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February 13, 2017

‘Misplaced priorities, social disparity plague Pakistan’s educational system’


February 13, 2017

Panellists at KLF decry lack of sincerity in endeavours
for improving quality of education across the country

Like the day preceding it, Sunday also saw panel discussions on a whole lot of national issues at the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). In all there were 36 of them running parallel.

One of them titled, “Spreading education: are we winning or losing the struggle?’ had as its panellists, Sindh Madrassatul Islam University Vice Chancellor Muhammad Ali Shaikh, associate professor of economics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Faisal Bari, Oxford University Press Managing Director Ameena Saiyid, novelist Munir Ahmed Badini and Shahid Siddiqui. The panel was moderated by Abbas Rashid.

“In our city,” said Muhammad Ali Shaikh, “We have a large number of private schools. These schools are certainly not providing quality education.” Education, he said, should be able to provide a level playing field.

He said we had the madrassas which were inculcating a totally different mindset.

Then, he said, we had the government, ‘peela’ schools, followed by the privately owned schools, which leave lots to be desired in the quality of education they are providing.

Finally, he said, we have the ‘elite’ schools. “So when it comes to working for the country, conflicts come in,” Shaikh observed.

The budget on education never increased beyond the measly level it is at right now; “The narrative on education is not clear,” he said.

Ameena pointed out that there was no sincerity in the endeavour of improving the quality of education.

“I’ve been trying for the last 25 years to have the government schools use our (OUP)-printed books as part of their curriculum but the concerned authorities refuse to do so. It is because there are vested interests and all
officials have a personal stake in
promoting books printed by the textbook boards which are sub-standard,” she said.

“Books have become business,” the OUP’s managing director added.

Shaikh added that there were mafias in the education ministry, adding, that teachers’ associations have also turned into mafias.  

Earlier in the morning, there was another session titled, ‘Celebrating Faiz’, pertaining to the great socialist, the greatest humanist poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

The panel comprised poetess Zehra Nigah, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s grandsons Adeel Hashmi and Ali Madeeh Hashmi, sons of Faiz’s daughter Muneeza, and Salima Hashmi. They most affectionately reminisced Faiz’s qualities of head and heart, while Salima recalled various conversations between her parents that were reflective of their love for each other.

They also highlighted Faiz’s love for the poor and the disempowered and his tireless work for them.