Friday, October 11, 2013

Malala, Nobel and Pakistan

As soon as the news was released that Malala did not win the Nobel Prize, many Pakistanis offered prayers of thanks since Pakistan was saved from a huge embarrassment of being awarded with a Nobel Prize.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

PostMan's Law of Rickshaws

The manoeuverability and speed of a rickshaw by the driver increases with the presence of passengers and decreases otherwise.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Education in Native Languages

There is a very interesting blog published in Express Tribune titled What happened when a Pashtun child tried to read Urdu. In it, the author has talked about the need to provide education in native language so that a child can develop the learning skills quickly and can come to terms of having a decent start to his/ her education. The author has provided a video as an example in which a child, whose native language is Pashto, is given a book in Urdu and told to state what he makes out of it. The child displays creativity by making sense of what is in book by using some of his vocabulary in Urdu and compensates for his deficiency in vocabulary by replacing Urdu words with his native language sounding equivalents.
Education is vital for societies to develop and primary education is the base where this development takes stage. Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world and education standards are only dreams. The GDP spending on education has averaged 3% over decades and there seems no effort to spend on education anytime soon. State education is rotten to the core with countless ghost schools and zilch provision of education to the children.
Without doubting the efficacy of early education in one's native language, is it really workable in Pakistan? Let’s probe.
Minding Our Languages
According to author in the blog, there are 75 local dialects in Pakistan lead by Punjabi, Seraiki, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Hindko and mainstream communication language of Urdu.  He also states that Province of Sindh is at the forefront of introducing Sindhi as primary education level language whereas Punjab is the total opposite. KPK falls in between wherein the Govt last year introduced measures to promote native language education. To provide education in native language requires the curriculum be present in that language. How many languages in Pakistan boast of this feature? Urdu, Sindhi, Pashto come to my mind - I don't have any research data at my disposal to include more languages in the list. Even considering Urdu, which is not a regional language per se and is used more as a communication language, the courses and curriculum are woefully inadequate. So do we really require 75 curricula? Who is going to modify the curriculum in native languages? Who will keep them up-to-date? We can't even keep Urdu curriculum up-to-date – how on earth can we manage 75 languages?
In my opinion, and I can be dead wrong, the problem lies somewhere else. I can see three major problems.
‘S’ is for State
First and the foremost is the State’s responsibility of fulfilling it. Seriously.  No Pakistani Govt ever has focused on education for the betterment of people. After the 18th Amendment in Constitution of Pakistan, education has been devolved to the Provinces but the role of state (provincial or federal) does not change. They need to pump in more funds for structural improvement in education system. Make education up to 10th standard free and remove ghost schools and teachers.
‘T’ is for Teacher and Training
Refresher courses for teachers and their capacity development are vital for better education – whatever the medium of communication. If the teacher is capable enough, he/she can explain e.g. a scientific fact in student’s native language with English terminologies. But for that to happen, teachers have to be properly trained themselves. Using native language curriculum and handing it over to poorly trained teachers is not going to improve anything.
C’ is for Curriculum
The bone of contention let’s say.  I have already alluded to the fact that managing curriculum in 75 languages would be an extremely difficult task. Currently there are two mediums of education in Pakistan – English and Urdu. Public schools tend to be Urdu medium based and private schools English medium.  The disparity is stark when Urdu medium schools educated children come in contact with English medium educated students.
If you look at it – there is one thing pretty clear. You can't have 75 native language based curricula and you have issues with one language (Urdu) based curriculum. So that leaves English as the only medium to provide education. This does not mean that the teacher and children are supposed to talk in English from 8 am till 1 pm. This is nonsense. What should be done is that all terminologies should be English based and mode of communication could be Urdu or native language. (Note: this scenario will work for levels up to middle class and subject of science and maths) This has to be supported by developing English language skills in students so that they don’t face issues in higher education which is all but based in English for Pakistanis at least.
The A-Z
I have to agree with the author of that blog that no matter what the way forward, it is a difficult task and it needs to be dealt with in earnest. Education in native language might be the best but there are difficulties in its implementation here in Pakistan. Quite frankly, why discuss imparting education in only English, Urdu or native languages, as I discussed the mode of making students understand is whatever language they use as communication language with English terminologies and phrases combined. We are talking of imparting education and not doing masters in any particular language hence students should be provided the quickest and the most effective way of learning.
Primary education is all about teaching children how to construct sentences and identifying words that are the building blocks – of any language for that matter.  Once they get the hang of it, even multiple languages, imparting them with education in any language in higher studies would not be a problem.
Respect for everyone who is imparting education.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Certified Opportunity Cost Specialists

Never heard of them? Are you sure? I can assure you that are you are well aware of them. They  can make you realize what it cost you for the options you did not take OR they can make a complete assessment for the current cost of not deploying a particular resource*. You will then realize that what you have done and are are currently doing - is plain ridiculous. These Opportunity Cost Specialists are very common in fact. You know one already - she is your wife.

*Consider the following example. Suppose you have not done a particular thing she has reminded you of doing. She will then keep telling you everything other instance - that how no doing that particular thing X1, it is resulting in non-completion of things A, B, C, D E,F... X,Y,Z. She will prepare a list what extra could have been done had you done that task by now - even though she will never herself do them BUT since you did not do it hence it will cost you. The world is one tough place my friend.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Swipe To Irritate

Today's smart phones have a screen lock features - some use PIN, some screen patterns and couple of them face recognition. If you use PIN or pattern, how many numbers or simple a pattern would you choose? just simple enough so that the screen does not automatically unlock by accident or finger movement. Some people, it seems, are not even satisfied with that.

A person came to me with a phone and it had a screen pattern lock enabled. He also had a paper chit on which the pattern to unlock the phone was given. Quite safe to say that I had never seen anything lke that. It had all the arrows guiding pattern movement steps and it seemed more like a treasure map. It took three of us people to keep trying to unlock it but to no avail. I somehow figured out that the pattern should follow something else - a slight change from what was written on the chit. Anyhow I managed to open the screen lock. Now let me share with you the swipe pattern. It goes like 1,5,7,5,3,5,8,6,9,8,5,4,2. Unimaginable seriously. Why would anyone do that?

You think you have seen it all but it keeps coming and coming.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Time for Electronic Voting

I feel sorry for Hakeemullah Mehsud. To his utter dismay (as if he cares), people went out to vote and made the current elections a milestone in Pakistani history. The bloodiest of all elections , the turnout was more than ever before (around 60%) in which Pakistanis of all hues and color took active part. PML (N) stole the spotlight overall whereas PTI made history in KPK. In all this environment of festiveness, competitiveness, ugliness on social networks, fights amongst party workers, violence, bomb blasts and rigging concerns - One thing was for sure; Pakistanis went all out to show the world that they are the really the bravest lot in the world.
One aspect that kept raising its head was rigging and it seems that it will take quite a while where this issue attains a low profile. Now that the elections are over, lets discuss now how can the next election process can be made more transparent.
1 - Elections Under Army Supervision.
Now, this one makes me uncomfortable. Yes, Army is the most powerful institution but come election day, where do you see them apart from the TVs? They are no where to be honest. Also, living in Karachi, I have come to this conclusion that Rangers are just figurine of people in army fatigue; completely useless and just a drain on the finances. So why give them more importance by calling them every time in elections? I say No to army for elections.
2 - Electronic Voting
Now this gets me more buzzing. Voting through electronic means indicates a natural evolutionary step. I do not know how many countries go through elections by electronic means but I do know that ECP and Nadra have a service called 8300 that has all my electoral data! That is a huge step ahead. So what measures can be adopted? Let’s examine.
a) SMS Based Voting
If ECP/ Nadra has all my voting credentials, why not registering one further info? My cell phone number. This would be the number officially registered with ECP/ Nadra which could be used as an authentication of my being a genuine voter. Bogus voting would require someone snatching or sending a vote through my phone without my knowledge to the ECP database. Still better than the scenario wherein you are being forced to vote by peer pressure (the person standing alongside you forcing you to vote for a certain party). The voting can be SMS based or App based. The communication can be encrypted as well as the database. All political parties can be made aware of the security mechanism for credential and data protection adopted.
The trouble would be that only people of the urban areas would be more inclined to this mode of voting, people of rural areas might not have the knowledge/ interest of using this facility - or the fact that they do not have a mobile phone for that matter. Other issues could be ECP server overload, communication signal strength or no signal at all or IT based attack of Denial of Service (DoS).
b) Electronic Booth Voting
The issue of mobile phone availability, signal strength or the issue of difficulty of usage of electoral means through it can be addressed by Electronic Voting Booths.  Here, the voting machines would be connected to the electoral database and by keying in your CNIC, your electoral credentials will appear. Select the candidate and your vote will be locked.
This will obviously of no help considering the fact that in the current mode of manual voting, person standing alongside you belonging to a political party forces you to vote for someone of their choice. Also, procuring machines in such a large number for all the polling stations would be a hugely expensive exercise.
What can be done is that polling stations can be reduced. The cost of manning polling stations and printing the ballot papers would be reduced. The voting machine can be placed in secured selected spots easily accessible where people can go and poll. There will be no issue of separate electoral list for every polling station because the electoral lists would be centralized.  If voters of a certain area do get blocked out because of the high handedness of any political party workers, any machine can be utilized to vote. The only issue would be to make people reach that machine and that would be a real problem for voters.
Electronic voting can reduce the instances of rigging – forcing people to vote for someone, stuffing ballot boxes, influencing polling staff, taking over the election material. It obviously cannot remove rigging but it sure can make elections in Pakistan more transparent to the satisfaction of people. ECP can opt for any one or a combination of the above for conducting the next general elections.
As for Hakeemullah, any news of his implosion yet?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

Saturday, February 02, 2013

PostMan's Law of Child's Instincts

While accessing archives of photos and videos on the electronic device, a child will always find the delete function.