Critical minds alone can take us forward: Dr Hoodbhoy

By A Reporter

ISLAMABAD, June 3: Pakistan needs an education system that develops humanism, enlightenment and critical thinking in its children and not jingoism, according to physicist and peace activist Dr Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy.

Education is not about getting degrees or jobs but about creating a tolerant, caring, progressive and forward-looking society, he said in a lecture on “Education and emerging challenges” at the Pakistan Academy of Letters organised by the Gojal Educational and Cultural Association (GECA).    

“The education our children are acquiring today breeds hatred and violence,” he said, citing last week’s ethnic clashes on the campus of Quaid-i-Azam University. Such irrationality was not unexpected when children are taught about differences between Hindus and Muslims and the wars fought between India and Pakistan from very young age.         

Dr Hoodbhoy said the foremost objective of education was to produce a good human being, who appreciates others’ rights and values and takes a scientific approach to decide about right and wrong. But the trend in Pakistan had been on the reverse. 

  “Students were more enlightened and liberal 30 years ago. Today 60 per cent of the girl students in Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) come in burqa and another 10 per cent in hijab,” said Dr Hoodbhoy who is Professor of Nuclear Physics and Chairman of the Physics Department, Quaid-i-Azam University. He has been a faculty member at the QAU since 1973.  

The author of `Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality’ which has been translated into five languages, Dr Hoodbhoy said: “We should think about it, and find out the causes as the situation is getting worse in NWFP where girls can’t dare to go out bare faced and their schools are being bombed and closed”.       

He called for giving priority to primary education and criticised the low education budget – two per cent of GDP. “If we want to improve the situation we should cut the defence and non-development budget and devise a secular education system,” he said. 

“Secularism does not mean abandoning religion,” he stressed. “In Europe there exist many religions but their followers live as equal citizens. There is no other way to take a nation forward than path of secularism and scientific thinking.”  

While the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been given big money, it was being spent on “producing degree holders in bulk and not scientific minds”.  

About plagiarism, Dr Hoodbhoy said that plagiarism has exploded for the first time thanks to the internet. He cited many cases of plagiarism which is rampant in public universities. Some cases were detected recently which he described sheer dishonesty. A substantial amount is lost on ghost schools. Some 8,000 such schools had been discovered in Punjab alone.  

“While the modern concept treats education as a problem-solving tool, our system encourages only cramming without comprehension or application of mind. Knowledge is a living thing which increases with the passage of time. We seek Tehsil-i-Ilm (acquisition of knowledge) and not Takhleeq-i-Ilm (creation of knowledge),” he observed.

Examinations just test the memory of a student and not his comprehension.

The lecture generated a lively question-answer session.

In response to the questions Dr Hoodbhoy said people need to know their natural resources and how to exploit them. For that education should be need-based. Technical and vocational schools should be set up to impart skills and training to the local people according to the geographical condition of the area.

In the context of Gilgit-Baltistan it would mean learning how to harness the region’s abundant water resources to produce electricity and set up industries.

He congratulated the Gojal Educational and Cultural Association team for organising the programme and the association that, he hoped, would provide a platform to the people of Hunza-Gojal to discuss various issues. He assured the GECA of his help in promoting education and cultural harmony in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Earlier in his introductory remarks senior journalist from Gilgit-Baltstan Farman Ali highlighted the problems and challenges being faced by the students and youth from Hunza-Gojal during their studies in urban centres of the country. They stream down the plains from North due to non-availability of educational facilities in their areas and face a host of psychological, social and economic problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He said our educational priorities have totally changed due to the media onslaught and globalisation agenda that have reduced education to a market commodity, to produce career-oriented individualistic apolitical, obedient workers for the multinational corporations and NGOs rather than serving social purposes or creating thinkers, intellectuals.

According to him the divide between private and public education systems has reinforced class differences between the rich and the poor disturbing the social harmony.

The government has failed to fulfil its responsibilities and created space for sellers of education. Knowledge today has been made a commodity which can be bought and sold and possessed and as such produced individualism and selfishness.

He recalled the relationship between Dr Eqbal Ahmed, one of the greatest scholars and thinkers of the 20th century, and Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy and how they met first at MIT, and became friends. Dr Eqbal Ahmed, who died in 1999, wanted to establish a university in Islamabad after the name of Ibne  Khaldun, one of the greatest scholars and liberal thinkers of the Muslim world. Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy has taken upon himself the gigantic task and vows to continue Dr Eqbla’s mission.  

Mr Farman Ali paid tribute to Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy for his unflinching commitment to the cause of promotion of education, science, peace and against extremism and prejudices in Pakistan. For which he received the prestigious Faiz Ahmed Faiz Award in 1990. In recognition of his contribution towards the cause of popularising science in Pakistan, he got UNESCO‘s Kalinga Prize. His TV serials and film The Bell Tolls for Planet Earth won honourable mention at the Paris Film Festival.

Dr Hoodbhoy, who got his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978, is a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, the University of Maryland, and Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre. He also occasionally lectures at various American and European research institutions. He received the Baker Award for Electronics in 1968 and the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics in 1984. He has authored over 18 scientific research papers in international journals.

Prof Hoodbhoy is also a prominent environmental and social activist and regularly writes and speaks on wide range of issues from social, cultural, environment, science to education and nuclear disarmament in international and national newspapers including Dawn.

Mr Farman also thanked Iftikhar Arif, renowned poet and Chairman of the Pakistan Academy of Letters for allowing the GECA to hold the lecture programme in the premises of PAL.

Prominent among those who attended the lecture were Mohammad Darjat, Gul Baig, Baig Ali, Mohammad Jabbar, Yasmin Ali, Fazal Amin Baig, Ghulam Shah, Sher Karim, Ayub Malik and many others.

   

 

In the last Mrs Nabat Mehrban thanked the guest for sparing time and gracing the function. Ejaz Ahmed Chairman GECA organising committee presented traditional topi (cap) to the guest. Sultan Ahmed conducted the programme. A large number of students, especially girl students, studying in different universities and colleges of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Abbottabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Mansehra attended the lecture programme.

 

 

 

 


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21 Responses to Critical minds alone can take us forward: Dr Hoodbhoy

  1. Salmanuddin says:

    Dear PT
    Indeed it was a great and fruitful event for the students and youth of Gojal Hunza. Dr. Parveiz Hoodboy in real sense enlighted the minds of the people by orienting with different issues and gaps in the education system of Pakistan.
    The report you have published covers the discussion and questions / answeres but few sentences particuarly the quated ones are not actualy said as reported.
    Therefore it is important for all of us to not interpret the speakers views in our own context.

    Thanks

  2. pamirtimes says:

    Dear Salamuddin

    It is an important observation. Can you, kindly, identify the sentences that, you think have been quoted out of context.

    Noor

  3. Sharif Khan says:

    Thanks! Pamir Times for sharing the detailed report of the lecture by Professor Dr Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy.

    Let us congratulate to the management of Gojal Educational and Cultural Association (GECA) for organizing such a marvellous and thought provoking program.

    Indeed, it is one of the best examples of contribution from our elders and intellectuals, who is expected a lot in near future to over come on the day to day issues of students in particular and common people in general. I hope the audiences have got insights from the speech and enjoyed the live discussion.

    It will also help the general masses/readers through print and electronic media, as one of the best example is the coverage from Pamir Times.

    It is true that most of us including majority of our young students are still fold with the traditional rote teaching and learning approach; which believes in rote memorization / ratification or to focus only in getting marks in exams by hooks or crooks rather to use their intellect. As a result, our educational institutions produce millions of degree holders on yearly basis. Those degree holders, who do not achieve their desired targets, become frustrated. The product does not materialize and begin to blame the society. The end result does not favour the common people and take revenge from different angles or boundaries.

    On the other hand, if we believe in becoming a critical thinker, a reflective practitioner, or a problem solver, than we need to bring reforms in our national educational system from top to bottom. For instance, we need to review our educational policy in terms of resource development (human and material), curriculum enrichment, assessment criteria, teachers’ appointment and service structure, leadership and management approach (bottom up decisions to empower schools/educational institutions), proper monitoring and evaluation system based on scientific principles. For that purpose we need to balance between knowledge based and inquiry based learning at primary level. Research should be introduced as a compulsory subject at secondary level based on students’ rigorous work instead of plagiarism.

    Another element could be the introduction of issue based and performance based learning approach in educational institutions to keep balance between knowledge, skills, attitude and dispositions in our social and material life.

    As a priority, we need to work on the capacity building of teachers / lecturers, professors, managers and leaders to bring positive change.

    Above all, we should be optimistic in our personal and professional life to work with commitment and devotion individually and collectively either at local or national level and then we proceed to global level.

    Thanks a lot, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy for opening a new window of reflection and hope for your continuous support and wisdom in future.

    Thanks and regards

    Sharif Khan

  4. Sher Ali Tabrizi Sufi says:

    Dr.Perviez Hoodbhoy is beyond dout the greates thniker and scientist on all time in the histroy of Pakistan. He, living in country where talking against defence expenditure is a taboo has bravely challaged unmasked the dirty tectics of the generals. He knows the importence of education-the only solution to create a just and tolrent society. He is a visionary leader who is well aware about the challages and difficulties facing the society today.

    Few people have dared to challage the staus quo-the taboo. This country is under the clutches of miliry generals for the last 60 years.The generals have badly damaged the integrety and image of the coutry by following destrcutive polies at the behest of the imperialists. The securty of the people vanished due to the destructive policies of the militry rulers, and education beame the ultimate victim. The dream of a just society of Quaid remained dream and as result extremism,fundamentalism and redicalism emerged the clear winner. Had there been the conception the people’s security there would have been a tolerant and just society. There would have been an enlightened society.

    We need to spend at least 20 percent of our GDP on education and cut defence expendure in order to ensure the intagrity of the country. Dr. Perveiz Hoodbhoy must be praised for his great efforts for the promotion of education,vibernt and tolernt and just society.

  5. Aslam Ghalib says:

    Professor Dr Hoodbhoy
    Professor Dr Hoodbhoy has an effective, moderate and alluring personality.He is currently heading the physics department at Quaid-e-Azam University. He has been writing articles in different news papers including the country’s leading news paper DAWN. His documentary on PTV of thirteen episodes was nominated for UNESCO award.
    He is a man who is not merely a scientist but an economist, a peace activist, a writer, a debator, and many more.
    Dr Sahab is of the view that education in Pakistan has been very traditional which is based on cramming and ratification. In his view the priorities of education have changed to a greater level in the country. You can not benefit your society by acquiring education. Everyone has become selfish, market oriented and more of the focus is on self upgradation.He thinks that acquiring degrees are not the ultimate for making the society and is simply a paper which has no worth if the utilization of education is not there. The style of education in the country has not given anything to the country’s development. Still the Sindhi, Punjabi, Pattan, Balochi conflicts persist. There is terrorism which has deep-rooted in the country. Every where you find blood shed. Why there is so much blood shed in our country? Why all this is happening? All such things have historical prospects. The violations have been there as the human beings went through various stages of development for proper settlements, for safety, and for competition. These kinds of situations ultimately led to groupings. Which started at various levels and resulted in the formation of cities, states, geographical boundaries etc. For the safety purpose weapons were made to attack each other. With the advancement of the technology it has become very easy to destroy each other in seconds. This show the backwardness of a society if such practices exist and unfortunately this thing is very common in our country. No justice and no social harmony exist. There is a private and public split which has led to many social, political and economic problems.
    The urban life because of the unavailability of adequate resources has become poor and less supportive. There are many problems that if not solved could make life inactive and paralyzed.
    The purpose of education must be to think and rethink, search and research and not to acquire good jobs. To distinguish ourselves from others we have to go through our education system and come up with some concrete based reforms to get rid of the traditional system.
    Dr Sahab mentioned that the curriculum devised is full of controversies and the topics added create a sense of hatred in the children for others.
    He quoted an example of 7TH class syllabus where the following were the hot topics.
    1-Hindu and Muslim difference
    2-to know about India’s three wars of aggression
    3-Army is important
    Such topics in his view create a sense of favouritcism, hatred and differences and ultimately lead to violence.
    Dr Sahab doesn’t favor the 10 years back atomic explosion in the country. This is what he thinks a purpose to ruin the entire nation.
    He emphasized on the use of mind, and sense of direction. Critical and scientific thinking must be developed as to tackle the day to day affairs.
    Intellectual preferences must be there to distinguish between good and bad.
    He defined an educated as the one possess the following
    1-Having wide information about the world
    2-Having developed special skills which could be useful for the society.
    3-Having been developed as a good human being who can understand the requirements of the society and has the sense of social responsibilities
    Talking about the low standard of education Dr Sahab said that very little is being spent on the education sector and is approximately 2% which is far more less than any country around the globe. He also added that HEC is spending more of the budget on higher education but the primary, secondary and higher secondary level is not given so much attention. He said that there are many schools in the country where you can find no teachers and no students. He quoted an example of a survey in Punjab province where 8000 schools were found without teachers and students and is totally on the contrary to what Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi claimed.
    The low educational standard is also because of cultural problems. Dr Sahab differentiated between the traditional and modern education. He said that traditional education is totally based on ratification and cramming whereas the modern education is used as a problem solving tool and is the understanding of various facts and realities. He is of the view that knowledge is invented by human and is not out of human approach as the example is scientific knowledge. He considers that the authenticity of knowledge in books comes from experimentations and logical steps.
    His lecture was wonderful and I hope that GECA will again get the opportunity to call such intellectuals for a noble cause.
    Aslam Khan Ghalib
    Student of Molecular Genetics,PU,Lahore

  6. Shamim Ali(USA) says:

    A great and very famous poet,Ibrahim Khalil’s son (Aslam Ghalib) is appearing as a famous writer on Pamir Times. I really enjoy your views, bright thinkings and visions you are sharing with readers on PamirTimes.

    I know you back from Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Gilgit and found you proactive amongst students from our valley. I will suggest that Pamir Times should think for Awards for their best writers and best students in future.

    WELL DONE!!! Ghalib and Keep it UP!!! SALUTE to such a brilliant future leader for our valley.

    Shamim

  7. Taj Hussain-Lahore says:

    Do the innocent, righteous, religious patriotic people of Gojal were competent enough to face such enigmatic personalities and digest their thoughts. We may request GECA to please be selective in organizing such events; such personalities have no contribution in our social and economic development. Our youth should not be tool of expending such furtive agendas

  8. Aafiyat Nazar says:

    Great to hear the about Gojal Educational and Cultural Association (GECA) organized lecture on education and emerging challenges. I salute all those who organized and/or participate the event. Indeed Dr. Hoodbhoy stretch minds and makes us think beyond the traditional boundaries. His books and articles are really inspirational. Every time I have heard him speak or read his ideas in books and articles they triggered my quests. The great deal of his work is available on net and where his endeavor is to develop critical masses is continued. His work related to education is phenomenal, despite his outstanding achievements in the field of science as well. Hope there will be series of lectures rather than a lecture.

  9. Kareemjon says:

    Mr Taj, The whole participents and organizers were very much enlightened by the lecture/speach by Dr. Hoodbhoy.

    AS far your suggession to the GECA to be selective is concerned, there are very competent people in the managing committee of GECA and I am sure they know what is good for its members.

    Be positive in your thoughts and listen to everybody, no matter wether h/she is from right or left.

    Dr Hoodbhoy is a very high profile scientist, peace activist and professor of Physics and it was an honour for GECA that he accepted their invitation and interacted with our students. I hope maney of our students may have benefited from his views.

  10. Nazeer Ali Khan says:

    Dear all and PT
    Well all is good in war and love. But when it comes to knowledge things have to be more to logic and reality. I love to pray Dr. Sahib too, like all other did , but the real question here is that how much I was able to able to seek from his wisdom. What was the result. What was the stander of our questions and what he was there was he a scholar that was there to guides us for the future or to answer our thoughts. As a whole, I was unable to understand his presences.
    Its an humble request to the people of Gojal education and culture association to please select a topic and group and level of student and other issues regarding any meeting.
    And before every program there should be an orientation about what will be there and how the audience should response. That was for the first time but was to me an historical moment. A real step toward interaction to the world. I hope next will come soon with people like Chomsky, and related great minds .
    In the end from this plate from I would like to express my greatest regard to the GCEA(if not wrong) to their achievement.

  11. Zaheer Abbas says:

    i personallly apperciate the efforts made by GECA and i m glad to knowing about GECA which i never knew about before.
    i think Dr hood bouy is a great scholor but belongs to only field thats physics.He may be a specialist of his own world and i dont think that he could try to pull our minds toward any motivation or any knid of enrichment of informatio about the particular Subject.
    “Education and Emerging Challenges” is a thing that a professionl councilor or any other who can encompass all the fields enrich our minds with the upcoming demand in the professionl market.
    overall all it was quite good and would have been better for ppl have the same field as
    zaheer abbas
    b.com

  12. Mirza Ali says:

    My sincere thanks to GECA, for the tremendous move in the society, particularly engineering new bloods! I whole heartedly congratulate the office bearers. For organizing excellent lecture programme. Where amazing participation were viewed. New bloods have well fed in diversify comportment.
    And the Guest speaker though personally is My Ideal personality and for all was Bliss to hear.
    Professor Dr Pervez Aamir Ali the most influential personality in the world of science in Pakistan winner of several awards for his excellent promoting work in the field of science for Pakistan ,despite his profession as physist he is a peace loving and activist. A deep inspiration of his work is, the crystal clear reflection; his association with renowned peace activist of his time, late Prof, Dr.Iqbal has been the root of his unbending activities for human welfare .his articles have been published in various international and national generals, where his writing got its due place and demanding persistent. In talk shows he has been putting his emphasis on quality education and equivalency in education. A brief review of his professionalism in the country development and outrageous stance against nuclear proliferation is an evidence of his respect for human society. knowing the drastic impact of nuclear enrichment on human inhabitants, he defied the atomic bomb blast in Chaghi with Late Dr.Iqbal,for the opposition a segment of our society ,named them perpetrator but man of right thinking and right philosophy never defeated, still he is the leading scientist and scholar of the time for the populace.
    My first interaction with esteemed prof.Dr.was through his interview to daily jang year 2004, since then I preyed to his philosophy and wisdom. I had many designs sketches about human existence, survival and mode of living, I rarely heard and read in practical about the peace moving protest against inhuman handling and discrimination in the country in practical having a profession of damage and destruction Prof.Dr.always opposed the every test or invention that cause damage and brutal end of human lives.
    His lecture on the said top was amazing, I felt myself fortunate to participate in the lecture programme, his interpretation of various factors of current deteriorating condition is undeniable, the crux is lack of respect of humanity and human existency, avoiding Quality Education and mis-understanding of real education, Male functioning Education environment Plus system, Mending of new minds against other nationals, religion or any……….. Creation of haterness in new bloods mind and Biased and naïve function of other institutions in our country that is wreaking the integrity and prosperity, going beyond religion and amalgamating religion dogma’s with scientific approach has been caused lingering in the race of development.
    To go with this neck break speed of development in the world of science and other field ,His emphasis on real education and understanding rather cramming of ones respective field of studies is realistic, realistic and professional approach is the only driving force toward better off in this age of competition and science.
    We do expect more out of GECA for more same kind of programmes related to orientation, motivation, career counseling and career guidelines in the days ahead, for more positive response and result from youths.
    Thank you GECA for making my dream true ,meeting my ideal personality!!!!

  13. Taj Hussain says:

    “Those who can’t do teach”

  14. Sultan Ahmed says:

    Confucius once said that ” I can’t teach anybody but I can make people think”. I think our approach to teaching and learning is still very traditional. Let me just take the example of this blog. Don’t we think that it is a process of sharing knowledge where we learn from each other’s views and experiences. After all we live in a knowledge society and instead of shunning away; we need to develop the discernment to make the most of the various sources of knowledge coming our way.

    Sultan Ahmed
    Islamabad

  15. Ghalib says:

    What about those who do nothing but just try to create an imbalanced situation?I think prior to commenting on others we must look at what we are and where are we standing.
    Teaching is the way people have changed and beome revolutionary.We can not disregard others for wht they have but we can think of ourselves as what we are lacking in.It is understood that none is perfect but we ought to follow thosewho have aroused many paralysed nerves and atleast provoked the minds to think about some certain issues that would become tumerous if not controlled.
    Aslam Ghalib
    Lahore

  16. Sharif Khan says:

    Dear Sultan and Aslam Khan Ghalib,
    You are very right to appreciate the initiative by GECA. You reminded me the famous saying of the noble man Plato:
    “A well begun is half ended”. I hope your positive attitude will give scholarship to our youths and will contribute to strengthen institutions like GECA and others.

    Sharif Khan

  17. AKD says:

    i guess it was a great step taken by “GECA” for the students especially for the prospective students to enter in those area where there is scope.and to fight with the challanges coming toward them.but very unfourtenly they didnt use it.they they should use it.
    the thing i hate during the questining period was.every one themselfs were trying to b “pervaiz hoodbhoy”non of them ask question.every one was trying to throw his own phyloshpy.more execpt some of them didnt ask about the future of the study he/she is studying.
    and most of them were thinking that he is a politicans.come on we damn care when is mushraf going,or when is religon seprating from govrment.
    atlast i would keenly suggest to creat more chances like this.but for the sake of change

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