Post-Divorce Guardianship and Men, The case of Feminist Zealots in Pakistan

Post-Divorce Guardianship and Men

Post-Divorce Guardianship and Men

The case of Feminist Zealots in Pakistan

By: Waqas A. Khan

The desire to marry the opposite gender of choice is a human instinct. However, the pretty dress, standing before family and friends, the party, honeymoon and all the dinners come to an end when one from the couple decides to break their wedlock.

In our country, most divorces are initiated by men. Dominated by chauvinism, taking their wife as a slave or paid “substance,” they use divorce as an ever-present threat to keep her within prescribed limits. These limits often are humiliating and derogatory to the wife.

Women, who decline to submit to such “limits,” are divorced. A huge percentage accepts it as their fate without any further consequences to the aggressor. But thanks to a growing awareness of women rights, more divorced women are approaching the courts to receive their due as per law.

In Lahore alone, from February 2015 to February 2016, about 60, 000 divorce cases were registered. As the awareness about women rights and the laws specific to women are increasing, the balance of aggression also is changing. In 2015, 66% of the divorce cases, in Lahore, were filed by the females; although this does not hint that in these who the aggressor was. Laws focusing on female empowerment and the freedom to exercise independent choice, are meant to change the attitude of men toward them.  That does not negate the fact that most men in Pakistan take their wives as hostage or booty.

In some cases, though, women bring the relationship to an end because of their wicked interests or by creating circumstances in which the wedlock cannot be sustained. These women usually are aware that whatever the circumstances, and whoever the aggressor, that the courts will favor them. These women “design” their cases to make them look like “victims.” Their presence in court becomes a reason to deny justice to the victim men because of the many female-specific laws in the absence of male-specific laws to prevent such misuse.

Female-specific laws in Pakistan include:

  • The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890
  • The Foreign Marriages Act, 1903
  • Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
  • The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
  • The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961
  • West Pakistan Rules Under The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961
  • West Pakistan Family Court Act, 1964
  • West Pakistan Family Court Rules, 1965
  • Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act, 1976
  • Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Rules, 1976
  • The Hudood Ordinances, 1979
  • Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 (Law of Evidence)
  • The Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, partially amended in 2001
  • Amendments in Family Courts Act for khula etc. in 2002.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004 (on ‘honour’ crimes)
  • Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006
  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2010 (on sexual harassment)
  • The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010
  • Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment)Act, 2011
  • The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010
  • The Women in Distress and Detention Fund (Amendment) Act, 2011
  • The Women Protection Bill (2016)

With a judicial system fast moving toward one that favors women, the argument here is not to negate or discourage the women rights, because weak women means weaker and inhuman society, but to shine light upon the men who are being victimized by the discriminatory practices of a majority family and guardian judges in Pakistan.

Fahad Ahmad Siddiqui, a renowned constitutional and practicing attorney on this subject, described the inability and cowardice of judges to go against the wrong judicial practice and public sentiment. In his view, there should be more use of the judicious mind and less reliance on the available evidence, which often is scarce in such cases. Children are used as evidentiary pawn by both the courts and the contesting parents. Mothers often are given interim and permanent custody by judges who neglect the legal rights of non-aggressor fathers.

Siddiqui said, “The aggressors in the custodial litigation often use innocent child/children as a tool to seek vengeance and feel no hesitation in inflicting severe emotional and psychological abuse on the child, thereby seriously affecting the child in his/ her development in the later part of life. Among many implications that a divorce has on the individual, family and society at large, the children of divorced couples are the ones who bear the brunt of the entire process. It is a common practice among couples to use kids as pawns in this game of emotional chess and it amounts to absolutely irresponsible parenting to scar children emotionally post separation. In due course the parents move on with their lives and onto other partners but the children carry the trauma of being manipulated and torn apart emotionally, throughout their lives. In my legal experience I have seen a large number of these kids suffering from personality disorders, substance abuse, criminal conduct and antisocial traits.”

Sardran Aman Khan Tareen, Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan from KPK, is a famous name in family and guardianship litigation. Tackling this issue, he said, “I feel that the courts were created to prevent human feelings and emotions from being suffered by providing justice without discrimination, money and property came second. However, very few judges today take care of these feelings and emotions. Family and guardianship cases are the ones where the “whole” judicious mind must come to practice as in case of a wrong decision the children, would suffer irreparable loss.”

That is the reason he has not abandoned appearing in the District Courts in these cases even though his extremely busy schedule in the High Court and Supreme Court makes it nearly impossible to do so.

“Welfare of the minors is not connected to what the concocted children say on the whims of aggressor parent but on the judicious mind which the court must use to save the children from the permanent suffering,” Khan said.

But, there are exceptions. A few landmark judgments in this regard give a hope that somewhere, somehow, men are equal to women in the eyes of Pakistani law.

In one recent case, in the Haripur, KPK, Saima Asim, Senior Civil Judge, last month issued a landmark judgment in favor of a father who submitted in front of court that the children would live under the custody of their mother during the proceedings of a patch up and in court settlement with a hope that he would ultimately get his family united and children suffering might stop.  But in response, his ex-wife, who was using his settlement statement as a means to permanently abandon her former spouse and keep him from taking the custody of children (who were receiving poor quality education and living in inhuman conditions with her), the court said: “any previous compromise or any previous order of the court cannot bind hands of the family court. Court can recall its previous order provided sufficient grounds are provided that, after previous order what were new and evolving circumstances keeping in view interest of minor.” A new petition by the father for the custody was accepted for further evidence and proof.

Ansar Jabbar Dogar Advocate believes the law is perfectly balanced, but in most cases it is rare that a court allows a child to visit his/her father. Often, the father is asked to submit a surety bond of a value as much as Rs. 20-50 lac to meet his child at home for a few hours or a day. In 2014 CLC 1168, the Lahore High Court held the “right of father to see his children could not be curtailed by imposing condition of submission of sureties every time he had to meet his own children.” But how many times have non-custodial fathers received interim physical custody of their minor children without submission of surety bonds. Sadly, the practice continues.

Ahmad Nawaz Khan Advocate is of the view that the issue of court-supervised meetings for non-custodial fathers with their children is something that needs an urgent attention. “The courts allow this meeting once in a month for 2 hours in the court premises and very few courts count these 2 hours even. It is usually come and go where the concocted children due to the extreme pressure of the aggressor, either decline to meet or start crying creating an environment which disturbs court proceedings and hence the meetings are ended.

G. A. Khan advocate said that out of 718 hours in a month, 2 such hours are awarded to the non-custodial father, making it nearly impossible for him to talk and love the children in the presence of his ex-wife. Although the higher courts in India and Pakistan have decided repeatedly that in such meetings, the custodial parents shall not sit and the non-custodial be given a fair and free time to talk to his/her children. It is important to note that the law does not even bind the courts to restrict the meeting for two hours.”

A few feminist zealots want women to have their cake and eat it, too. But we’re not speaking of sugary confections; these are children. Courts in Pakistan, must put their judicious minds to use by taking bold steps and making decisions to ensure that the children in their courtrooms do not become distant to noncustodial parent.

Children must not be allowed to lack intimacy and detachment. Without addressing this situation, they will be left to become hesitant, fearful or scared, blame the noncustodial parent for the situation, become quarrelsome and aggressive, slide into defiance and stubbornness, be filled with anxiety, become depressed, agitated or prone to temper tantrums, or lack attention, concentration, confidence and self-esteem.

They deserve better.

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From Gulli Danda to Baseball

From Gilli Danda to Baseball

Fast-forward to last weekend as four teams contested the last remaining participation slot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Competitors include Great Britain, Brazil, Israel and Pakistan

No South Asian is unaware of the famous rural game “Gulli Danda.”

In the pleasantness of childhood, most if not all of us either played or watched the game being played in the streets of our villages and cities. Traditionally, this game is played with two pieces of equipment — a danda, being a long wooden stick, and a gulli, a small oval-shaped piece of wood.

I still remember how we used to balance the gulli on a stone in an inclined see-saw manner where it’s one end was touching the ground and the other tempting to be coined and hit with the danda. Once the gulli was airborne, the opposing players, standing in a circle, would run after it. The hitter was supposed to run and touch a pre-agreed point outside the circle before thegulli could be retrieved by an opponent.

If an opponent catches the airborne gulli, the hitter is out. Otherwise, the fielder can hit thedanda, which has to be placed on top of the circle used, with a throw. A successful hit todanda means the striker is out; if not, the striker gets a point or score and a chance to hit the gulli again. If a striker is out, his next team member comes in. And when strikers from both the teams finish their turn, the team with the most points wins the game.

Two famous games have evolved from this famous South Asian rural game, cricket and baseball.

Cricket, in our region is a game of nerves. South Asian countries including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh play and follow cricket with madness. Whenever there is a match between any of them, especially India and Pakistan, it seems as if a war is going on. Roads are empty as are offices. The president or the premier and other politicians of the winning team’s country get to gloat.

Cricket in Pakistan is not very old. On 22 November 1935, this region saw its first international cricket match. Notably, that is well before the birth of Pakistan. The match was between Sindhi and Australian cricket teams. There were about 5,000 spectators. In South Asia, this game was introduced by the British during their colonial rule of British South Asia, which covered the area now known as Pakistan. But cricket fever in this region took hold in 1954, when for the first time Team Pakistan defeated the England Cricket Team on their home turf in front of their fans, besting them in the game they invented. This was a start of cricket following in Pakistan.

Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup in 1992, which was followed by multiple wins in ICC World T-20 other international cricket events. But this cricket fever has delayed interest and development of our athletes taking part in other individual and team sports. The flow of money, sponsorships and the governmental shadow all decidedly favour cricket.

Pakistan is a country of 200 million people, but only seven athletes represented our country this year at the just-completed Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This single-digit representation comes on the heels of having 21 athletes represent our nation in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London). Still, these numbers are a far cry from the 62 countrymen who represented Pakistan at the 1956 (Melbourne) Summer Games, or the 49 who competed in 1960 in Rome.

United States swimmer Michael Phelps won his 20th and 21st Olympic gold medals this year. In contrast, Pakistan, in 19 Olympic Games appearances, has won just 10 Olympic medals in its sporting history. Three gold medals have been won by our national field hockey team, the last coming in the 1984 (Los Angeles Games). In all, Pakistan has won eight medals – 3 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze in field hockey since the country made its debut at the London Games in 1948. Two bronze medals also have been won in wrestling and boxing.

But this year our hockey team even failed to even qualify for the Olympics. This shows our overall degradation in sports and also hints that our madness for cricket may well be stifling our progress in other sports such as baseball.

During my work with The Florida Times Union, in Jacksonville, Florida, editor Kenneth Amos asked, “Do you like Baseball?” Before I could answer, the next thing he said shocked me with pleasure. “You know the owner of our National Football League team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, is Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid Khan.”

His passion about these sports sparked an immediate interest within me. I went to the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds to take in an evening of minor league baseball. The small stadium was full and the scene was no less than a cricket stadium in Pakistan. It was a game with similarities to cricket, which caused me to quietly wonder why, given how well we perform in cricket, could we not also excel at baseball.

To my surprise and happiness I recently found an answer.

But first, you must know that Syed Khawar Shah brought baseball to Pakistan in 1992. The secretary of the sports board in Punjab had learned that baseball would be an Olympic Sport at the 1992 Summer Games (Barcelona) and he wanted Pakistani athletes to become familiar with it.

Fast-forward to last weekend as four teams contested the last remaining participation slot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Competitors include Great Britain, Brazil, Israel and Pakistan.

Pakistan, a decided underdog, got a warm welcome in Brooklyn, New York. Even though our young men were swept out of the double-elimination tournament by Brazil and Great Britain, there were small moral victories along the way.

For some of our players, it first time playing with regulation wooden bats,donning batting gloves and being equipped with proper catching gear. And the team held Brazil, a team loaded with connections of Major League Baseball, the gold standard of the sport in the US, scoreless in three of the seven innings. And Pakistan centerfielder Muhammad Sumair Zawar’ base hit in his first at bat in the opening game against Brazil set of wild cheering among his teammates.

Pakistan’s very presence in this tournament is big news despite a lack of grass-roots support in our country where there are no manicured grass fields truly fit for baseball. Ours is a land in which most Pakistanis are not yet aware of this game’s rules. And surely none of us know any of the players like Zawar or Umair Imdad Bhatti or Arsalan Jamashaid or Fazal Ur Rehman, who are part of the Pakistan National Baseball Team.

Previously, Team Pakistan had participated in the Asian Games 2014 and qualified for the WBC tournament. They won the Asian Baseball Championship (C Level) in 2010, beating Hong Kong 10-0, and finished no worse than second in each of their past nine appearances in this tourney. In the Asian Baseball Cup, the team has never failed to place in the top three. It is now ranked fifth overall in Asia and 23rd in the world, based on the outcome of regional championships.

John Goulding, a retired US high school coach with 40 years’ experience in the game, spent two weeks in August and September in Lahore indoctrinating and fine-tuning our passionate warriors. Based on his limited exposure, Goulding still offered that if Pakistan had professional pitching coaches work with its strongest arms, there soon would be Pakistani players in the high-level minor-leagues. And since many of their players have extensive cricket experience, this isn’t at all far-fetched.

So, while the Pakistan media continues to glorify the activities of those who play cricket, the hard work of these guys has garnered scant attention. There certainly were no breaking news alerts for them; after all this was just a WBC qualifier.

But in the US, a baseball-loving nation, the response was far different.

Our home-grown team members were interviewed by the local and foreign journalists, members of the Pakistani-American community and American media ESPN showcased their success. They were asked for their autographs by US baseball fans who see the fine athletes from our country joyfully embracing their national pastime. And they are treating our young men as more than a curiosity. Their efforts— and the love they displayed for such a nuanced sport that each is still learning  — were met with applause and respect.

Some experts believe that baseball eventually will be able to stake a claim to part of Pakistan’s sporting consciousness. But first, Team Pakistan will need to rank among the top four teams in Asia to qualify for the Olympics when baseball makes its return to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

With such encouragement and possibilities, now may be the perfect time to begin spreading our sporting wings beyond our beloved cricket.

So let’s continue to nurture those interested in baseball, and from the whole of 200 million, let’s begin to prepare athletes to bring renewed sporting glory field hockey, and new aspirations to the likes of gymnastics, aquatics, volleyball, basketball, football, weight-lifting, cycling, archery, rowing, diving, Judo, badminton and more.

Let’s significant broaden our sporting attention span.

Who’s game?

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Pooling PAK-US Interests in South Asia

Pooling PAK-US Interests in South Asia

Two great speeches in the US senate foreign relations committee

BY: 

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/09/19/comment/pooling-pak-us-interests-in-south-asia/

The recent abrupt cuts in military and financial aid of Pakistan – America’s front line ally in war against terror — have deteriorated the bilateral calculus. The tilt of the US towards India, a country on which Pakistan’s foreign policy depends heavily, is adding fuel to fire. The concerns of Pakistan on the new US-India ‘love’ are not usual as some unusual agreements have been signed between both the states that directly affect Pakistan’s military and strategic interests in the region.

Last month, an agreement was signed by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parikar that would allow the two countries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases even though Washington assured Islamabad that the military logistics pact would not jeopardise the country’s strategic interests. Pakistanis also complains that the India-US nuclear cooperation agreement and similar international nuclear deals with India will place New Delhi in a superior position unless all stockpiles are eliminated. These deals permit India to import dual-use technology as well fuel for its nuclear reactors. Complemented by the strong US support for Indian inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the deals will integrate India into international markets for trade in nuclear fuel and technology.

But leaving Pakistan alone, again, and building ties with its foe can bring deadly consequences to the US interests here. India’s blooming strategic relationship with the United States and development of nuclear and advanced conventional military capabilities and doctrines have been and will remain drivers of Pakistan’s nuclear build-up. Experts are therefore understandably concerned that the 70-year security competition between India and Pakistan is becoming a nuclear arms race, albeit one in which the antagonists — unlike the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War — have fought four hot wars, still regularly exchange fire over contested territory, and quite possibly sponsor the activities of non-state actors who project violence across their shared border. Considering what we now know of the close calls experienced by US and Soviet nuclear forces during the Cold War, the nuclear situation in South Asia is cause for concern.

But the two recent speeches in the US Foreign Relations Select Committee have raised hopes in Pakistan that sane voices still exist. One was made by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Richard G. Olson who said that Pakistan had worked with the US to eliminate al Qaeda. Olson said that the Pakistan army had destroyed the hideouts of militants and terrorists in the country during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He also spoke about relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, stating that ties had improved significantly after President Ghani’s election and then subsequently deteriorated over important issues such as border management, refugees and counter-terrorism.

But he rightly said that Pakistan will have to prove that their homeland is not being used against neighbouring countries by terrorists. Pakistan wants a similar assurance from the US-led Afghan government as proof exists that the selective unrest in Balochistan and terror attacks in other parts of Pakistan including the recent ones in Quetta and Mardan were sponsored, executed and covered by Indian facilitated terrorists residing in Afghanistan.

Olson raised the long term and genuine demand again that Pakistan will have to operate against all terrorist wings without any discrimination. He said that Pakistan will have to play an important role in making Afghanistan a strong and peaceful country.

Earlier, last week, Toby Dalton, who is the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment and an expert on non-proliferation and nuclear energy, addressed the committee about the regional security challenges and the evolution of the global nuclear order.

He provided clear-eyed assessment of the challenges to US policy posed specifically by developments in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and what they mean for US interests in South Asia. Though obvious, it is worth underscoring the point that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program does not exist in a vacuum. Nuclear weapons are central to Pakistan’s security-seeking behaviour in a region it considers to be enduringly hostile.

He emphasised that any nuclear explosion would have catastrophic consequences, which is why it will continue to be in the US interest to sustain an ability to mitigate nuclear threats in South Asia even as its role and presence in the region evolves. The challenge with Pakistan is how to preserve patterns of cooperation and institutional relationships that facilitate US influence at a time when Pakistani behaviour in other spheres may be injurious to US interests.

US priorities related to nuclear weapons in South Asia have shifted over time. While the United States first sought to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in the region, the focus shifted to cap and rollback of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs after the countries’ nuclear tests in 1998 and then to ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and technologies.

Dalton was of the view that today there are two priorities above others that should guide US policy. The first priority he said is the prevention of intentional or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons, which is most likely to occur during a military confrontation between India and Pakistan. Successive US administrations intervened with India and Pakistan — during the Kashmir crisis in 1990, the Kargil war in 1999, the crisis in 2001-02, and following the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 — in order to contain the conflict before nuclear weapons could be deployed. Although the two states have implemented several nuclear and military confidence building measures, these are insufficient to temper their security competition.

What is known publicly about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is mostly what Pakistan wants India (and the world) to know for deterrence purposes. When it flight tests a nuclear-capable missile, the military issues a press release. When the nuclear command authority meets to discuss threats and policies, they issue a press release. But the other essential facts of the Pakistani nuclear program are fairly elusive.

In recent years, Pakistan has supplemented its fleet of medium-range ballistic missiles with a short-range battlefield missile, the Nasr. Pakistani government officials assert that it will carry a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon in order to deter India from carrying out conventional military operations on Pakistani territory. Pakistan also has tested a longer-range missile, the Shaheen-III, which could target Indian military facilities as far away as the Andaman and Nicobar islands. And it has tested two nuclear-capable cruise missiles, linking these to concerns about an eventual Indian ballistic missile defense system. The conventional wisdom is that Pakistan does not deploy nuclear weapons in peacetime, that it keeps warheads and delivery vehicles separate. Whether and how long this non-deployed status will remain the case is an open question.

The recent US practice to put Pakistan in isolation, he said, has led many to believe that minimum deterrence of existential threats was insufficient for Pakistan’s security. Thus, in 2011, Pakistan began to talk instead about so-called “full-spectrum deterrence,” under which nuclear weapons will be used to deter not just a nuclear war, but also other threats such as an Indian conventional military attack. It is in this context that Pakistani officials have dubbed the Nasr — a tactical, battlefield nuclear weapon — a “weapon of peace,” because it is supposed to prevent India from seeking space for limited conventional military operations short of Pakistan’s nuclear red-lines.

The growth in Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities and the broadening of its deterrence objectives raise thorny challenges for US interests to prevent a nuclear explosion and to maintain effective security on nuclear weapons and materials.

He emphasised that the stated Pakistani concerns about India’s offensive conventional military planning are not without merit. The Indian army has sought to formulate and exercise a proactive strategy, often called “Cold Start,” the point of which is to be able to rapidly mobilise sufficient firepower to overwhelm Pakistani defenses and inflict defeat on the Pakistan army. Even if the Indian military could carry out such an operation, many experts doubt that the Indian government would ever sanction it, given the inherent potential for conflict escalation. But for Pakistan, this threat — real or perceived — has provided ample justification for its nuclear build-up.

The senate committee was told that to be fair, Pakistan is not given sufficient credit for the nuclear security practices it has put in place. By most indicators, its security is probably quite good. Yet, he said, it is still in the US interest to support Pakistan’s fight against groups such as the Pakistani Taliban to the extent that these groups pose potential threats to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Here, the US role in the region has evolved in recent years. US–India relations have blossomed while US-Pakistan relations have become more troubled. In the past, Pakistan sought to catalyse US intervention as a way to internationalise the dispute over Kashmir, while India actively opposed any US policy interest in a resolution to the Kashmir issue. Meanwhile, most Pakistanis probably do not trust the United States to be an honest broker in regional disputes.

One possible opportunity, he said, is through membership in international regimes that both seek to join, and specifically the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). If there were a process to negotiate benchmarks for membership for both states, it could encourage them to take steps to temper impulses in their security competition that exacerbate the challenges described above. In this regard, the policy of the current US administration to support an unconditional and exceptional NSG membership path for India is problematic. This policy requires no commitments from India to bring its nuclear weapons practices in line with those of other nuclear states in return for membership. It also opens no pathway to membership for Pakistan that would incentivise it to consider nuclear restraint. It is not surprising that the US policy has encountered significant opposition from a number of other NSG members, not least China, who argue that the group should utilise objective criteria when considering the membership of states like India and Pakistan that have not signed the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

These two speeches at the highest US policy forum have raised the hope that the policy makers there will think about their current policy of leaving Pakistan alone again after it has killed 26,862 terrorists, has offered the blood of its 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 5,498 security personnel’s and when 951 of its civilians have been killed by the US drone strikes as collateral damage.

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A Trip to Beijing, XVI World Congress of CES

A Trip to Beijing

Important lessons imparted and learned

XVI World Congress of Comparative Education Societies in Beijing

BY: 

XVI World Congress of Comparative Education Societies in Beijing

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/09/11/comment/a-trip-to-beijing/

The major findings revealed that in public-sector schools 36 percent of teachers are putting a major emphasis on classroom tests, which runs contrary to 100 percent of private-sector teachers, who do it on a regular basis

In Pakistan, the second major problem is the uneven rise of private-sector educational institutions. We have seen recently how the share of public-sector enrollments is shrinking toward the private sector

I was privileged and honoured to attend the XVI World Congress of Comparative Education Societies in Beijing. With me was Professor Dr Abdul Hameed, a renowned educator and research supervisor at the University of Management and Technology, Lahore. We co-authored the research paper on Comparing Assessment Practices in Public and Private Schools of Pakistan as a Lever for Achievement Gap, and our mission was to present this research. Pakistan faces an education crisis of unprecedented proportions with nearly half of all children of school-going age out of school. Although there is broad consensus on the problem, its magnitude has reached 25 million.

Our study examined assessment practices in public and private secondary schools of the Lahore and Kasur districts in Punjab. The research was warmly welcomed and discussed by world-renowned scholars and professors who represented 82 countries. In this research mathematics teachers from 100 schools were surveyed via questionnaires, including 50 from the public and 50 from the private sectors. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and crosstabs. Part 1 collected background information about each respondent. Part 2 compared these teachers’ emphasis on the need for class testing. Part 3 compared the frequency of such testing. Part 4 compared their use of rote memorisation. Part 5 compared their use of application questions. A separate section collected data about understanding patterns and relationships among different concepts. The final part of the questionnaire compared the use of questions that require explanations and justifications.

The major findings revealed that in public-sector schools 36 percent of teachers are putting a major emphasis on classroom tests, which runs contrary to 100 percent of private-sector teachers, who do it on a regular basis. Results within six areas of assessment practices revealed possible causes of achievement gaps. The results were based on hypothesis testing and were reported separately. It was found that although working conditions for teachers in public sectors are far better than that those within the private sector. Even so, private-sector teachers excelled in all areas. Such performance may be attributed to continuous pressure and job threats. Another major factor may be performance-based high motivation levels of these private sector teachers.

The study produced — and we presented — the following results.

  • Public school teachers place more emphasis on classroom tests than do public-sector teachers.
  • Private-sector teachers administer tests with more regularity than do their public-sector peers.
  • In public-sector schools, teachers depend upon questions that require a reproduction of text-based facts; private-sector teachers include such questions only occasionally.
  • Questions requiring the application of the learned concepts are missing in public-sector test instruments at large; this practice is vice versa in the private sector.
  • A large number of private-sector teachers include questions that require searching for patterns and relationships between different concepts. This practice occurs in only a negligible percentage of public-sector schools.
  • Private-sector schools tend to include questions outside the textbooks, inducting questions that require explanation and justification. Only a meager percentage of teachers within public-sector schools use this approach.

We were open to sharing and gaining knowledge by connecting with experts on issues that are hampering the progress and sustainability of education system in Pakistan, chief among them the OOSC (Out of School Children) issue. Matters related to this were discussed with notables including Professor ElenitaQue (University of the Philippines) and Professor Laurde B. Filato (Western Mindiano State University), with each sharing personal experiences. The government of the Philippines has taken novel steps to tackle the OOSC issue. First among them is part time teaching. Very young but poor students, unable to afford school, are called in for two hours of school each afternoon. Teachers try to inculcate the basic skills of writing and reading in those students for six months, at which time those students are set free. Those OOSC’s come out of the illiterate barrier at least to some extent. A traditional education cannot be given to students who are kept away from the school because they are their families’ primary bread winners. For them, technical training institutes are set up and technical skills are imparted to help them be useful contributors to society. Professor Hameed seconded these notions, which he said could be applicable to Pakistan, too. He also offered workable solutions.

In Pakistan, the second major problem is the uneven rise of private-sector educational institutions. We have seen recently how the share of public-sector enrollments is shrinking toward the private sector. I discussed this trend with Professor Dr E. Vance Randall (Brigham Young University, USA) and Professor Hameed. Professor Randall was of the view that in Pakistan there is a little motivation in public-sector teachers to do things differently, unlike what seems to drive private-sector teachers. He emphasised the need of a system within the public sector to encourage and reward teachers. The matter of resources was also brought forward and Professor Hameed shared that in Pakistan the facilities in public-sector schools are nowhere near competitive to private-sector schools.

This discourages the public to enroll their children in these government schools. In recent years, the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has “adopted” more than two million children by partnering with 3,230 private schools in Punjab. In this way the government officially is leaving hopes from the public sector and funding private schools for quality education. The major way the PEF is funding these schools comes through foreign donors like UKAID and USAID. This matter was thoroughly discussed by Professor Dr Keith M. Lewin (University of Sussex, UK) and Professor Hameed. They took on the topic “Is PEF Partner School Program a Sustainable and Forever Approach?” Both esteemed experts were of the view that it is not. They emphasised the need to strengthen public-sector schools, and they rejected the current practice of pampering the private sector at the cost of public-sector schools. They cautioned about the long-term reliance on the government to fund the foundation if/when these foreign donors decide to pull their funding. Remember, donations never are truly forever and the interests of countries change with the flow of time.

Another prevailing trend in Pakistan is the race toward enrollment in the sciences. Every student regardless of his or her capability tends to enroll in science studies at matriculation and upper levels. This is limiting and badly hurting the horizons within other fields. For example, enrollment in Social Sciences in Pakistan — and in other parts of the world — is shrinking. Intake is very low and so is the intellectual ability of those in this particular pipeline given that so many of the brightest minds are gravitating toward science and engineering. So what is the problem? Nations are not necessarily run by scientists and engineers. Philosophers, educationists and other better-educated humans are equally necessary to understand, contribute to and uplift their societies and chart their countries’ futures. When I discussed this with Professor Dr. David Small, Deputy Head of School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury and Professor Hameed, both recommended that we cannot be reliant on market forces (i-e demand and supply) for social sciences. It is high time that nations begin pushing good quality students toward social sciences to help equip our society with skills of a higher order than can allow us set lofty goals and accurate aims.

This world congress was organised with the financial support of the government of China, the World Council for Comparative Education Societies (WCCES), China Comparative Education Society and Beijing Normal University. Special thanks are offered to Professor Dr Wang Yingjie and Professor Dr LIU Baocun of the Beijing Normal University who made this world renowned knowledge-sharing and learning event such a wonderful experience for those fortunate enough to take part. The next Congress will be in Mexico in 2019. Upon our return, Salman Iqbal Sehgal, CPEC board member and advisor to the chief minister of the Punjab, Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif, briefed us about the current progress on China-Pakistan economic corridor. We are back with a new resolve and the hope that with each passing day relations between Pakistan and China will become stronger, healthier and more prosperous.

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Journalist – Educationist – Lawyer