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CONTINUOUS assessment of quality of education imparted to schoolchildren on an annual basis creates ripples and stimulates people to think and find solutions to achieve the desired result, says a leading Indian academic.

Dr Madhav Chavan, the president of PRATHAM Education Foundation, India held a meeting with education reporters as he arrived here on Sunday to participate in the national launch of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan 2010.

Dr Chavan said PRATHAM had launched its sixth ASER India report on Jan 14 that assessed quality of education being imparted to schoolchildren.

He said there was a common feature that people keep criticising a lack of qualitative education in schools but nobody had ever tried to see what was wrong inside the classrooms. This concept led to the conduct of ASER India to measure and identify how much was wrong inside a classroom or a school.

Underlining the factors leading to low learning outcomes of students, he said, there was no continuity of policies in India and most students were first-generation learners and they had no support or literate environment at homes.

Dr Chavan said the South Asia Forum for Education Development (SAFED) and Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) had decided to replicate the learning outcomes concept and instead of re-inventing the wheel they adopted ASER India tools with certain changes.

He said ASER was assessing students’ learning outcomes at their homes, which was altogether different from conventional assessments in schools. He said another feature of this assessment survey was that citizens were involved to do the survey because ultimately it was also the accountability of public money spending.

Stating that assessment done by citizens themselves is considered more authentic than government’s data, he stressed that this learning outcome assessment initiative could be replicated in any country. Since the ASER India was holding survey, he said, the student enrolment ratio had risen from 92.6 per cent to 96.4 per cent.

He said the ASER India had assessed over 700,000 students (3-16 years age group) in households in 580 districts across India. In each district, he said, 30 villages were selected and 20 households in each village.

Dr Chavan also told reporters that the government was offering mid-day meals to the students in public schools up to Class-VIII because many children in India come to schools without having meals. He said malnutrition was a big issue and it was necessary to provide students hot cooked food in schools. He said the government provided all the required food material and had hired cooks.

He said there could be no magic solution to improve students’ learning but it needed to be ensured that the teachers should attend their classes regularly and impart education in a manner that their students could learn.

About curriculum, he said, it was generally misunderstood as textbooks. “Curriculum is much more than textbooks and refers that what a child is supposed to learn. Textbooks are just an aid,” he said. “There is no need to centralise the curriculum,” he said.

THE Pakistan Caucus at the Harvard Kennedy School, a student body working to promote the country’s image among the international students studying at Harvard University, visited the Lahore University of Management Sciences this past week.

The 10-member students’ delegation held a dialogue with the Provost of LUMS, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, regarding public policy issues in Pakistan.The students also interacted with the deans, faculty and the LUMS student society members and discussed how the educationists and students from both countries could collaborate to reform the education system.

A presentation on the Flood Maps, which was a recent initiative taken by Dr Sohaib Khan, was given to show that how the LUMS community was conforming to social responsibility. The purpose of the trip was to give the visitors a sense of the vibrant civil society in Pakistan and how the educationists and students at LUMS were exploring new avenues to engage in collaboration to bridge the gap between the two countries.

The six-member ‘Pakistan Caucus’ students’ delegation of Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, USA, also visited the Punjab Education Foundation. PEF’s Managing Director Mohiuddin Wani briefed the delegation on the foundation’s initiatives for the cause of providing quality education opportunities to children belonging to poor strata of society.

THE University of Engineering and Technology’s Teaching Staff Association (TSA) body for 2011 was elected unopposed last week as all contesting candidates withdrew their nomination papers.

The new elected office-bearers are: Prof Dr Muhammad Zafar Noon (president), Prof Dr Akhlaq Ahmad (vice president), Dr Muhammad Shoaib (vice president), Muhammad Burhan Sharif (secretary general), Muhammad Shoaib (joint secretary), Farhan Faisal Sheikh (social secretary) and Muhammad Amjad (treasurer).

The executive members are Dr Khurshid Aslam Bhatti, Malik Akhtar Hussain, Muhammad Arshad, Muhammad Farooq, Rakhshanda Naveed, Shaker Mahmood and Tanveer Qasim.

THE Aitchison College last week won the All-Punjab Quiz Competition 2011 hosted by the Ravians Quiz Society at Bokhari Auditorium. The contest was participated in by delegates from 19 educational institutions from across the province.

The Military College, Jhelum bagged second position and the Services Institute of Medical Sciences third position.

Chief guest Nasira Javed Iqbal lauded the students for their knowledge, saying hard work and sincerity would pay in future.

THE Lahore College for Women University won the Persian essay-writing competition and obtained second position in verse recitation competition under the auspices of the Iranian Cultural Centre, Lahore.

As many as 16 institutions including the Punjab University, the Government College University and the Kinnaird College participated in the competition. LCWU lecturer Faleeha Kazmi says varsity’s student Maria Umar won the trophy and cash prize in the essay competition. Fiza Batool and Kainaat Azhar were awarded with certificates and cash prizes for their second position in verse recitation.

Chief guest Iqbal Salahuddin, the grandson of Allama Iqbal, presented prizes. Iranian Cultural Centre, Lahore, Director-General Abbas Ali Famoori said Persian was the common asset of Pakistan and Iran. — mansoormalik173@hotmail.com