Education in Peshawar: Will free higher education for students with distinctions help?

Published: September 16, 2013
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We must revise our syllabus and get better, trained teachers, who can mould our students properly. Otherwise what will become of our future progeny? PHOTO: FILE

Recently I read that the University of Peshawar will be offering free higher education to students who pass their bachelor’s degree with distinction; and this applies to not only Masters but a PhD students as well.

As I scrolled down further, other news stories related to the topic materialised. One of them read “The University abolishes third division as a passing grade in order to improve the standard of education”.

I was left wondering whether such a move will even be effective. Should we celebrate? Can raising educational standards be possible with as simple a step as this?

It has become old news now that our educational standards are going down day by day. As the world is advancing technologically and intellectually, people in Pakistan and especially in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa seem to be heading in the opposite direction. There are definitely high achievers who stand out but the majority is suffering and lacking.

So where does the problem actually lie? Can abolishing third divisions as a passing grade at bachelor’s or master’s level actually help?

Recently, I had an opportunity to interact with women who were undertaking their B.Ed. studies from a renowned university. Logically, if they were doing their Bachelors of Education, it would mean that they must have acquired another Bachelor’s degree (B.A/B.Sc.) already and must possess a certain level of knowledge about topics as well as proficiency in the English and Urdu Language, right?

I was thoroughly disappointed after my discussion with them.

For someone in their 15th or 16th year of education, it is completely beyond my comprehension as to why they can’t utter a single sentence in either of the languages, even after reading and writing them day in and day out at school.

One of them was pronouncing river as ‘rai-ver’; the other one, who had done B.Sc. in biological sciences, couldn’t make a clear distinction between an artery and a vein!

I am not joking. It took me two hours to make them understand a topic as simple as active and passive voices and countless other examples. What is even more disappointing is that these women will easily get a B.Ed., followed by a M.Ed. and then grab a government position for teaching subjects like English, mathematics and science to students.

My question is how do they qualify for such jobs and what are they teaching our progeny?

Now, even if the production of third division students is stopped, what about the millions who are already imbibed in the system and are an integral part of it? Numerous projects have been launched to train teachers but we don’t see any improvement at all. The teachers don’t take the training seriously and do not bother to apply what they have learned in their classrooms. There is just no incentive.

In a country where a majority of the teachers are inadequately qualified and have a sub-par professional attitude, the students also don’t bother to work honestly and start believing in the ‘write more-score higher’ strategy. Thus, thus, focus on quantity rather than quality. There is no uniform procedure of assessment and evaluation and the system, of course, is not flawless.

The syllabus is either unchanged or borrowed from other sources, without any consideration of the cognitive needs of the learners. For instance, in her bachelor’s studies, my mother read the same book which my ten-year-older brother did and which unfortunately I, in the year 2008, did as well.

For generations nobody has paid attention to changing and updating the syllabus. And when they did eventually change it, in our province, the text book introduced for English in the matric and intermediate classes had literary ideas and topics which were too complicated and rather unnecessary for this level. The teachers are not qualified enough to teach such material and the result is that they skip everything and students fall back on guides and translations for their final exams.

Also, the mushroom growth of universities in the province is also a new trend, which means that a higher number of degree-holders are graduating every year, but the quality of the graduates is depressing.

What I suggest is that, because it is a vicious cycle, correcting a single step cannot be celebrated much. Destruction should precede construction. The process might be painful but it’s necessary. First of all the system should be purged of incompetent teachers. Good teachers then should be polished by trainings and later introduced to a classroom with a sound syllabus catering the needs of the students in particular, and the country at large, in a productive way.

Only then will we be able to get a progeny of students who are up to a certain standard. Otherwise small steps here and there are of no use and mere wastage of time and energy.

Yousra Javaid

Yousra Javaid

A Masters in English literature with distinction, Lecturer, living in an era where being normal is probably the most special thing one can do. The usual beliefs, contradictions and complications to follow. She tweets @YousJavaid twitter.com/YousJavaid

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • KN Shaikh

    Cant agree more. We really need good teachers in our system and this problem is not only in KP but it is a problem overall in Pakistan. Teacher training and monitoring are must.Recommend

  • Mujahid Torwali

    Agree With You But we need a complete Education system, in KP after every election the education system in KP Change, Including Syllabus, courses and even the people who check the examination papers, No one can write his own opinion because they afraid of the checker, If the checker will from PTI or JI so nobody can write against Takiban and Mullahs…Recommend

  • shaw

    So far the lady (u mentioned who could not pronounce river) pronunciation problem exist let me assure you that professor of phonetics Henry Higgins can find 1000s of mistakes in your this whole article, if you read aloud to him. So please get out of this pronunciation thing. You are qualified, you have the will, you can do it, what are u waiting for go ahead JUST DO IT Recommend

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks

    I am a product of Mardan’s Urdu school, how I excelled in that environment beats me, I had to start all over again as a freshman in the college over here in 1964 and went on to higher education. Yes, at that time in the Frontier Province (K-P), the whole education system was flawed as I look back now, instead of stressing on analytical tools, we just kept on repeating and repeating till we could recite flawlessly even mathematical problems. As Yousra Javaid has stressed on revamping the whole syllabus and make it more analytical than just learning it for the sake of exams,I agree. Yes, it is advisable to discard the “third division” for passing after overhauling the education system. I don’t know much about other countries but I do know that in Kansas, one has to maintain at least C average ( 70-80% marks) for under graduate work, and for graduate work ( MA,MS), it is mandatory to maintain 80-90% marks( B average) or you are asked to leave , and for doctoral or post doctoral degrees,one must apply and be accepted by the concerned department in a University which offers that program and above all one has to have outstanding previous record scholastically, to be accepted. Yousra Javaid has also mentioned about the quality of teachers, I believe that this noble profession is not for every one , teachers have to love what they do and dedicate their lives for educating the society, it is not just a job but a very crucial job to educate the future generations.If I may add that the problem is not at higher education as much, but starts at early ages, if the base or foundation is stronger, then the later years will show positive results, so stress on quality teachers with decent pay at the primary level. Some how our education system in K-P or even in Pakistan has always been top-heavy, in my humble opinion make it bottom heavy, the students in K-P will excel in all fields.Recommend

  • Alishba

    I appreciate you wrote on this VERY important topic.
    We need separate campuses for girls. Our schools have no teachers. And those having teachers cannot themselves read. Theology and Arabic teachers are teaching English, and Physical Education Teachers are teaching mathematics and science. I know more about my Dir Lower Timergara where the situation is worsening day by day.

    Just have a look at our situation two years back, and this is worsened further.

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=78729&Cat=7

    There is no improvement in the situation. They are talking about new enrollment drive and they are bringing new students to schools. But the question is where will you shelter them and who will teach them? Existing students are dropping out because of lack of teachers. Just see a glimpse of that:

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/517943/education-woes-shortage-of-teachers-compels-students-to-drop-out/

    Now they talk about CHANGE? what change? Just see another similar report which has no effect on them so for.

    http://dawn.com/news/1029925/over-800-posts-vacant-in-dir-schools

    Regarding higher education, we are not treated Pakistanis. There is only one degree college for girls in the district Dir lower, where as male colleges are increased to 7/8 including commerce college and a technical college.
    We donot have postgraduate classes in our college. When there is no regular MA/MSc graduates how you expect the students of schools will get quality education? Because these graduates eventually go and teach in schools. Just imagine the situation of our college from this short report.

    http://x.dawn.com/2013/07/06/four-teachers-for-1150-students-in-dir-girls-college/

    The issues are NOT given importance particularly that of female education. Actually the wealthy people of the area are sending their daughters to good institutes in Peshawar and the locals poors are suffering.

    Another report an year back mentioned the same issue and the situation is still the same: Just have a look at this report.

    http://beta.dawn.com/news/736566/govt-asked-to-fill-vacant-posts-at-dir-girls-college

    The teachers which are available in schools cannot teach english, Math and science. Many theology teachers and Arabic teachers are teaching english and science. Because there are no other teachers and the quality and level of education of the teachers is extremely poor.
    There is a way out if the KP Govt is sincere to improve this situation and bring the educational standard at par to other areas of the country.

    My Suggestion would go like this:
    “If the Government is sincere to bring Female to Higher Education particularly from far flung areas like Dir and Bajawar Agency then start separate campuses/Universities particularly for female students there. Govt can afford this, its not a big deal. Start new campuses and give Free admissions to female students. It will have really far reaching effects on the education ratio. Good teachers will comeout which will eventually teach in local schools and colleges. This time around girls schools and colleges are mostly without teachers. And the substandard education of their teachers themselves creates hurdles for the students to continue their studies.

    If you are really sincere then please give due consideration to this as well. You will have to look at the rigid culture of our areas therefore separate campuses and classes will help to compel our parents to send us for Higher studies like MA/MSc. When these students come out and start teaching in local schools and colleges, our standard will automatically be increased. How much will it cost for the Government to start a separate campus of female education in each of these far flung districts? Nothing sir, this is really nothing. It will cost maximum a few millions, but will have far reaching effects on the overall educational standard. Please sir, have some mercy on our people. These goofs advisers donot realise this reality that what actually our traditions are? Will you people consider our culture and tradition too? If you are really sincere then this is the really way out. I guarantee you sir that you will see the bright future of female of our areas like Dir and other far flung areas. It will also affect male education ratio, because educated mothers will not let their sons grow uneducated. Please sir give dure consideration to my naive, simple and straightforward suggestion plz.”

    There is a dire need that the existing colleges beupgraded to postgraduate and provided with sufficient teachers and the girls of the area are encouraged to take admissions in higher classes, it will directly affect our schools because these girls will then teach in local schools. Master programs in Political Science, English, History, Economics, and many other social sciences can easily be started if the Government is sincere.
    If I talk about my district, then there is also need of girls colleges in the far flung areas like Samarbagh (Sirajul Haq constituency) and Maidan area ( Said Gul MPA constituency) But I think they are not interested to work for female education because this is not POPULAR demand of the area.
    Our girls cannot afford going to Universities and particularly where there is co education. We donot demand research based institutes now.
    But again if separate campuses are established for female, and at least BS/BA (4 years ) and MA/MSc program are started, it will enhance the quality of education in the area.

    We are hoping now from the current PTI led KP government to do something in this regard but as of now the pace and progress is very slow. There is need of emergency based steps to work in education sector.
    I hope express Tribune will not mind publishing such lengthey comments.
    With special thanks to Express tribune.Recommend

  • Alikulikhan

    Great piece as always. May be the author will write about the ability of the state to run educational institutions. She may like to discuss the advantages of giving autonomous status to colleges to improve the quality of teachers by paying competitive salaries. Recommend

  • militant

    very true being a student and teacher always longed that at least a better syllabus should be provided to the students…….Recommend

  • galop

    teachers are in experienced…fresh graduates and
    lacks proper training…which need to be trained.Recommend

  • sarop

    how much the Uinversity of Peshawar offered M.Phila nd Phd.s but the fact is that most of the teachers appointed in the university are on political grounds, from VC till class-IV and the proof is its degrading by each passing day…onece this uni was known to be home for international students..but today even local students of K_P try to get admission in Punjab rather in Peshawar Uni because its corrupt.Recommend

  • Kalu

    if emergency upgradation was not implemented in the education system in Pakistan the nation will starve intellectually……..Recommend

  • khan

    the question is that who will bring these changes?Recommend

  • sorry

    i felt sorry for the author who wasted time by writing about such an issue which is not considered one of the most minor in our country….we were mocking with education system.Recommend

  • Naila

    its very true that our grandmother read the same syllabus which we read in 2008 in university of peshawar…Recommend

  • khanam

    unfortunately we live in such part of the world where most serious issues are taken as jokes and jokes are taken seriously..education especially higher education should be taken seriously.Recommend

  • corrupt

    first all the good teachers have left the country and are making money abroad, 2nd those who have some potential are trying to get out from this vicious circle and 3rd who wants to deliver cannot get the opportunity….Recommend

  • Parvez

    Again a very important, thought provoking write up.
    Before you suggest steps to correct what is wrong………..you must identify why its so wrong and who is responsible for this, because once you know that you will know what you’re up against.
    My view is that destruction of the education base for the masses has been deliberate. the thinking by our leaders being that, give them only a FEELING that they are being educated and nothing more, otherwise they will stand up and look ‘ us ‘ in the eye.
    For a sound education base a government must spend at least 4 % of its GDP on education. Pakistan spends not even 1 %. ( that speaks volumes )
    I do not readily have the figures but when I read the comparison of what we spend on just our PM & President as compared to education ……….I realised that fixing this is more than just an uphill task.
    I think this has been my longest comment on ET but the subject needs debate and exposure.
    Recommend

  • TA_59

    Nicely written and I agree with you that ” Destruction should precede construction” BUT in our system if you will not be providing the alternate SOON, then this ” Destruction should precede construction ” will become a menace for the authorities and who will then cater for all those who will be set free when destruction will take place IF we dont provide them with an alternative( GOOD EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS)………….Recommend

  • Waqar

    @Mujahid Torwali: How come policy of an autonomous university comes under the jurisdiction of PTI and/or JI? Recommend

  • TA_59

    @Alishba:
    Nicely commented BUT in my humble opinion this could have been a GOOD and EYE OPENING blog itself as well……………..Recommend

  • Nasr

    @TA_59:
    Yeah.. ” Destruction should precede construction” . Initiative should be taken,as no doubt our educational system is creating the poor mentality,most of the time. The intellectuals have their chances even in the land of the dust but for the commoners it all depends at the educational system. Destruction brought construction in Japan & Germany. Isn’t it?Recommend

  • Lodhi

    Nice to see such a critical view about KPK education system. The problem is not that sample that we are thinking about. it is multifaceted and can be seen from different angles. We have to start from one point.Recommend

  • Ali Durrani

    Everyone knows better about educational system in Pakistan and KPK, our eductional system is worst because it doesn’t provide quality education.
    in all government educational institutions only selective study is done, which spoil the students and cause failure of students in higher studies.
    But i appreciate this step of considering 3rd grade as a fail because somthing is better than nothing.Recommend

  • Fazal Aziz Wali

    Good article. Ma’am you are doing a nice job. Lets pray for the current KPK Govnt, they are taking productive initiatives in education sector. All our hopes lays on their decisions and actions. what you say about this..??Recommend