KARACHI, June 29: Various educationists, computer science teachers and government representatives gathered at a seminar held at the Sindh Madressatul Islam University on Friday to discuss the revival of information technology in educational institutions in Sindh.
Sana Memon, a computer science lecturer at the Govt Degree College, Qasimabad, Hyderabad, suggested some strategic plans to improve the standard of IT education such as holding regular competitions, organising study tours, seminars and short courses through which both the teachers and students would benefit.
“Also it would be good to supply the schools and colleges in the rural areas cheap computers so that they don’t feel lost when taking computer science as a higher studies subject,” she added.
Saleem Soomro, another computer science lecturer at the Govt Degree Boys’ College, Sukkur, pointed out that if the educational institutions have computers, they are old machines on which the new software doesn’t even work. “So please update our IT labs while also hiring skilled staff who can make sure that the facilities are being put to good use. Also since computers run on electricity, please do something to insure uninterrupted power supply.”
Muneeb Ahmed, an assistant professor at the Govt Degree College, Larkana, reminded that IT had already been made a compulsory subject back in 2002. “So please don’t forget about it now after reviving it again in our institutions,” he said.
He also complained that a Rs1,500 special allowance for IT teachers too had been stopped since 2009 and hoped that the education ministry would also consider sending IT lecturers abroad to pursue M.Phil and Ph.D.
Sikander Ali Chander, another IT teacher, said that programming was a separate subject and barely two per cent of students were even interested in learning programming. “Therefore, I request the curriculum designers to concentrate more on other aspects of IT such as web designing rather than programming.”
Dr Shehla Memon from Sir Syed College, Karachi, complained that they had no technicians to look after the technical faults that developed in their computers at the college. “If something goes wrong, we, the teachers are held responsible for it,” she said.
A schoolteacher from Mirpurkhas, Wasif Talpur, said that their class IX computer science textbook was so outdated that it had a chapter on floppy disks. “Who uses floppy disks these days? Please update our course books,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, senior IT educationist Dr Zubair Ahmed Shaikh said that the teachers should have an optimistic outlook and try and be smart while teaching the subject of IT in their classrooms. “You can still do plenty of teaching with outdated material for it is not so bad. If there is a chapter on floppy disks, you can still teach the concept of storage devices. So please don’t make this an excuse to not teach at all. Then if you don’t know how to teach programming, I suggest you don’t teach computer science at all,” he said to the teachers present at the seminar.
To the government representatives present there he said: “You can make 250,000 accounts for all these IT teachers so that they can communicate with each other and exchange ideas on Google. And it won’t cost you a thing. The teachers can put up their resources on their own websites there if they want to. For schools, there is the Intel School Improvement Programme to look into. So the technology is there for the taking.”
Later, Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq said that he had called all the computer science teachers to hear them out. “We will compile all your papers in a report to know your problems in teaching IT so thank you for sharing your difficulties with us here. We have decided to make IT compulsory from class IX at least. But if the experts believe doing it from the nursery level would be better, I have no problems with that, too.
“Right now we have computer labs in some 30 colleges across Sindh but I am directing the education department to open well-equipped computer labs in 260 colleges across the province. We are also going to establish five digital libraries at the divisional headquarters of colleges. It is going to be a pilot project to be utilised by other colleges as well. The Rs1,500 allowance for IT teachers that was stopped in 2009, will be revived also. Only it will now be Rs2,000.”
He said that the government would also set up interactive smart boards in high schools in every district headquarter as soon as the schools open in September. “We will call this the Benazir Interactive Classroom.
“Other than this we are also going to start a scheme to give brand new laptops to all IT teachers in Sindh. Upgrading the computers, updating their software, maintenance and replacement of these laptops after every three or four years will also be taken care of by the government,” he said, adding that the Sindh government would pay for the scholarships of five IT and PhD students as well as 50 other students from the endowment fund.
Fifty IT teachers would also be provided training at Sindh Madressatul Islam University, he added.
“But all these announcements and directives of mine are subject to the chief minister’s approval due to the financial implications involved,” he said.
Education Secretary Siddique Memon said that IT was really important if one wanted to move ahead in the world. Therefore computer science was being introduced in the schools as a full subject. “For this we are negotiating with Microsoft to make its certification to be awarded in all schools as an annual development programme scheme. There are six Pakistanis working in Silicon Valley with whom we are also in touch. One of them will be designing the IT course on CD to be distributed to our children for free. Also we are working on bringing in IT servers that will make information accessible from school labs as well home.”
Director-General (Colleges) Nasir Ansar and Sindh Madresatul Islam University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh also spoke on the occasion.