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Revamp of colleges a challenge for Sindh Education Deptt

Top Story

July 12, 2006


KARACHI: The issuance of a notification by the Sindh Education Department on July 3 could be a routine and well-anticipated administrative matter, but its contents had a direct and effective reverse impact on the devolution of power programme at least in the arena of education.

The administrative control of about 238 government-run colleges in Sindh stood transferred to Sindh Education Department. That’s what the notification said and with this official move, district governments in the province possessed no more administrative authority to control college education, which they were vested with some five years back under the devolution of power plan and new local government system.

Interestingly, the same General Musharraf-led regime at the federal level had decided to take back administrative control of colleges from the district governments, which wholly conceived, initiated, executed and vehemently promoted the whole devolution of power scheme.

Speaking at a press briefing here in the metropolis in December 2005, Federal Education Minister Lt-Gen (Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi said that devolution of power plan had adversely affected functioning and standard of education in colleges. He said that colleges had shown no improvement in their performance and in fact their standard had declined mainly because of undue interference of district Nazims in the colleges’ affairs.

No wonder the same logic and rationale could be applied to government schools for taking back their administrative control from the district governments. The standard of education and academic facilities in government schools too under the newly introduced devolved administrative set-up have not improved and remain highly unsatisfactory throughout functioning of the new local government system. The chapter of education in the devolution of power scheme is prone to abrogation under the new government-initiated precedent of taking back the colleges’ control.

Ironically, undue interference of district Nazims, who were elected on a non-party basis, had been blamed for the declining standard of college education but the situation would likely remain the same under the new administrative set-up as top provincial authorities could unduly and excessively meddle in the colleges’ affairs through political motivation.

In the past too, govt-run colleges in Karachi and the rest of the province were the target of uncalled for interference of influential political parties and their affiliated student organisations.

The principles of merit and discipline in various teaching and academic affairs, especially in the admission process and observing compulsory attendance rules, were seriously undermined and compromised due to undue interference of politically motivated and undisciplined elements.

The uncalled for and undisciplined activities of the politically motivated students’ organisations had often led to clashes and adverse law-and-order conditions on the campuses, under which safety and security of bona fide and sincere students and teachers largely remained threatened and compromised. In the last major incident of armed violence in a college, a student had lost his life and his class fellow was injured due to an incident of firing at the Government College of Commerce and Economics in the city, which is otherwise known for its meritorious, regular, and well-disciplined academic and teaching environment.

However, the biggest challenge for the provincial education authorities that have just wrested back control of the colleges is to restore public confidence and morale in the education system and standard of government colleges. Even students of most prestigious and sought-after government colleges of the city have made an obligatory practice to avail private tuitions or attend classes at coaching centres. There is a largely accepted notion that securing above-average marks and grades in examinations could not happen if a student has just relied on attending classes in college. Qualified and competent college teachers having grasp of their particular subject have been well-known for offering tuition sessions at their residences or teaching more diligently and regularly at the coaching centres.

They have spared least efficiency and efforts for covering prescribed syllabi in classes in the college. Some have been known for encouraging and hinting to their students to take private tuitions from them at their home after college teaching hours instead of just relaying on college education.

The culture and discipline of attendance, punctuality, and regularity among students of government colleges have become largely diminished and in some cases have virtually gone missing.

Concerned circles in college education said that a large majority of science group students mainly went to college in order to take practical classes and laboratory sessions, which were normally not conducted by tuition and coaching centres. Regularity and attendance of students in theory classes of compulsory subjects and optional courses remained highly unsatisfactory and in large instances far less than 75pc mandatory attendance requirement for appearing in exams, they said.

The concerned college teachers said that in majority of the instances principals of the colleges had no option but to endorse annual examination forms of the students without actually verifying fulfilment of the compulsory attendance requirement. At first college principals largely lacked proper resources and manpower to scientifically evaluate attendance performance of each and every student prospective to appear in the exams, said the concerned teachers adding that secondly principals were very well aware of the overall academic, teaching, and law-and-order environment in their colleges and they knew that in such an unfavourable situation students were not much inclined to fully observe the attendance rule.

The relevant quarters in college education said that in majority of the government colleges in the city, size of classrooms did not cater and accommodate well the large number of students placed every year in the first year classes under the centralised admission policy.

At a recently held high-level meeting, Dr Hamida Khuhro had also expressed her deep concern over acute shortage of teachers in some colleges and irrational and unnecessary posting of teachers in other colleges. She directed the newly designated provincial education manager to come up with a proper redeployment plan for teachers so that teaching strength in colleges could be rationalised to fulfil education and academic needs of the government-run educational institutions.