THE merger of primary schools in Punjab is irking all those who are campaigning to expand the education facilities to bring out-of-school children in schools in line with the implementation of Article 25-A of the Constitution as well as those who are against co-education at primary schools.

Of 51,602 primary and middle public schools in the province, some 5,500 primary schools have been merged – “to consolidate physical and human resources in a same village.” At present, there are 46,000 primary schools in the province.

Tanzeem-i-Asatza Pakistan (TAP) is raising voice against the mergers and has claimed that the Punjab government will close half of the primary schools through its merger policy leaving the remaining ones overcrowded. While, TAP president Prof Mian Muhammad Akram says the out-of-school children will remain deprived of schooling facility.

The TAP president says merger of boys and girls schools will also result in different social and psychological issues due to male and female teachers’ interaction as well as boys and girls’ communication.

Though TAP president Akram has said in a news release that the Punjab government will close 25,801 primary schools under merger policy, he could not substantiate his claim when asked. He also speculated that the closed schools’ buildings would be taken over by qabza groups again without any substantial evidence. He also speculated that the government would also merge middle male and female schools in future. “The government is taking these unwise steps on the instructions of its foreign masters including Sir Michael Barber.

Punjab school education department deputy secretary Qaiser Rasheed, however, says the department had merged schools to consolidate physical and human resources in respective villages. According to the merger policy, the two schools running in same villages have been merged to ensure that all five classes should have equal number of teachers and end multi-grade teaching as has been reported in the recently launched Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Survey 2012. The report stated that almost 36 per cent public primary schools and 14 per cent middle and high schools were offering multi-grade teaching, which was falling hard on students’ learning outcomes. “The merger policy has reached its saturation point with 46,000 fully functional primary schools having separate teachers for separate classes across the province,” he added.

Referring to criticism about co-education, Mr Rasheed said co-education at primary schools level was permissible everywhere in the world including countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. Stating that there should not be criticism for the sake of criticism, the deputy secretary said that Jamaat-i-Islami’s schools, including those in Mansoora, were also co-educational at primary level.

***** THE newly-elected Student Council of Lahore College for Women University took oath from Vice-Chancellor Dr Sabiha Mansoor at a ceremony organised by Directorate of Student Affairs in varsity auditorium last week.

Dr Mansoor congratulated the newly-elected members of Student Council and hoped they would prove themselves as a role model for more than 10,000 students on campus. She also expected that the council would play its role to help university achieve the target of joining world’s top universities’ club. She said academic institutions had a pertinent role in producing new leadership through imparting of quality education and providing opportunities of co-curricular activities.

Student Affairs director Shireen Asad said the girl students were being trained through Student Council and societies to manage different events efficiently and emerge as confident, polished and courageous leaders.

*****

THE National Agriculture Education Accreditation Council (NAEAC) of the Higher Education Commission has planned carrying out on-site accreditation visits to more than 30 different agriculture disciplines to accredit about 60 degree awarding programmes at more than 10 agriculture institutions of higher education in the country.

The NAEAC is assessing agriculture programmes with a process that involves institutions to carry out their SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to enable them to self-appraise their programmes and participate in the evaluation process along with the council.

The council early last week conducted an on-site visit of Accreditation Inspection Committees (AICs) to the degree programmes at University College of Agriculture (UCA), D.G. Khan.

*****

THE Intel Pakistan has announced two teams and four individual winners of the Intel National Science Fair, who will represent Pakistan at the six-day Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2013, to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, USA from May 12.

The grand winners of the Intel National Science Fair are: Fatima Moin Veera, Hania Hasan, Umme Salma Shabbir Gadriwala from Mama Parsi Girls Secondary School, Karachi and Qaiser Ali Shah, Ali Yezdan, Sajid Khan from Agha Khan Higher Secondary School, Gilgit.

The individual winners are: Javaria Nisar from Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Singhpura, Lahore, Haris Bin Ashraf from Defence Authority Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zaid College, Karachi, Isa Bin Qasim from PakTurk International School and Colleges, Peshawar, Muhammad Ahsan Nawaz from Government Model High School, Mailsi, Vehari.

The National Science Fair showcased more than 80 science projects submitted by over 200 young scientists from all across the nation that qualified for a place in the national fair held in Islamabad after rigorous competition at district and provincial levels. The science projects were assessed by a panel of renowned judges with winners selected to represent Pakistan at Intel ISEF 2013. The Intel ISEF, a program of Society for Science & the Public, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition provides an annual forum for more than 1,500 high school students from around the globe to compete for over US$3 million in awards and scholarships.

Intel Pakistan country manager Naveed Siraj says that a huge number of students that qualified for the national fair and the winners, who are proceeding ahead for ISEF, are proof that Pakistan is home to an incredible amount of potential and talent. “Education has two purposes, one is to produce good citizens while the other is to produce a competitive workforce for tomorrow, which we can only do and achieve by enabling students to utilise technology more effectively,” Mr Siraj added. — mansoormalik173@hotmail.com

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