Mar 11, 2009

Blackboard--Another abrupt change of academic session

The decision to change academic session once again will have serious repercussions as it leads to an incomplete and shortly ended academic session with a heavy loss. We, as a nation, are already suffering from a real dearth of good educated people and this decision would further ruin the situation in terms of knowledge-base of the students

By Engr Noman H Malik
In today's competitive world of rapid change, every other country is finding new ways to be in the line. China is planning to put a man on moon whereas engineers at NASA have successfully tested their own deep space Internet by creating a new communications protocol that uses space probes and orbiters as deep space routers.
Every country is striving hard to produce more and more scholars, researchers and scientists, but we are constantly faced with the danger of being left way behind in this race of advancement because of our poor education system. While other nations are striving had to explore the depth of knowledge, we are still undecided about when to start the academic session. Should it start from April or from August? It's been four years now since we have been discussing as to when to start the session and every year we remain undeceive in the wake of new questions with no answers. Students, teachers and those who are associated with education, in one or the other way, remain disturbed till the government finally announces when to start the academic session after altering it several times.
The pace of change is accelerating with every passing moment whereas our educational system is diminishing day by day. Once again, the steering committee of the Sindh Education Department decided that the next academic session of schools and colleges in the province would commence, simultaneously, on April 01, 2009 and this schedule will remain in force in the future too.
According to this decision, the annual examinations up to class VIII would be held in February, 2009 and the new session would commence from April 1, 2009. Whereas the final examination for class-IX and class-X would be held in the month of March and the result would be announced by July 2009.
This chaotic decision will create great mess in the up-coming days. The current academic session started in the month of August, if the examinations are going to be held in the month of February, then this year's session (2008-2009) would be of six month only.
According to the Sindh Education Minister, Pir Mzharul Haq, the academic session was abruptly changed from April to August by the previous government owing to their unrealistic approach and policy. Since the creation of the country the academic session had been commencing from April.
This decision will have serious repercussions as it leads to an incomplete and shortly ended academic session with a heavy loss. We, as a nation, are already suffering from a real dearth of good educated souls and this decision would put oil to the burning flame.
Put another way, this year we would be having 180 days only, for the session. If we look at the annual calendar for gazetted holidays and calculate the other vacations, granted on account of various festivals, we are sparing hardly 100 days for the education of our future generation.
The current session 2008-2009 started with the holiday of Independence (14 August) later we had vacations for Eid-ul-Fitr (October 2-4) moving on, we will be having holidays for Eid-ul-Azha (10 to 11 December - expected) Quaid-i-Azam day/Christmas day (25th December) and finally the session would end-up with the two-day holiday on account of Ashura (9 & 10 Moharrum).
Every year, schools remain closed for 10 day as winter vacations. If we exclude these winter vacations and Saturdays/Sundays, this short ended session would become the micro short ended session. Furthermore, the school has to take at least two preliminary exams before final exams. This also consumes study time.
Whether it's a natural disaster in our beloved country or seasonal downpour, its transporters' strike against rising prices of petrol or a suicidal attack, the very first step taken in order to avoid any-mishap is to close down all the educational institutes until it is safe enough to open them again. This also leads to excessive holidays. Similarly, vacations on account of Urs of various religious scholars, Shab-e-Mairaj, shab-e-Barat, Shab-e-Qadar and other such festive also disturbs the academic session.
It is irrefutable fact that our educational structure needs drastic revamping with more stress to be laid on authorities being well-versed in their respective subjects. Pakistan is a third world country and to raise our status to the level of other developed country, we need research-based and technology oriented educational systems.
The distribution of free books or scholarships won't signal a great change in the society. The government should seriously focus on the development of educational sector. Changing the title cover of a book can be a kind of self-deception until the Sindh Text Book Board commits itself seriously to the task of revision of text books with respect to the current scenario and changing demands. Unfortunately, our text books are outdated and often include archaic material. Though many radical changes have been brought in the worlds of science, technology, and literature (infact, in every single field) but for the last several decades not even a single change has been brought about in the textbooks. Moreover these books include the material which was studied by our teachers' teachers.
Unavailability of textbooks, sometimes throughout the year, is also an important issue which should be addressed promptly. This year we are already running out of time as the session is only of 6 months; and this dilemma enhances students' worries. Moreover, the students of class IX & X study only the half of the syllabus and get matriculation degree. The officials should take prompt action against this paradox.
Lack of research culture is another inherent flaw of our educational sector. Instead of considering research a subject of the university level only, we should start it from school level. Our students are encouraged to do the rote learning right from pre-school. This trend channelizes their talents towards unproductive horizons. They don't bother understanding concepts and the result is lack of knowledge. Nevertheless, the concept of five-year papers should be eradicated by a long term strategic planning.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan discrimination is being done as a policy even at the level of government. Our educational system is divided into various boards namely Sindh Board (Karachi Board), Punjab Board, Federal Board, Agha Khan Board, Lahore Board, Multan Board, Hyderabad Board, Rawalpindi Board, Mardan Board, Peshawar Board, Abbottabad Board, Balochistan Board and the list is endless.
Every board has its own policies, examination procedures and grading system. The irony is that these provincial educational systems are also divided into four broad classes. i.e the elite English medium schools, English medium school (The bungalow schools), Urdu medium schools (government) and the madressahs.
Students belonging to the elite class study books written and published by the foreigners that results in heavy brain drain phenomenon. Those who belong to the so-called English medium schools are the ones who even can't write a single paragraph in English. Similarly, the condition and the level of intelligence of a government student is open to all of us therefore it's useless to discuss. As far as Madressahs are concerned, when I think of a madressah, instantly a term comes in my ie Bartar Deal - the non monetary exchange of goods and/or services.
Madrassas are the true example of Barter deal where every thing is free of cost and in response students spend their entire day at madressah, and do the regular household work ranging from cleanliness to the cooking and bringing stuff from market to the washing cloths.
Would it be justified to expect anything from such students (for their country or for themselves)? It might sound too pessimistic but the proof lies in the fact that we have only one Nobel Prize laureate. Without wasting a single moment we should design a realistic, appropriate and beneficiary educational structure. We have entered the danger zone; Parha Likha Punjab be immediately transformed into Parha likha Pakistan.
Another neglected yet promising sector is the sector of Technical Education. It's a common practice that boys pursue engineering whereas girls consider medicine as the best option for higher studies. Although there are many other good options available. To cope up with this chaotic situation the concept of career counseling should be introduced and students must be made aware of all the available options so that they can choose their desired careers at the right time.
Last but not the least; we should pay special attention towards the start of academic session, reduce the number of vacations, and make sure the availability of research-oriented textbooks before the start of the academic session.

Holidays of the current session (2008-2009)
S No Occasion Dates No of holidays

1. Independence Day 14 August 1 day
2. Eid-ul-Fitr October 2-4 3 days
3. Eid-ul-Azha 10 to 11 December - expected 2 days
4. Quaid-i-Azam day/ 25th December 1 day
Christmas day
5. Ashura 9-10 Moharrum 2 days
6. Winter Holidays Dec 2008-Jan 2009 10 days
Total 19

If the off days on Saturday/Sunday are also counted then the session would become shorter

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