Necessity of private schools linked to govt’s failure

The State has handled the sector of education so poorly that private schools have become necessary even though the gap between them and the public ones is seriously denting the society, internationally acclaimed physicist Dr Parvez Hoodbhoy said on Saturday.

“In our set-up, the government has made such a mess of things in every sphere of activity that private schools have become a must,” he said while speaking as a panel list at a session titled, “Are private schools enablers or dividers?”, at a two-day conference, “School of Tomorrow: Educational and Cultural Festival 2015”, sponsored by the Beacon house Schools System.

Bitterly criticising the curricula and syllabi of the schools, he called for their revision and reforming the organisations like the provincial textbook boards. He said he had the chance of going through school textbooks printed by these boards and detected around 16 to 20 errors on many pages.

He was comparing course books of the A/O-level grade books with those meant for local examinations. Whether in jest or desperation, he asked provincial education minister Nisar Khuhro, also a panellist, to have those who had had these books printed sent to jail. The education minister agreed to oblige.

Hoodbhoy also noted that every child was born a scientist as curiosity was an innate trait

Noted educationist Baela Jamil raised the question as to if the State was supposed to exercise authority over all activity, why did it not see to it that every child was educated.

“Government functionaries make tall promises but there seems to be no implementation mechanism,” she added.

Khuhro agreed that education was the responsibility of the State and said that it was to this end that the government had set up the Sindh Education Foundation to induce private sector schools to join in the endeavour.

Educationist Dr Farzana Feroze said private schools were dividers. “Education is the government’s forte but private schools can certainly augment the effort,” she added.

However, she said the private sector could not fully take the responsibility over. “It’s a matter of commitment.”

She was of the view that children must be imparted instruction in their native languages as that would hasten comprehension.

She pointed out that in Malaysia there was a system where in-service teachers were made to appear for examination to qualify for promotion to the next grade. She queried as to why it could not be put in place here.

“The gap between public and private schools will always be there. However it is not the gap but the extent of the gap that matters.”

The session was moderated by Lahore-based journalist Mehmal Sarfraz.

Other sessions

Other sessions at the conference included “Brave new digital world: dream or nightmare?” which looked at the pros and cons of digital technology on education and its impact on society.

Another session discussed whether children under the age of 13 should be on Facebook. It raised questions of its benefits, such as collaborative learning and its ability to bridge the social gap, and its drawbacks including time wastage and addictive nature. Panellists discussed how it is the parents’ responsibility to keep a check and balance.

A heritage awareness programme activity led by Marvi Mazhar was extremely popular, in which the hall was filled to capacity. Its emphasis was on teaching young children the importance of valuing our roots and understanding how one’s home is one’s city.

It highlighted how security was a state of mind that needs to be changed gradually. Our forgotten national language looked at ways to promote Urdu once more. A workshop on “Robotics and Society” was also well-attended.

A session titled “Politicising art and popular culture across borders” that explored the question of whether politics should have a relationship with art. The panellists included Khalid Ahmad, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Rashid Rana and Sanjay Rajoura. It was moderated by HM Naqvi.

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