Ideology and education

In the recent past, there has been a growing realisation regarding a definite need for the analysis and understanding of the phenomenon as well as the dynamics of education from a sociological perspective.

It is through this perspective that we can hope to get a fuller view of education which is essentially a social phenomenon. It is also important to understand that educational practices do not take place in isolation but are influenced, shaped and, in some cases, determined by certain ideologies. Thus, to bring a qualitative change in educational practices, it is essential to recognise the relationship between ideology and education and the vital role ideology plays in the conceptualisation and execution of education.

Before we analyse the role of ideology in the construction of social practices it is pertinent to unravel this term. ‘Ideology’ is an elusive term which has been used in different periods with different connotations. In the past, the term had negative connotations, but in contemporary times it is considered akin to ‘philosophy’.

‘Ideology’, in simple words, can be defined as a set of beliefs, usually entertained at group levels. Ideology at group levels can be contrasted with individual opinions in a society. A useful description is given by Eysenck who refers to three levels — specific opinion level, habitual opinion level and attitude level.

Ideology constructs the stereotypes that are legitimised and supported by certain social institutions. Thus, ideology that has the backing of powerful social institutions becomes dominant in a society and has the potential to capture the minds of marginalised groups. It is this subtle hegemony of ideas which was first focused and elaborated on by Italian scholar, Gramsci in Prison Notebooks.

Among other social institutions engaged in the process of socialisation, educational institutions play an important part in the construction and perpetuation of certain ideologies which generally serve the interests of the dominant groups of society.

If we look at the history of education in Pakistan we see how education has been used to propagate certain ideologies favoured by powerful rulers. In Ayub Khan’s era, the whole emphasis was on ‘economic development’ whereas social development was undermined. During Zia’s regime, educational institutions were used to ‘Islamise’ society, whereas Pervez Musharraf’s emphasis was on an imported brand of ‘moderate enlightenment’.

No ruler ever asked the masses for their choice or preference. They could make a decision on the part of others as they enjoyed power. The fact that every powerful ruler tried to use education to legitimise and promote a certain ideology suggests the significance of education and its two-way relationship with ideology.

Having deciphered the term ‘ideology’, let us briefly visit its relationship with education with special reference to Pakistan. We can do this by looking at ideologies linked with certain educational notions and practices. Knowledge in most mainstream educational institutions is viewed as static, predetermined and rigid.

This ideology of knowledge encourages a certain pedagogy the sole objective of which is to transmit or pass on pre-existing knowledge from one generation to another. This ideology of pedagogical practices does not encourage any innovation, creativity or reflection. The students are considered passive recipients and ‘mind-filling jobs’ are left to teachers.

The ideology of learning, encouraged by this kind of pedagogy, is that of cramming and recalling, which is rightly dubbed by Freire as the banking concept of knowledge. The ultimate aim of this learning is to cram pre-existing and fixed items of knowledge and reproduce them in examination papers. This ideology of learning is devoid of any critical thinking. Thus students find no motivation to reflect and reinterpret a phenomenon.

This process of dominant teaching and passive learning gets encouragement and reassurance by the ideology of the existing assessment system. Our prevailing assessment system is geared towards the piecemeal assessment of disjointed items where students are not required to understand and apply acquired knowledge. This prompts us to look at the ideology of a broader aim of the present educational system that is biased in favour of powerful groups. The kind of education, prevalent in most educational institutions, not only supports existing power structures but also widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Recently there have been calls for qualitative improvement in education. The required improvement cannot come from cosmetic changes. The problem is far deeper. We need to challenge ideologies associated with notions of education, pedagogy, learning, assessment and the aim.

Education has to move from transmission to transformation for which we have to revisit our definitions of knowledge. This would lead to more vibrant and interactive classroom dynamics where students are engaged in co-construction of knowledge. For this we need to challenge the ideology of an existing assessment system which is memory-based and is unable to tap thinking skills of a higher order.

We need to strive for an assessment system which requires students to think critically and apply knowledge in diverse contexts. For all these changes in learning, pedagogy and assessment, it is important that we revisit our ideology about the very aim of education. We need to challenge the transmission mode of education that supports existing power structures and move to the transformation mode where the main objective is to reduce socio-economic gaps in society and empower the underprivileged by maximising their life chances.

The writer is a director at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.

Sindh govt regularises 850 ad-hoc lecturers

KARACHI: The government of Sindh has announced to regularise 850 ad-hoc lecturers.

Senior Provincial Minister for Education and Literacy, Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq Monday announced that provincial government has decided to regularize 850 ad-hoc lecturers, provided they pass the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) exam, and official directives have already been issued in this regard.

Talking to journalists here, Mazhar said these lecturers were recruited by the former government, but the PPP-led Sindh government has decided to regularize their jobs on humanitarian grounds.

“Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has issued directives to Secretary Education to compile the list of these 850 ad-hoc lecturers, besides collecting their required educational certificates,” the Minister said adding the government has also recognized the demand of these ad-hoc lecturers that they would be allowed to appear in the examination of SPSC in this regard.

He further said it was also decided that the SPSC would conduct only interviews of these ad-hoc lecturers and they would not have to take any written exam. “Sindh government has also decided that in future no one would be recruited in government departments on ad-hoc basis,” he added.

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Govt won’t compromise on establishing writ: Sherry Rehman

PESHAWAR: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ms. Sherry Rehman said Saturday that the government would create employment opportunities for the displaced people of the militancy hit areas and would make them stakeholders in the whole process for introducing sustainable development in their areas.

She expressed these views while talking to media persons here during her maiden visit to the Kacha Garhi Refugee Camp set-up for the Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Mohmand and Bajaur Agencies.

Sherry Rehman said that provision of shelter, education, schooling, health, washrooms, clean drinking water and other basic amenities of life to IDPs are top priority of the government and these are being ensured to the displaced people in these refugee camps.

The Minister said that it is responsibility of government to make sure that shelter, health facilities, schooling, education must be provided and these camps are being set-up to provide a comprehensive welfare package to these communities, she said, adding that although it was not an easy task yet it was being done.

People, Khasadars, police, army and other law enforcement agencies have rendered great sacrifices in the fight against extremism and militancy and the morale of the IDPs was high as they recognize the efforts of the government in this regard, she said.

In reply to a question, she said that the present government believed in political dialogues and wants to solve problems through negotiations. However, she added the government would not compromise on its writ as it can’t bear brutal violence against innocent and law abiding citizens.

She denied the impression that the IDPs of Swat were being neglected, saying that camps were being set up at Miadam, Malakand

and other areas to facilitate the displaced persons of restive Swat valley.

Federal Minister commended the efforts of the Provincial government with regard to IDPs saying that insurgency was a humanitarian problem of large proportion and the government would seek the help of foreign donor agencies to help ensure basic facilities of daily life to these people at the camps.

She said that the government’s policy was crystal clear on the war against terror and was working on three-pronged strategy of dialogue, development and use of force as last resort. Refusing to give any timeframe for halting operations in Swat and other restive areas, she said that media needs to present the real picture of the multi-faceted problems in these areas so as to help people understand the intricacy of the situation.

She said that government wants to provide a sense of security in the insurgency hit people and underlined the need for responsible and well-coordinated efforts to meet the challenge.

Regarding lack of facilities at the refugee camps, she said that no matter how hard the government and other donor partners try the dearth of facilities would remain in the refugees camps, which cannot be substitute to home.

However, the government was responsible to provide moral and economic and political support to the affected people.

Earlier, she asked Relief Commissioner Afghan Refugees Jamil Amjad and General Manager NADRA Mir Alam Khan to expedite the process of female registration at the camps so as to ensure financial support under BISP to the female of the deserving families.

Camp Commissioner Jamaluddin while giving briefing to the Federal Minister Ms Sherry Rehman about the existing facilities at the camp said that 2392 families of Mohmand and Bajaur agencies were living in the camp and the total number of displaced persons was 16227.

He said that water tanks, washrooms and community kitchens facilities were being provided to the refugees at the camp besides providing blankets, flour, ghee, and pulses on monthly basis in collaboration with World Food Program.

Similarly, with the assistance of UNICEF and other agencies arrangements was made for education of the displaced children. He said that the basic problem confronting refugees was shortage of fuel.

The minister after her visit to the camp to review the health and other facilities there, directed the camp commissioner to present a list of requirements and the financial deficit for the Federal Government so as to ensure their timely provision.

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