

Now the most important question is why our medical colleges produce only medical money making machines? This indicates that this highly mechanical and materialistic attitude of the doctors has something to do with the flawed system of their training and education. As a novice in the field of medical education, I had to take into account the opinion of those who are directly related with medical education to know the reason for its failure to produce good human beings besides good doctors. After some discussion with quite a few people I came to the conclusion that medical colleges need to include some subjects in their syllabi besides those subjects, which prepare good physicians and surgeons.

A good physician or surgeon is of very little use unless first of all he/she is a good human being who can feel like humans and who can treat humans the way they should be not just like machines. Keeping this query in mind I asked Prof.Dr.Sirajuddin, a former principal Khyber Medical College, Peshawar and who is also a well-known educationist as to the reasons contributing to the extremely materialistic and mechanical behaviour of doctors. I would like to share with the reader some extracts from his reply to my email. He said, “You have raised a very pertinent question regarding the materialistic conduct of doctors these days. I agree and condemn this attitude on every forum. Such behavior is part of the overall deterioration in social values of the society, the foundation of which has been laid in the rotten basic education. Teachers who used to be role models for students have not remained the same. In the most receptive years of education in young age there is absolutely no attention to the Affective Domain of education. Cheating, fraud, lies, dishonesty, disobedience, selfishness, lack of regard for others’ rights, violence & injustice are common practices in the schools & colleges of Pakistan. Students carry the same hardened attitudes to professional colleges and practical life that comes out in the shape of corruption, deteriorating law & order and materialistic approach in all walks of life.

There is no shortcut remedy to this state of affairs except by reforming the basic education for which no government is prepared. All the governments are dominated by the feudal lords and the rich who do not wish to rectify this situation so that they can comfortably continue their exploitation of the ignorant society. The religious group of politicians has also failed miserably. However people like you should not loose hope & continue your efforts to bring a healthy change in education.”

This email is indicative of the fact that like our overall education system, which is predominantly materialistic in nature, and which aims at producing graduates who do not have much care for basic human values, medical education too severely lacks this extremely vital aspect of the process of education, which results in the phenomenon of mass production of skilled individuals who are good at earning money but who lack in basic human feelings and emotions for the uplift of humanity, who have very little regard for human life which is the ultimate aim of their profession and who can at times act in the most barbaric manner for the simple reason of enriching themselves even at the cost of precious human lives. This surely indicates that syllabi of our medical colleges, as of course of the entire education system need to be revamped in a manner in order to make them more humanized. One suggestion is that doctors-to-be do not merely need medical ethics, something very restricted and very technical in nature but general ethics because only then can they be good doctors. It is bizarre to think of creating good doctors before making them good human beings. Inclusion of ethics and other humanitarian subjects in the medical colleges’ syllabi will be of great worth in this regard.

The existing system of education in our medical colleges produce doctors who are skilled technicians and scientists but who lack in understanding and appreciating higher human values like kindness, love, sacrifice and a missionary zeal to serve their fellow human beings.

Preparing our doctors as good scientists will not do as, “Science cannot discover values, because facts have no values: facts just are. Science can learn how best to heal a man, or how best to torture him: such facts exist whether we know them or not, whether we wish them or not, and in themselves are just facts of physiology, not values. Whether such research is good or evil has meaning only within the context of our values: and determining the proper values for human beings is the task of philosophy, not science.”

So why not a bit of philosophy, psychology and ethics in the syllabi of our medical colleges and universities?

P.S: This not to tar all doctors with the same brush. There are amazingly great doctors who are there to help their patients with a premium on service rather than money. One is not sure if such doctors are in majority but they really make a difference. The society in general has great respect for such self-less servers of humanity.

Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Universities in Pakistan and the UK: a comparison

The following is a comparison of universities in Pakistan and the UK based on the views of Pakistani students studying at Master’s and PhD level in UK universities. The views came in response to two questions: “What makes the universities they are studying at, in the UK, better (if that actually is the case) as compared to the universities that they studied at in Pakistan?” and “What is the most important thing that they would like to take back and introduce in Pakistan?”

Two themes came out as a result of the analysis of responses of five PhD and two Master’s students. One, which seems obvious, was that a number of students mentioned the substantially better infrastructure in the UK universities such as better computer access, up-to-date and state-of-the-art library facilities and well-equipped laboratories. These are things that play a very significant role in the quality of education that they receive.

Better computer and Internet access results in faster communication between teachers and students on the one hand and on the other increases interaction among students besides keeping them abreast with the latest developments in their respective fields of study. A number of students pointed out the extremely central role of the library in a university and the significant role that it plays making research more viable and useful. One PhD student at the University of Leicester for instance mentioned the excellent state-of-the art library at the university. The library is not only a central source of up-to-date books and journals, it also serves as the nervous centre of the university with a Student Development Zone where all kinds of guidance and counselling and research seminars and training sessions are arranged for students by the university departments.

The library has facilities such as “silent zones”, “groups study rooms”, “post-graduate study centre” and computer labs besides automatic book issues and return facilities and access to countless journals and up-to-date online books from around the world.

Another student mentioned the excellent student support system that the university provides through the Student Welfare office. One student from another UK university mentioned numerous opportunities that her university provides to its students for sharing their knowledge and experiences in a friendly but competitive environment.

That the UK universities are far ahead in terms of infrastructural facility is obvious but the second theme is even more important. This theme highlights the attitude and professionalism of the professors and other staff of the universities and their admirably high level of commitment to the cause of education and research. A number of students expressed the view that both teaching and administrative staff at the UK universities show genuine commitment and professionalism in their work and in their dealings with students.

“Professors here do not waste their time in gossip. They are really committed and involved in research all the time,” points out Bashir Ahmad Memon, a PhD student at the University of Leicester.

“The best thing I would like to take with me back to Pakistan is the spirit and skill of research,” he adds.

Another important point raised by Humaira Iftekhar, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, is the premium that professors here place on a student’s real individual value and an absolute emphasis on merit and not on his or her “family background, wealth or contacts and political clout”. The things, she argues, are unfortunately considered of value instead of merit in some Pakistani universities. Moral support from professors and other university staff, an environment of overall student support and care, and “positive attitude towards everybody while being assertive at the same time” with conviction is what she appreciates the most in her university in the UK that she would like to bring back to Pakistan at the end of her PhD.

Timely, accurate and professional advice in terms of research progress and development are things that according to Muhammad Naeem, a PhD student at the University of Leicester, make his UK university stand out from the one he studied at in Pakistan. He also appreciates a “challenging but supportive” environment that his university provides him.

Amjad Ullah a Master’s student in Computer Sciences at the University of Leicester appreciates the research oriented activities for Bachelor and Master’s level students at his university in the UK. He argues that such is not the case in universities in Pakistan. A close link between the university and the work place or industry is what he appreciates the most in the UK. This, he thinks, establishes the university on a more purpose-oriented basis and the arrangement provides opportunities to students to get work experience before they embark on practical life after graduating from the university. The collaboration between the university and the industry is a concept that he wants to take back to Pakistan.

Finally, the thing that this writer, himself being a PhD student at a UK university, appreciates the most about educational environment here is the questioning culture. Here people do not take things for granted. Everything is being questioned. At the post-graduate level most educational activities are in the form of seminars, conferences and workshops where the dominant mode is exchange of ideas through questioning, discussions and dialogue. Even lecture sessions are mostly in the form of questions and answers. Research supervisors and professors often ask more questions from the research students rather than providing them with any answers. The aim is basically to let the students think for themselves and for them to come up with their own answers.

This reflects a philosophy of education which is really based on constructivism and where the professor does not consider himself or herself the source of all knowledge but works with the student in a two-way process of knowledge creation and development. This is the kind of attitude towards education that seems to be at the core of creative productivity and high quality of education at most of the UK universities and this is, besides others, the feature that universities in Pakistan need to adopt if we in fact want our universities to be real centres of knowledge creation and innovation.

The writer is studying for his PhD at the University of Leicester, UK

The article appeared in Dawn, Pakistan and is available at: http://www.dawn.com/2011/09/11/students-voice-a-comparative-glance-at-universities-in-pakistan-and-the-uk.html

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Education and our myopic ideologues

In an article titled ‘Westward bound’ http://archives.dawn.com/archives/66981 published in a Pakistani newspaper, the author laments the news of top American universities opening campuses and the establishment of an ‘Educational city’ in Islamabad, which “is fetching new hopes for the elite class here. Their children would obviously be able to bag the top jobs while also saving the parents millions of rupees being spent in sending them abroad for further studies". This, the author argues, is akin to running away from ‘our identity’ and hence an unfortunate thing. How? One does not know. How, for instance, is it unfortunate if our ‘elites’ educate their children inside Pakistan and save ‘millions of rupees’ rather than keep, as they do now, sending them abroad and spend those millions there in foreign countries? Why is it bad to construct an ‘Educational city’ in Islamabad?

Let us first consider some of the benefits of local branches of foreign universities in Pakistan. First, the cost of a degree from a foreign university through its local branch would be enormously reduced (in terms of travel cost, and living cost in a foreign country) and students from those strata of our society who cannot pursue education in those foreign countries would be able to get the same or similar level of education at a much lower (less than half on a rough estimate) cost in their own country. Investment by foreign universities in the form of establishing local branches in Pakistan would enhance cooperation in the field of education between our local universities and academia and those foreign universities. By establishing these local campuses not only our middle classes and lower middle classes would have access to education of international standard but also it will create enormous opportunities for jobs in the local educational market for our people. These foreign university campuses would bring in competition for the local educational institutions and universities who would strive for excellence in order to compete with these rivals.

Politically speaking it is an irony that we are happy when these foreign/western nations sell us their weapons and fighter jets and tanks and missiles at exorbitant prices but we are not ready to accommodate their educational institutions as those are a 'danger to our identity and ideology' as the writer in this case associates the establishment of "foreign schools and university campuses” with "running away from our identity"! "Foreign or western institutions, no matter how high in stature they might be, would promote western values while failing to make provision for Islamic aspects in their way of teaching", argues the author. It is difficult though to know the logic behind any such assumption in the absence of any credible research on the issue. For instance what are those harmful ‘Western’ values and what kind of ‘Islamic aspects’ are in danger of withering away? The author says, “Subject to law and public morality, we in Pakistan encourage the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures.

Not allowing the Muslims to have a public education system of their own, which protects their religion and culture, poses a danger for the ideology of Pakistan.” Again who is not allowing Muslims to have a public education system of their own and thus causing a danger to the “ideology of Pakistan”? There are a number of unsubstantiated assumptions there. Isn't our existing education system and our curriculum almost entirely based on 'Western' educational philosophies both in the fields of natural and social sciences? What presently is so 'Eastern' or 'Islamic' about it that will be endangered by the establishment of a few 'Western' university campuses in Islamabad? What is so rational about wrapping iron curtains around ourselves, our people and our country? Why is our 'identity' so fragile that it cannot stand the weight of a few foreign university campuses?

The real eye-opener is the paragraph where the author says, “Turning back the pages of history… It would be a matter of interest for many to note that Aligarh University initially came into being as a conspiracy against the Muslims in order to produce a pro-western educated lot. It was a tool in the hands of British imperialists and their handful of sympathisers, who wanted to destroy the religion, culture, traditions and values of the people of this region.” If that is true, what then the author thinks of the ‘original founder’ of the ‘Two Nation Theory’, the very basis for the creation of Pakistan and the founder of the Aligarh movement: Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan? Was that great Muslim thinker and one of the original founders of the Pakistan ideology a ‘conspirator’ against Muslims and their identity then? This is immediately followed by contradictory reasoning: “Today, no one can deny that Aligarh University is a well-reputed institution. However, it has very little to do with the struggle for Pakistan. In the same regard, although, certain leaders from the university became active members of the Pakistan movement, they had different ideologies as compared to the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal”.

Rejecting the project for foreign universities’ campuses in Pakistan, the author gives examples of a number of universities, from which campuses should be included in the ‘Education City’, including ‘Khyber University’. One wonders if there is any university in Pakistan by that name. Finally the author comes up with her ultimate piece of wisdom: allowing foreign universities to establish campuses in the "heart" of Pakistan (Islamabad), is akin to nullifying the very creation of Pakistan! In the meantime she forgets herself writing in ENGLISH, a ‘Western’ language in an English language newspaper which somehow promotes this ‘foreign’ ‘Western’ language? Isn’t that a conspiracy against our ‘identity’ as well?

Ignorance and false honour

According to a recent news from Faisal Abad Honour killings: Man guns down six daughters – The Express Tribune a man gunned down his six daughters “on suspicion that two of them were in relationship with boys in the neighbourhood.” The man killed the two teenage girls (14 and 16 years old) because they developed relationship with boys. This act of the young girls he thought dishonoured him. He also took the lives of the rest of the four of his daughters alongside them because he thought they did not let him know and instead supported the two sisters guilty of this ‘crime’.

The question is why did one man, a father to boot, unlawfully, callously, brutally, inhumanly took the lives of six humans in one go? The man ostensibly did this ‘honourable’ act to wash off the black spot of ‘dishonour’ from his name that he thought his hapless daughters had put on it by indulging in the ‘shameless act’. Killing all six of them was, therefore, according to his thinking essential to restore his damaged honour. The incident is a reflection of the state and direction of our society in many ways as this is not a singular act of insanity. This is not a rare exception either. It’s a tragic reality.

The incident indicates quite a few alarming trends in our society. First, it shows the level of ignorance, intolerance and falsity in our society. Why else would someone take six young, vulnerable lives on the basis of a mere suspicion? Secondly, it shows unjust, ignorant social pressures on individuals that push people to the level of lunacy and utter madness, compelling them to go to such levels of barbarism in order to restore their ‘honour’. In this sense the father is as much a victim of the brutal social expectations and norms as are the daughters. This, however, does not mean any absolution of the man from his inhuman act. He must be punished according to law. Third, the incident indicates the false sense of honour and dishonour prevalent in the society. The murderer in this case not only took the lives of six young women on a mere suspicion, he also boasted about it in the aftermath of the brutal and criminal act and reiterated that he would do so again if he had to. Obviously he does not regret anything. This shows the man’s conviction in his false and ignorant understanding of honour. Fourth, the man did this at his own home in the presence of his wife and at the instigation of his son. That means he was not entirely alone in the act. He had a sense of that ‘social’ support behind him. That makes the act even more alarming. Lastly who knows what role might economic pressures and the responsibility to shoulder the burden of six daughters have played in this tragic to the lives of these young girls?

Now some questions: What made a father take the lives of his six young daughters in such a barbaric way? Could it have been prevented? If ‘yes’ how? If ‘no’, ‘why not’? By doing what he did, did the man actually restore his honour, in other words, does he stand more ‘honourable’ now? How could one do better than what he did in the situation that he was in? What does the society and the state need to do to prevent such barbaric acts?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Co-Education: article translation in Arabic




http://translate.google.ps/translate?hl=ar&sl=en&u=http://leicester.academia.edu/MuhammadIlyasKhan/Blog/18806/Co-Education-an-obscurantist-view&ei=2Y9KTtO7ENSyhAfz6rj1Bw&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEsQ7gEwBg&prev=/search%3Fq%3DCo%2Beducation%2Bcivilizes%2Bour%2Bsociety%26hl%3Dar%26prmd%3Divnsb

Friday, 12 August 2011

14 SHOULDS on 14th August 2011

We are celebrating 14th August as our independence day once more. I as a Pakistani, propose fourteen SHOULDS on this occasion. These SHOULDS, I promise can change the destiny of our country but this requires 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 each and every one of our cities and towns 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 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 closely 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 once and for all decide not to ever interfere in our political system and confine itself to it constitutionally rightful place: that of the guardian of our (primarily) external security and (if need be) the internal security. Let soldiers be soldiers and not political leaders. 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. A majority of our rural population devotedly listen to and follow the sermons of our Imams who unfortunately actively encourage people to produce more children and discourage them from population control which they think is an act against the will of God. This perception must be changed and religious leaders must be educated, trained, made aware and later on used as a task force to create awareness among our people against uncontrolled population growth.

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, who unfortunately think of women as nothing more than a tool of domestic utility . These religious leaders 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 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: Does it look like a loony dream? Well, may be. But then many dreams come true.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Education is the way out.

Pakistan has been in turmoil for a considerable time. Ignorance, hatred and intolerance and the consequent desperation seem to be on the rise in all spheres our national life. The suffering of the innocent people at the hands of the militants, extremists and terrorists on the one hand is ripping apart the lives of our hapless people and on the other we are facing increasing international isolation, suspicion and humiliation. We are stuck between the proverbial ‘devil and the deep blue sea’.

What is the way out of the tragic dilemma? Should we concentrate on combative reactions towards the western powers, and the rest of the world despite our obvious lack of any capacity to do so? Or else should we adopt some other, saner, wiser course of action in lieu with what the Japanese and the Germans did in the aftermath of war and destruction of their countries. The saner course of action seems to be the latter one.

The answer perhaps lies in quality education which brings enlightenment, a pre-requisite for a re-direction and re-orientation of our national life. The situation in terms of education, both qualitatively and quantitatively is far from ideal. With only about 2 percent of our GDP allocation for education there is little hope on both counts. The result of the negligence of this vital sector is extremely devastating for us. With one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, very little can be expected about the enlightenment of the populace and any rise in the quality of life. The most vital sector of our national life thus is in very shabby form. For development in the field of education we have to consider a number of things. We have to radically improve the physical infrastructure, with well-equipped schools, colleges and universities. We have to establish research centres, laboratories and libraries in these educational institutions to make them responsive to our socio-economic needs and to enable them to train our young generation in the best possible way in accordance with the challenges of the 21st century.

Another important aspect of the education sector is the educator, i.e. the school, the college, and university teacher. Not much can be expected from teachers, suffering from various socio-economic problems, to apply themselves, wholeheartedly to the enormous task of providing quality education to the youth of the nation, and to equipping them with abilities to lead the nation in the highly competitive world. Teaching being one of the lowest ranked professions in terms of economic reward and social status attracts only those, who can’t find a place in more lucrative jobs. This trend has to be altered by associating more charm with the profession in order to attract really talented, able and creative people to the profession and consequently to bring quality into the education sector.

It is said that the real defence of a nation lies in the hands of the teachers and in the classrooms where they prepare the youth for the challenges of life. It is often argued that a big source of extremism in our society is the presence of extremist religious seminaries, where bigotry and intolerance are promoted. To some extent that is true but the problem is much deeper than that. In fact our mainstream public sector education is not much better. It is pre-dominantly retrogressive in its orientation, with a premium on rot learning and blind follow. Very little independent thinking and freedom is promoted in our public school system. So revolutionary changes are to be brought in this system to make it capable of imparting an education that aims at developing the creative, constructive and humanitarian faculties of young people instead of filling their minds with bigoted, myopic and xenophobic ideas.

It is such an education that will help in Poverty alleviation and eradication of social injustice which are of prime importance in promoting peace and harmony in the society. This nation is really in need of revolutionary reforms in its education system, an education system that develops critical consciousness, enlightenment, peace, harmony and creativity of its youth. This is a defining moment in the history of Pakistan. We have to change the course of country from that of a security state to one that aims at the real welfare of its inhabitants. Not to do so might be at the cost of the unity and security of the country.

Friday, 5 August 2011

English as a medium of instruction: the non-issue

Time and time again one comes across writers who write in English against English as a medium of instruction (EMI) in Pakistani educational institutions. They argue that their argument is not against teaching English as a language but against its use as a medium of instruction. That, however, does not turn out to be the case as most often advertently or inadvertently they end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. Anti-everything-Western demagogues then jump on the band wagon, conveniently over-stepping that blurred line between EMI and English as a language that needs to be taught and learnt in order for our people to go shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world and turn the 'English writing' (liberal) intellectuals' argument against EMI into one for its complete eradication from our education system.

Associating lack of Pakistani students' conceptual understanding with the use of EMI is a claim many make without any reliable research base. Conceptual understanding or lack of it has much more to do with an entire system of pedagogy, instruction and a whole culture of teaching and learning in our educational institutions rather than just being an outcome of the use of EMI. This is simplistic to connect every dot in our students' lack of conceptual understanding to the single point of the 'unfortunate' use of EMI. Many such writers suggest that English is used by the power grabbers as a tool of attaining power against those who do not have any access to the language. If that is true, one fails to understand how can that be countered by taking English (a language of power) further away from the vast majority of students who go to state run schools? Shouldn’t a more rational course be this: If English is associated with the attainment of power and status; the poor should be given an equal chance to learn this 'language of power' instead of doing the opposite?

Writers who are against EMI suggest that because a majority of teachers don't have the capacity to teach their subjects by using EMI, therefore, it should be shunned as one. Well, what if the majority of teachers don’t have the capacity to teach at all? Should then education as a whole be shunned? Some columnists who are not even educationists try to associate the low-level of educational attainment among students with the use of EMI. That is a flawed logic based on a superficial analysis of the situation.

The reality is, it’s not just the use of one language or another as a medium of instruction that is hampering the conceptual understanding or creativity of students in our 'educational' institutions. The matter is not so simple. It’s a whole culture of ignorance about the very concept of EDUCATION. It’s much more than that. It’s an extremely intricate issue, full of complexities and finer lines and the root of low attainment and poor quality education lie in issues deeper than the mere use of EMI.

As far as English is concerned, it is a language of power (I would say the language of opportunity within and beyond Pakistan), 'a language of today and of tomorrow', to quote a former vice chancellor of Peshawar University. This is a reality that we need to accept. It is a misunderstanding that it is only Pakistanis who are striving to excel in this language. It’s the whole world. Thousands of students from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and numerous middle Eastern countries, in fact students and teachers from every nook and corner of the world, are studying in Western universities and their subject of choice usually at the graduate or postgraduate and doctoral level is English teaching and learning. When the whole world is going in one direction, it doesn't make much sense to go in the opposite. It will be like turning the clock back. We have already turned it back in many other spheres of our life and not one for the better it seems.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Monday, 11 July 2011

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Pakistan: a country in need of education

Pakistan has been in turmoil for a considerable time. Ignorance, hatred and intolerance and the consequent desperation seem to be on the rise in all spheres our national life. The suffering of the innocent people at the hands of the militants, extremists and terrorists on the one hand is ripping apart the lives of our hapless people and on the other we are facing increasing international isolation, suspicion and humiliation. We are stuck between the proverbial ‘devil and the deep blue sea’. What is the way out of the tragic dilemma? Should we concentrate on combative reactions towards the western powers, and the rest of the world despite our obvious lack of any capacity to do so? Or else should we adopt some other, saner, wiser course of action in lieu with what the Japanese and the Germans did in the aftermath of war and destruction of their countries. The saner course of action seems to be the latter one.

The answer perhaps lies in quality education which brings enlightenment, a pre-requisite for a re-direction and re-orientation of our national life. The situation in terms of education, both qualitatively and quantitatively is far from ideal. With only about 2 percent of our GDP allocation for education there is little hope on both counts. The result of the negligence of this vital sector is extremely devastating for us. With one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, very little can be expected about the enlightenment of the populace and any rise in the quality of life. The most vital sector of our national life thus is in very shabby form. For development in the field of education we have to consider a number of things. We have to radically improve the physical infrastructure, with well-equipped schools, colleges and universities. We have to establish research centres, laboratories and libraries in these educational institutions to make them responsive to our socio-economic needs and to enable them to train our young generation in the best possible way in accordance with the challenges of the 21st century. Another important aspect of the education sector is the educator, i.e. the school, the college, and university teacher. Not much can be expected from teachers, suffering from various socio-economic problems, to apply themselves, wholeheartedly to the enormous task of providing quality education to the youth of the nation, and to equipping them with abilities to lead the nation in the highly competitive world. Teaching being one of the lowest ranked professions in terms of economic reward and social status attracts only those, who can’t find a place in more lucrative jobs. This trend has to be altered by associating more charm with the profession in order to attract really talented, able and creative people to the profession and consequently to bring quality into the education sector. It is said that the real defence of a nation lies in the hands of the teachers and in the classrooms where they prepare the youth for the challenges of life. It is often argued that a big source of extremism in our society is the presence of extremist religious seminaries, where bigotry and intolerance are promoted. To some extent that is true but the problem is much deeper than that. In fact our mainstream public sector education is not much better. It is pre-dominantly retrogressive in its orientation, with a premium on rot learning and blind follow. Very little independent thinking and freedom is promoted in our public school system. So revolutionary changes are to be brought in this system to make it capable of imparting an education that aims at developing the creative, constructive and humanitarian faculties of young people instead of filling their minds with bigoted, myopic and xenophobic ideas.
It is such an education that will help in Poverty alleviation and eradication of social injustice which are of prime importance in promoting peace and harmony in the society. This nation is really in need of revolutionary reforms in its education system, an education system that develops critical consciousness, enlightenment, peace, harmony and creativity of its youth. This is a defining moment in the history of Pakistan. We have to change the course of country from that of a security state to one that aims at the real welfare of its inhabitants. Not to do so might be at the cost of the unity and security of the country.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Our textbooks and the lies they teach

Our textbooks and the lies they teach

The Medicine Wheel - 3 of 3

The Medicine Wheel - 2 of 3

The Medicine Wheel - 1 of 3

HEC devolution should be is spirit of 18th Amendment: Rais

A fascinating Durantian note on life.

"In the inexhaustible activity of the atom, in the endless resourcefulness of plants, in the teeming fertility of animals, in the hunger and movement of infants, in the laughter and play of children, in the love and devotion of youth, in the restless ambition of fathers and the lifelong sacrifice of mothers, in the undiscourageable researches of scientists and the sufferings of genius, in the crucifixion of prophets and the martyrdom of saints -- in all things I saw the passion of life for growth and greatness, the drama of everlasting creation. I came to think of myself, not as a dance and chaos of molecules, but as a brief and minute portion of that majestic process. I became almost reconciled to mortality, knowing that my spirit would survive me enshrined in a fairer mold ... and that my little worth would somehow be preserved in the heritage of men. In a measure the Great Sadness was lifted from me, and, where I had seen omnipresent death, I saw now everywhere the pageant and triumph of life"...Will Durant
http://www.willdurant.com/home.html

Friday, 1 April 2011

Let students explore for themselves.

By Muhammad Ilyas Khan.

If you happen to go inside a secondary school classroom ask the students to write a short essay on ‘My favourite personality’. Check the answers and most of them would have written that their favourite personality is the Quaid-e-Azam, or the Prophet (PBUH). They would have enumerated all the great qualities and virtues that these great men had. Ask them about the real meaning and worth of those qualities because of which they have praised these personalities and very little do they know. Then try to make the students write on the topic ‘ My favourite book’. Almost all the students would write that their favourite book is the Holy Quran. And then they would have reproduced whatever has been written to them by the teacher or has been memorized from a guidebook. Ask the students a question: have you read, understood and enjoyed the Holy Quran? And the answer: ‘NO’, Obviously! ‘But if you have not read, understood, or enjoyed a book , how can you say that that is your favourite book? And the answer from the students: ‘Sir the essay has been written to us by our teacher.’ Or, ‘we have learnt the essay from an essays book.’ What does this tell us? : That our teachers do not train students to come with their own ideas, in their own words, which should be the real purpose of creative writing in schools, but to memorize things written to them to be reproduced by them in the exams to get through them.
Now do another thing: Ask students in a secondary school to write an essay on ‘My favourite teacher’. The answers you get will be the exact copies of each other. The essays written by all students would begin like this: ‘My favourite teacher is Mr.Ahamd. He is a perfect gentleman. He is,………………..’ And lo and behold, Mr.Ahmad is the favourite teacher of each and every student in the whole class. This may be another story that Mr.Ahamd, some metaphysical being, actually known to no student but to the teacher only who has narrated this essay on ‘My favourite teacher’ to the class. Students have done one thing only: they have learnt the essay word to word by heart. And that is what they have reproduced on the paper. Actually they will reproduce the same essay whenever they are asked about their favourite teacher for the rest of their life. So no use of brain, no brainstorming, no thinking, nothing. Blind follow and memorization of facts without understanding run supreme here.
It is a normal routine in our schools that as the examinations come closer, students start asking their teachers about the ‘ most important’ topics and questions, likely to be asked in the papers. Language teachers are usually asked about the essays, letters, applications and stories that are ‘important’ i.e. likely to come in the exam papers. Usually most teachers are ‘kind enough’ and ‘pragmatic enough’ to tell some most ‘important’ essays, letters, stories, applications etc, to students. Teachers in schools, especially in private ones’ do this as they have to show good results. Students thus consider those teachers more generous and helpful, who tell them about those ‘ important topics’ to be asked in the papers. Keeping in line with this tradition one of my students asked me to tell him about the ‘important’ essays, letter, applications etc. This is one of the occasions on which I get irritated when students ask me such things. I repeatedly keep on telling them that these things come in the category of creative writing that are not to be memorized but be thought about, organized, created and then put to paper. Some of the students would urge you by telling you that a particular teacher has told his students about the ‘important’ questions. I told that student and the whole class that the purpose of these essays, letters, stories etc. that are included in the paper is to urge students to think for themselves and come up with their own ideas. The purpose is also to check the organizational and analytical skills of students and to know their hold on vocabulary and spellings etc. So this helps them to think and use their brain. To my this argument, the reply of the student was: ‘ Sir, if we start thinking during the paper, the time allotted for solving the paper will come to an end and we would not be able to complete our paper!’ This was an apt reply, a true picture of the way our examination and evaluation process goes. An examination, which does not compel students to think but to fill pages of papers with what, they have memorized by rote. Consequently a student is rewarded, who is good at memorizing, and who writes the ideas of others in the words of others and is considered a learned scholar for all this. The more competent a student is on this account i.e. learning by rote (without understanding), the better are his chances of getting good grades.
Some days ago I tried an experiment with a few ‘ intelligent’ students. I gave them a test in a few essays already know to them and which were written in a book of essays. Most of them got high marks as they had excellently memorized the essays word by word and reproduced them in the test. Then I did another thing. I asked a few comprehension questions about the essay they had written and no one could come up with satisfactory answers. I went further with the experiment. I gave them a topic from day to day life. Instead of writing on the ‘Quaid-e- Azam’, I asked them to write on their friend. And as was expected, no one could write even a few coherent sentences. How is it that a student can write a high quality essay on the ‘ Quaid-e- Azam’, as a ‘favourite personality’, with all the language niceties and grammatical accuracies but fails to write on his own friend, well known to him.
The point is that examinations are flawed, testing not the real knowledge and creative abilities but rote learning and memorizing capabilities of students. More than that as examinations shape the course of education in schools and education is meant to prepare students for examinations. This means examinations need to be revamped to bring about qualitative change in the instruction process in the schools.
Here another interesting phenomenon comes to mind. As is the case with other subjects, Pakistan Studies is taught in no better way. Students are not even made to go through the textbooks. Teachers provide them with readymade ‘notes’, with questions and answers. The only task a student has at hand is to take photocopies of ‘notes’ and learn them by heart. There are no discussions, no arguments or counter arguments in the classrooms, about the historical and constitutional issues and their implications. Ask a student to narrate Jinnah’s ‘ Fourteen Points’, ‘ which are all based on constitutional matters and complexities’, and he starts narrating from point 1 up to point 14th without a pause. Now ask him ‘ what is a constitution?’ and he does not know. Ask him what is a constituent assembly and he does not know. Ask him what is the function of a minister and he does not know. Ask him what is law and he does not know. Ask him what is autonomy? And he does not know. Ask him what is legislature. And he does not know. One wonders what is the point in teaching students in schools, ‘Jinnah’s Fourteen Points’, in all the technical and constitutional language, that is beyond the comprehension of students even at the college and university level! Why not tell them about the ‘Fourteen Points’ in simple language, to help them understand the worth of his points. This approach will not only be of interest but also of worth for the young students.
And now an interesting anecdote. A young boy wanted to learn the art of swimming in a river. He went to a master swimmer to get training from him. The master would daily take the boy to the riverside. He would make the boy stand on the bank of the river. Then the master would himself jump into the water and start swimming, urging the boy to closely examine his moves. The boy would want to jump into the water to practically do as the master did. But the master would not allow him this dangerous thing to do. He insisted that the boy should look at him and learn the art of swimming from the bank. He was afraid that if the boy jumped into the water, he would immediately drown. The practice went on for a long time and in this way the master told all the techniques of swimming to the boy. One day the master was absent and the boy went to the river alone and jumped into it. Do we know what happened? We should know: he got drowned in no time. Why? Because he was never allowed by the master to learn how to swim practically. Can we compare this to the way we teach in our schools? If yes what can be the result? And what should be done? And the saying goes: ‘ Students should sink and swim on their own’.

Writer’s email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

All the wrong priorities

By Muhammad Ilyas Khan.

What do we think of a person who desires to erect a grand multi-storeyed building but who does not like to spend much on providing it with strong and reliable foundations? The foundations remain weak and fragile and the man goes on for adding to the height and beauty and grandeur of the building and spending millions and millions on adding to the beauty (actually the burden) of the building. The building goes on looking more beautiful and grander but the case is the real opposite of what it seems. The foundations of the building are weak and so ultimately to the great dismay of the builder the whole structure comes to the earth causing great damage and disappointment to the person. We can easily compare that building to our education system and the man to our educational administrators. We are spending millions on our higher education but what we are ignoring is our education at the school level, specially our primary school education.
A Persian verse goes: ‘Khisti awwal choon nahad maimaar kuj,
Taa surayya mi rawid deewar kuj’
This means that if the first brick were placed crooked, the wall would remain crooked even if taken to the heights of the skies.
The ‘Khishti awwal’, the root and the foundation of any education system is the primary education. It is the base that provides foundation to the whole structure of the system of education. It is nothing else but insanity to ignore it and go for developing education at the higher level. Unfortunately if we look at the prevalent state of affairs in our country, we can easily come to the point that primary education has been completely ignored by our educational authorities, the government and the society at large. To support my point I would like to point out three main areas regarding our elementary education, which are typically disregarded by the educational authorities. These main areas are: the infrastructure, the teacher and the textbooks at the primary level.
First the infrastructure: education though the most vital aspect of our national life is the most ignored one but the most horrific is the fact the most derelict area is the primary and elementary level education and by this I mean education at the school level, specially at the primary school level. Most of the primary schools provide no facilities helpful in the process of education. Schools are located in dilapidated buildings, some even without buildings under the shadows of trees. No facilities are there for the curricular and co-curricular activities essential for the educational uplift of children. Most schools at the primary level are without furniture, without libraries and laboratories. They are mostly suffocated, as the number of children in most cases remains far greater than the space available in the schools. In such a situation schools do not have any appeal or attraction for the children. No drinking water, no toilet facilities, no facilities for games and for using extra energies beneficially.
Then comes the most important aspect of the school i.e. the teacher. Teachers at the primary level are always those who themselves are directionless. Our required qualification for a person to qualify as a teacher in our primary school is matriculation plus a few months training. This means one can become a primary school teacher in his teens with nominal education and no experience and is thus handed over the foundational task of our nation building. How do we think that a child is good enough to teach other children? A primary teacher thus himself a child and the most incompetent one does not know how to deal with and understand the psychological, social and educational problem of children coming from various backgrounds. Then there is the fact that teachers at the primary level are the least paid ones in the teachers’ pay structure. It is paradoxical that a schoolteacher is paid less than a college teacher and a college teacher is paid less than a university teacher. This means pay not according to the duty and labour of the teacher but according to his/her degrees and qualifications. Had we paid in accordance with the labour and importance of the work of the teacher at the various levels, we would have paid the primary school teacher the most because his task is the most important, fundamental and the most difficult of all. He/she has to outline the course of the whole life from a scuff. Unfortunately this is not the case. A university teacher normally takes one or two classes per day and even in that he/she has to deal such students who are mature and have already got a particular direction and only require a little guidance and a slight push. On the other hand an elementary school teacher’s task is far more difficult. He/she has to remain busy with children throughout the day, has to take care of their discipline, their manners, their character, their personal hygiene, their homework and so many other things. He/she is even held responsible for the academic and co-curricular development of the child. He/she has to start from a scratch, polish that scratch with his blood and sweat and then that polished being is presented to teachers in colleges and universities. But unfortunately he/she gets a lot of frustration when he/she compares his/her socio-economic status with that of the college and university teachers.
As in today’s materialistic world a person’s social status and self-esteem are directly proportional to his economic status so the pathetic economic conditions of the elementary school teachers lead to their miserable social status. A teacher is called ‘Ustad’ in Urdu and it should have been a welcome address but ‘Ustad’ has been associated with so much deprivation and degradation in our society that even a college lecturer or a university professor abhors to be called ‘Ustad’. A poor schoolteacher has no other way but to swallow to be called ‘Ustad’. Somehow he gets a little relieved when called a ‘teacher’ instead of ‘Ustad’. It is perhaps because English people have more regard for their teacher due to their comparatively better economic prospects.
At this an interesting account comes to mind. When I was doing my graduation, one of our professors, would get infuriated when some mischievous students would call him ‘ Ustad jee’ instead of calling him ‘Sir’. The professor would would say, ‘Yaar, why you call me ‘Ustad jee’, I am a professor not a driver or a mechanic or a barber etc. The students would reply, ‘ Sir, in our school days we would call our teachers Ustad jee out of respect and they never mind it’. The professor would say, ‘ Yaar they were school teachers, so could be called ‘Ustad jee’ but I m not a schoolteacher, I am a professor in a college’. This amply shows that even teachers at the college or university level have this contemptuous view of the schoolteachers. But why is this the case? Nothing else but the low socio-economic profile of the primary school teachers has rendered them to this pitiable state.
The third most important factor leading to our weak educational structure is the poor quality of textbooks and the system of evaluation at the primary level. Most of the textbooks taught at the primary level are shoddily written and shabbily presented. There is very little in them to arouse interest in children. Most of them are good for nothing. They are prepared in such a way that they require only blind follow and compliance. These are only good for memorization and for killing the creative impulses in children. Then the evaluation and examination system is only good at testing the memory of the children and urging them to learn facts and figures by heart. Thus from the very beginning of the educational years children become blind followers and this goes on with them to colleges and universities. No wonder then that our graduates, postgraduates and our so-called scholars with PhD degrees are empty from within. Creativity, the original purpose of education and a thinking mind, the ultimate aim of the process of learning is totally absent from the character of our graduates. I wonder if the H.E.C is working for the promotion of education at higher level in Pakistan, is there any commission working for the promotion of education at the grass root level. And if not no wonder then that we have to invite scholars from foreign countries, conceding that our people do not have the capability to become leaders in the field of education. This surely does not look a sound idea.
If we really want to improve our higher education, we have to improve our primary education and to improve primary education; we have to rework our precedence. We have to strengthen our elementary education and for this have to attract more qualified personnel to join primary schools. This can be done when we totally revise our priorities and attach more incentives with teaching at the primary level.

Towards Enlightened -Moderation.

By Muhammad Ilyas Khan.

Enlightened-Moderation is a composite term, presently in currency, especially in Pakistan. Enlightenment and moderation are interrelated terms. Actually moderation to a greater extent is the outcome of enlightenment. We would not be mistaken if we assume that moderation is a bi-product of enlightenment. Who can be a moderate person and how can moderation come? Moderate person is one who does not go to extremes; who does not thoughtlessly and out rightly reject or accept an idea. A person who is rational and uses his reason and his brain to reach viable conclusions and to decide accordingly in the light of analysing facts and figures. Thus to be able to be moderate, one must be able to understand what is right, what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust. Not only this but to be moderate, one needs to know how to make compromises and concessions when the occasion and circumstances demand so. A moderate person does not go for extremes. He does not follow the do or die canon. He weighs, measures, and waits for the proper opportunity to come and changes the course of action if a particular line of action does not produce the desirable results.
The term Enlightened Moderation has got currency in Pakistan recently primarily due to the emphasize it received from the president of Pakistan Gen.Pervaiz Musharraf. In his recent article ‘Enlightened Moderation’, the president of Pakistan once again reiterated and re-emphasised the need for enlightenment and moderation as far as the Muslims societies at large and Pakistan in particular is concerned. The president is of the view that religious extremism and intolerance is one of the root causes of underdevelopment and conflict in the Muslim societies including Pakistan. The president upholds the viewpoint that only liberalism, tolerance, and mutual co-existence can help the Muslims of the world to overcome their manifold miseries and troubles. For Muslims of the world to achieve the cherished dream of progress, development and socio-economic prosperity, the only way forward is compromise with the western world and in the meantime removing their weaknesses in their social, political, educational, and economic institutions.
The president cautions that the world has become increasingly dangerous to live in, primarily due to the fact that ignorance, hostility, mutual hatred and intolerance is the hallmark of the international politics today. As a result of this extremely dangerous trend, the planet earth is at the threshold of destruction and annihilation. President Musharraf Writes, “the world is passing through a tumultuous period ever since the dawn of 90’s, with no sign of relenting. The suffering of the innocent multitudes, particularly my brethren in faith, the Muslims at the hands of the militants, extremists and terrorists has inspired me to contribute towards bringing some order to this disorderly world. It was this very urge which led me to expound on the strategy of ‘ Enlightened moderation’”
President Musharraf further stresses the Muslims of the world to get enlightened and moderate when he says, “ The way forward is to head towards enlightenment and concentrate on human resource development through poverty alleviation, education, health and social justice”. The appeal is realistic and pragmatic, as we all know all these ills are rampantly there in the body politic of the Muslim world. The president further appeals to reason when he says, “ the doctrine of fairness is not always available to us, in the world we live in”. So what should be the more pragmatic course of action for the Muslims? Should they concentrate on combative reactions towards the western powers, despite their continuous and disastrous failures in defeating these powers in the battlefields? Or should they adopt some other, more productive course of action like the Japanese and the Germans did after being defeated in the World War and now can see in the eyes of those who defeated and destroyed them. The saner course of action is of course the second one.
Leaving alone international politics and turning towards our own problems in Pakistan, and finding out how the concept of Enlightened Moderation is achievable in Pakistan. As discussed earlier, extremism, is the outcome of ignorance, injustice, deprivation, socio-political and economic cleavages in the society. So to bring about moderation in our society, we have to pay attention to these problems.
First comes ignorance: if we look at the level of education in our country both in terms of quality and quantity, we come to very disappointing conclusions. With only 2 percent of our GNP allocation for the education, we can have very little hopes for improving the most vital sector of education. The result of the negligence of this vital sector is extremely devastating for us. With one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, very little can be expected of Enlightenment and Moderation. The meagre resources allocated to the education sector, the standard of education is in doldrums. For development in the field of education we have to consider a number of things. We have to radically improve the physical infrastructure, with well-equipped schools, colleges and universities. We have to establish research centres, laboratories and libraries in these educational institutions to make them responsive to our socio-economic needs and to enable them to train our young generation in the best possible way in accordance with the challenges of the 21st century. Another important aspect of the education sector is the educator, i.e. the school, colleges, and university teacher. We have to make efforts to raise the socio-economic status of the builder of the nation. Very little can be expected from teachers, suffering from various socio-economic problems, to apply themselves, wholeheartedly their enormous task of providing quality education to the youth of the nation, and to equipping them with abilities to lead the nation in the highly competitive world. Teaching being one of the lowest ranked professions in terms of economic reward and social status, attract only those, rejected from more lucrative fields of social life. This trend has to be altered by associating more charm with the profession in order to attract more talented people to the profession and consequently to bring quality into the education sector. It is said that the real defence of a nation lies in the hands of the teachers, who take care of the preparation of our youth. So we have to shift our priorities and education should be reformed on wartime basis. It is thought that the problem lies in the religious seminaries, where bigotry and myopic vision is promoted. To some extent that is true but the problem is deeper than that. Actually our public sector education is pre-dominantly retrogressive, with a premium on rot learning and blind follow. Very little independent thinking and freedom is promoted in our public school system. So revolutionary changes are to be brought in this system for bringing about Enlightened Moderation.
Poverty alleviation and eradication of social injustice from the society are of prime importance in promoting the concept of Enlightened Moderation. With more than 40% of the population living below the poverty line, Enlightenment and moderation can only be a wishful dream. People’s sentiments touching the extreme limits, going to suicides and suicide bombings on an increasing momentum is the outcome of economic and social injustices prevalent in our society. A nominal minority affluent with absolutely grabbing each and every financial asset of the state, at the cost of the life of the poor, is adding to the misery and consequently desperation of the poor. The insurmountable economic cleavages between the haves and have-nots lead to disillusionment and extremism. The dilemma of deprivation and suffering of the poor is further supplemented by the fact that the traditional feudal-bureaucratic-elitist culture in the political system promotes and safeguards, the interests of the haves. The common man has no say in the political affairs of the states and not even in the economic policies affecting his life. As a result of the state policy, internal and external, fashioned by the rulers who have been holding the power in the decision making of the state on the basis of heredity, the political culture prevalent in the country does not encourage the masses to participate in the decision-making. In the absence of a genuine democratic order the rulers do not find themselves responsible to the common man. The intermittent process of election through which the so-called representatives of the people reach power corridors has little credibility, leading the traditional lords to assemblies, despite their miserable failure to trim down the miseries and sufferings of the people. Unless people from the middle and lower middle class reach the decision-making positions, no substantial improvement in the life of the common man can be expected. Only a hungry man can feel what hunger means. So bringing down the political process to the common man and making real efforts to make the rulers responsible to the masses, by establishing genuine democratic order in the country would emancipate the people from the abyss of degradation, poverty and deprivation and would pave the way to enlightenment and moderation.

Why do they plagiarise?

By Muhammad Ilyas Khan

Editorials and reports in the recent past in newspapers bewail the problem of plagiarism in some Pakistani universities. Reportedly a number of faculty members ranging from the rank of a lecturer to that of the professor were allegedly involved in the ‘highest intellectual crime (plagiarism) that an academic could be accused of’. Keeping in view the level of the ‘crime’ and the ‘depth’ of the malaise of ‘immorality’ rooted in our education system; it was argued for in the editorials and reports that stern action be taken against those academicians who are found guilty of plagiarism. The Higher Education Commission has been commended for its efforts to put a stop to this menace of intellectual deceit. One can only appreciate the HEC for its stand against this ‘crime’ and the editors and reporters of newspapers for supporting this cause and for highlighting the curse of plagiarism. One is also conscious of the fact that prescription and implementation of penalties to check plagiarism will definitely help in reducing the strength of this curse. However limiting the scope of efforts against plagiarism to devising and imposing penalties only would be tantamount to killing the shadow instead of uprooting the real problem. That means there is no problem in prescribing and implementing penalties to discourage plagiarism at the tactical level, but to strategically deal with the problem, long term and strategic efforts should be devised. Unless that is done, imposition of penalties may prove to be superficial and short term solutions.
Keeping in view the above argument, we need to ask a question: How can plagiarism be eradicated (and not just stopped at some level)? To answer this question let me ask another question: Why do the teachers (and the students) plagiarise? Personally I think finding an answer to this and not to the first question, is of fundamental importance. I say this because one cannot cure a disease before diagnosing its causes. But to answer this second question, one need to ask a third question: What does the act of plagiarism on the part of a university teacher tell the conscious mind? There could be two possible answers to this question. One possibility is that the one who involves in plagiarism is oblivious about the very notion of plagiarism being an immoral and illegal act. Plagiarism in such a situation may be called inadvertent. This situation, is, however, very unlikely as one should not expect such an ignorance from a university teacher. The second possibility is that the perpetrator knows about the act of plagiarism as immoral and illegal and still resorts to it, in which case it may be called deliberate plagiarism.
A deliberation on the education system in Pakistan may reveal a number of flaws which may lead to either the first or the second type of plagiarism. One can think of a number of factors leading to such a situation. But it is for sure that the roots are there in the poor quality of lower level (school) education, which does not promote concepts such as originality of thought, creativity and critical thinking. As a matter of fact blind follow, copying and reproduction of facts and rote learning are the most dominant features of our education system. Children in our educational institutions are treated as empty vessels that are sent to the educational institutions to be filled with facts and figures, where teachers serve the purpose of this filling. Teachers being oblivious to the concept themselves seldom make an effort to create awareness among the students about the real aims of the subject(s) that they ‘teach’. There seems to be a state of purposelessness as far as teaching and learning is concerned at the lower level of our education system. Such students after graduation from these schools enter our seats of higher studies with little or no understanding of the purpose of education, which are critical thinking, research and inquiry and creativity. In fact they have never been trained during their long schooling days for independent thinking and research. Consequently it appears no crime to them to copy the thoughts of others in the words of others and present them as their own even when they enter the seats of higher learning as student and even as teachers, as this is the only thing that they have been doing throughout their educational career.
That means that if we really want to get rid of the curse of plagiarism (and academic cheating) at the university level, we need to make a start of the remedial work at the school level. This calls for a comprehensive programme of reform at the school level: Reform of the curricula, the school infrastructure, the teaching-learning processes, the teacher training programmes, the teacher’s socio-economic conditions and the most important of them all, the evaluation system. I identify the evaluation system as the most important one because as far as education process in our public schools is concerned, it predominantly revolves around our examination system. Throughout the academic year the teacher remains busy in preparing the student to get through the exams. A reform in the examination system would definitely lead to a reform in the teaching-learning process and the teacher’s attitude towards teaching. One is of the view as is also revealed by a number of research studies that the present exam system is mostly focused on testing the memorisation capabilities of students and does not test their real understanding and analytical skills. Secondly evaluation should be a continuous process and not a once-a-year or even once-a-life phenomenon, as only then can they be a real reflection of the genuine learning of concepts and an assessment of the overall personality development of the student.
As far as deliberate plagiarism is concerned, it is simply an act of dishonesty and cheating. Why would someone who is a teacher in the highest seat of learning i.e. a university, a position that should ideally carry the highest level of prestige and integrity indulge in this very lowly act of cheating? Once again this is a reflection of a very sad state of affairs. Some of the possible explanations are in order. A university teacher may indulge in plagiarism because he/she lacks the skills to conduct original research, otherwise an essential requirement to move ahead professionally. However he/she may not find it easy to produce original research due a deficiency either in analytical skills or in language skills or in both of them. Both of these deficiencies can easily be traced back to the poor standards of education at the school and college level. These deficiencies may surely hamper his path towards professional development and as a result he may feel constrained to indulge in the otherwise highly condemnable act of plagiarism.
Secondly when I term plagiarism as cheating, I mean something which is morally wrong. In other words when someone indulges in the act of plagiarism, he is displaying an attitude, which shows a lack of morality on the part of the one who indulges in this act. Why would someone who is at the highest level of academic achievement, being a teacher at the university level, resort to an act of cheating? The answer once again seems to lie in the education system at the lower level i.e. at the school and college level. After all one of the definitions of education tell us that education is a process aimed at the overall development of personality of a person. By ‘overall development’ here is meant development of the three domains of personality i.e. The cognitive, The affective and The psychomotor domain. The second domain i.e. The Affective domain (in educational setting) deals predominantly with the development of personality in terms of morality and inculcation of values such as moral integrity, honesty, truthfulness, and a sense of responsibility. A cursory look at the system of education would reveal that no formal mechanism for developing the affective domain or in other words for the inculcation of values such as those mentioned above exists in the present education system. This seems to be one explanation for the lack of regard for moral values and academic integrity on the part of the teacher. A solution therefore once again goes beyond the pail of mere penalties for plagiarism or other cases of academic cheating on the university level.
The solution in this case too lies in dealing with the problem in strategic terms. Besides looking strategically into the various factors mentioned above, the process of teacher intake at all levels and in this case especially at the university level must be rectified in order to recruit teachers of high moral integrity besides being skilled and resourceful. This means a mere adding up of the marks and grades obtained in educational certificates and degrees (or, worse still, nepotism, favouritism and sifarsih) should not be the sole criteria for teacher recruitment. This process should be more comprehensive and meticulous than the one in vogue. One fears as long as this is not done, the plague of academic dishonesty, cheating and plagiarism will continue to mar our education system.

The writer, a Lecturer in Education at Hazara University, Mansehra, is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Leicester, UK.
Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com

Giving students the confidence they need

By Muhammad Ilyas Khan

ALI is a student of class VIII and studies in a government school. His father is a labourer, is illiterate and giving his son pocket money every day is out of the question. Ali is unable to eat a samosa — something that he likes — every day during recess, but for many of his classmates this is not a problem.

Ali’s school uniform is usually unkempt and unwashed, because his father cannot afford to buy a new uniform. In fact, let alone buying a new uniform it is difficult for his parents, financially, to wash his uniform regularly or to iron it every day. His books and copies as well are in tatters.

Ali happens to be a very sensitive boy. He observes all that goes around him with frustration and dejection. He thinks that he is inferior compared to his classmates. He is not very friendly, keeps to himself, easily gets disturbed and is not able to utilize all the abilities that he has to his advantage. As a result of his low self-esteem, he does not take part in extra- curricular activities such as sports, debates, dramatics and so on that take place in his school.

He also lacks confidence and courage and finds it difficult to stand up to students who abuse or bully him. As a result of his frame of mind, Ali suffers immensely. He also feels insecure and can be easily influenced and manipulated.

Ali suffers from an inferiority complex, something that can cause considerable harm to the personality of a student. It can have detrimental consequences on the student’s academic performance and may well affect his future. A student who suffers from an inferiority complex is likely to perform below his potential and is unlikely to take on any leadership role.

What are the factors that can cause an inferiority complex in children? These include their socio-economic background, parents and the behaviour of their teachers towards them, physical appearance, intelligence level and abilities and so on.

First let us see what role a student’s socio-economic background can play in shaping his or her personality. It has been observed over the years that children who come from a poor socio-economic background have greater chances of suffering from inferiority complex. The problem worsens when the parents also happen to be illiterate. In such cases most parents tend to be authoritarian and want complete obedience from their children. Also, because of their constant daily struggle just to make ends meet, such parents are prone to frustration and depression. Children, unfortunately, are easy targets for them to vent their frustration. They end up nagging, abusing and sometimes even hitting their children on the smallest of pretexts.

Such children have low self-esteem and remain continuously under stress. Since their parents more or less end up bullying them, they find it extremely difficult to stand up to others who bully them. Such students also tend to envy their counterparts who come from families with a relatively better socio-economic profile and whose parents are educated and understand their genuine problems and needs. Because of this, there are more chances that a child will experience parents taking a keen interest in trying to solve his or her problem.

The role of the teacher is no less important than that of the parents. This is especially true in the case of those children who come from not so well-off backgrounds. Such children get little encouragement from parents and are hence in need of special attention from their teachers. The problem is that in many cases teachers end up adding to a child’s inferiority complex. Because of increasing materialistic tendencies among teachers, understanding the problems of students who come from economically backward backgrounds is on the decline. The irony is that teachers do not usually even know that all such students need is some encouragement, a kind remark, praise if they have done something good and that this could really help lift their esteem.

Here I would like to share a personal experience of a few years ago when I was new in the field of teaching. I was teaching class IV and told one of my students that he was not good at maths, a subject in which he had scored low marks. The student did improve in each test afterward but kept asking me whether I had the same opinion of him. I suppose he was doing this because he wanted the teacher’s approval of his improvement, though the fact that he was obtaining higher marks was proof of that in any case. This really tells us something about the impact a teacher’s remarks can have on the way a student thinks of himself. That is why teachers have such a huge responsibility to deal with their students with care and sympathy.

Another factor that can lead to an inferiority complex and frustration among children is unjustified or unrealistic expectations on the part of either parents or teachers. Parents and teachers both a responsibility to try and understand the child and set goals for him that are realistic and in accordance with the child’s abilities and potential. Unreasonably high expectations lead to failure and low self-esteem.

Another factor that gives rise to an inferiority complex among children is presence of a physical disability. Many such children end up being ridiculed by their classmates and in some very unfortunate cases even by the teachers. They are also sometimes given derogatory nicknames. When this happens, it is the school administration’s job to take action against students or teachers who subject a student to such ridicule.

Close liaison between a student’s home and the school is crucial to giving students the confidence they need to be able to succeed in life. Parents who come from a less affluent and/or uneducated background should be particularly targeted and made aware of their role in fulfilling the psychological needs of their children. This can be done by periodically holding parent- teacher meetings and arranging counselling programmes for educating such parents. The print and electronic media, especially radio and TV, can also be used to create awareness among parents and teachers.

The writer teaches at the Institute Of Education and Research, University of Peshawar. Email: ilyasjans@yahoo.com