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Question paper muddle

Education authorities in several provinces have become the laughing stock for their foolhardy actions on many an occasion. The latest is a comedy of errors in setting term test papers for schools in the North Central and Southern Provinces. In one case, the question papers had incorrect facts and was full of spelling errors and in the other the question papers also had the answers.

This simply shows the ignorance and incompetence of the provincial education authorities who had taken over a task best left to the school authorities. The predicament of the provincial educational authorities is not dissimilar to what happened to the proverbial donkey who tried to perform the tasks entrusted to the dog and got whacked by the master. For decades, term test papers were prepared by school authorities and tests were conducted without such incidents.

The introduction of term test papers on a provincial basis was somebody’s brainchild since the setting up of provincial educational authorities. Ostensibly its aim was to ensure uniformity in test standards and in education standards as a corollary.

However, tests only monitor the standards and not set them. Uniformity of educational standards could be achieved only through equitable distribution of education resources - teachers and other facilities. The provision of such facilities is a precondition for setting quality standards in teaching and learning. Therefore, ensuring uniformity in standards by common test papers is a futile exercise and a case of tail wagging the dog.

t is no secret that this system has given an opportunity for unscrupulous elements among the educational bureaucracy to earn a quick buck by way of commissions etc. from ‘friendly’ printing establishments. Further, poor students and parents were fleeced by collecting test paper fees which were more than the required amounts.

We have already seen the mess that has been created by the education authorities in the question of Year One admissions.

Firstly, it was an arrogant Ministry Secretary with no previous experience in the education or administration fields who took over the entire admissions of the island into the hands of the bureaucrats at the Ministry. The mess was so immense and so unwieldy, the system had to be abandoned. Then the provincial bureaucrats took over and faithfully carried on the mess.

Once again the excuse given is to install a fool-proof clean system sans corruption. Instead of weeding out any black sheep among the Principals, the result was corruption on a grander scale and the denial of the right to education for many a child.

These are matters best left to the school authorities. The task of the provincial or central administrators is to monitor the performance of school heads, teachers and pupils and not to take over their activities. It is strange that authorities who have entrusted the future of tens of thousands of children in the hands of school authorities fail to place trust in them in just a few actions like Year One admissions and term tests.

One thing is clear. This is poor or bad management. It has made both admissions and term tests more a business activity run on profit motive rather than an educational service.

Deciphering an old parable

Once upon a time, there was a wise cat in the jungle. It accidentally found a mirror thrown out by somebody and had a peep into it. Lo and behold! It saw a nice looking cat with long whiskers. It told the lion about his adventure.

The lion was curious to have a look at the nice stranger and rushed to the mirror and peeped into it. He saw a lion as ferocious as itself and thought the cat was a liar. A tiger having heard the news from the lion also had a look but could see only a tiger as beautiful as itself.

The news spread like wildfire and all animals had a look at the new creature but no two of them could agree who it was really. All were unaware that it was their own mirror image they saw.

Similarly, in modern times, the news has spread everywhere that a new system has appeared in history but no two persons could agree what it really is. It is generally known as democracy.

The indispensable English language

It is a known fact that English has become sine qua non, that is, indispensable, for everyone’s advancement and improvement if one is to succeed in modern society. The language’s qualities of relative simplicity and flexibility enhances its chances of taking root and surviving, internationally.

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Learn from the past to develop the future

When one talks about City Cluster Economic Development, one cannot simply disregard the growth and development of such ancient cities like Damascus in Syria, Athens in Greece, Rome in Italy, Pataliputra in India, Jerusalem in Israel. If we take a serious look at these cities and study their evolution from birth to the present day status, one wonders as to how these cities stand as living monuments to man's capacity for exquisite planning, his ambition to excel, and his inexhaustible desire to improve on his creations.

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Countering cyber-terrorism

The US Department of Defence charged the United States Strategic Command with the duty of combating cyber-terrorism. This is accomplished through the Joint Task Force - Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO). JTF-GNO is the operational component supporting USSTRATCOM in defence of the DoD’s Global Information Grid. This is done by integrating GNO capabilities into the operations of all DoD computers, networks, and systems used by DoD combatant commands, services and agencies.

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