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December 9, 2019

Call for implementing at least one of six national education policies


December 9, 2019

Stressing on educating children in their mother tongues, restoring student unions and implementing at least one of the six national education policies, speakers at a session on the final day of the 12th International Urdu Conference on Sunday discussed various issues relating to education and their solutions.

Prof Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed, former director of the Pakistan Study Centre at the University of Karachi, moderated the session. Stressing the importance of learning in the mother tongue, journalist Zubeida Mustafa said that no development can be possible without education in one’s own language.

She said that it is easy for a child to acquire education in their mother tongue or the language of their environment. “Because of not getting an education in the mother tongue, the process of critical thinking of children gets affected,” she added.

“The thought process is related to the language in which a child dreams. There are misconceptions that a child starts to acquire an education after starting their schooling and that the English language is very important for progress.”

Academic and journalist Prof Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan said that the right to form an education union is a fundamental right of students, and that the government should immediately revive student unions at public and private educational institutions.

He said that during Gen Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, the military ruler was fearful of the growing student resistance against his regime, so he banned education unions across the country in 1984.

“The absence of student unions has been catastrophic for Pakistani education, society and politics, restricting the ability of students to politically mobilise themselves,” he added.

He also said that assemblies of the federation and four provinces should legislate to revive student unions with a code of conduct after organising a series of debate on the issue.

Ziauddin University Vice Chancellor Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui said that since the emergence of the country in 1947, education has not been among the top priorities of the consecutive governments, and inadequate spending on education has left Pakistan lagging far behind other countries.

“Globally, countries spend at least 4 per cent of their GDP on education, with 75 per cent of it on primary education. But unfortunately, in our country it has been reduced from 2.6 per cent to 1.6 per cent.”

Without naming the province, he said that more than 2,000 schools there have been shut down in the recent past instead of new ones being opened.

He also said Pakistan has six national education policies but it has not implemented any of them. “The government should implement at least one of the six national education policies and keep education in its top priorities.”

Senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin discussed the increase of intolerance at academic institutions. “Overall, society is becoming intolerant mainly because of restriction of expression and creativity, and one can’t isolate educational institutions from it.”

He also expressed his concerns over the recent registration of a sedition case against students and lamented that campuses across the country have been turned into jails.

Ameena Saiyid, the co-founder of the Adab Festival, said that the current examination system has been encouraging rote learning and thereby affecting students’ critical thinking.

She added that the current examination system is based completely on books, and that students have to respond to the questions only from the book and not outside it. She also stressed collaboration with madrasas, where students have the potential and the willingness to study modern education.

Sadiqa Salahuddin, a development professional working for girls’ education, said the appointment of female teachers in Sindh’s rural areas can increase girls’ enrolment in schools. She said that only 30 per cent of the teachers at primary schools in the province are women, who are mainly appointed in urban centres.

“After a certain age, families don’t send their girls to schools where most of the teachers are male, and this is the reason behind low enrolment of girls in the province’s rural parts.”

Key speakers — including Shafqat Mahmood, federal minister for federal education & professional training, Dr Ishrat Husain, prime minister’s adviser on institutional reforms & austerity, and Shahnaz Wazir Ali, president of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology and PM’s former special assistant on social sector — did not attend the session.