The Educational reforms policy has highly valued the improvement in the education sector in Pakistan as stated by Education reforms Policy 2009. On the other hand national governments and employers have argued that it is important for all sectors of education to prepare individuals who are able to think well and for themselves (Pithers, Rebecca sodden 2010). The countries with most economic growth and development have quite a good educational infrastructure and as stated above, They work quite hard on providing quality education through available resources. Thus we have a problem of importance of integrating critical thinking with the current educational reforms. In this assignment I will highlight some of the education sector reforms along with the concept of critical thinking. First part constitute of country portfolio, followed by the work of government in the education sector and it as the case study which is later on followed by an account of the policy of government and schemes it presented which shows the complete scenario later on an account on critical thinking and it's use has been elaborated while the conclusion highlights how it can be used to improve the existing mandate of education reforms.
1.2 Country portfolio:
Pakistan became an sovereign nation in 1947 when British India split into a Muslim state of
Pakistan and a largely Hindu India. The country is a federation of four provinces, each one with a parliamentary system, federally administered Tribal Areas and Islamabad Capital Territory.
The four provinces are Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwah (KPK) and Balochistan.
Pakistan is situated in South Asia, bordering India to the East, Iran to the South West, China to the North East, and Afghanistan to the West and North. To the south is the Arabian Sea. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic. Since 1947 the country has experienced a variety of democratic and military governments.
Pakistan has about 162 million inhabitants (2005 estimate). Most, 97% of the population is Muslim. The country is composed of several ethnic groups of which Punjabi is the largest and rest include Pashtuns, baluchi and sindhis while several smaller ethnic groups.
Punjabi is one of the most widely spoken language along with Urdu as the official language and English as the language of administration. The populace is young and fast growing with a average age of 19.58 years and a populace growth rate of 2.03%. The country has an estimated literacy rate somewhere between 48% and 54 % depending on the sources and the definitions used (10 years+ or 15 years+) with big gender differences and differences between rural, tribal and urban areas. 32% of the populace lives below the poverty line. The main employment is within agriculture sector (42%), while 38% of the human resource work in services while 20% in industry. The country has been hurt from long internal disputes, a low level of foreign investment in the private sector and wars with India. However, in recent past, helped by macroeconomic improvements and an increase in industrial production, Pakistan has practiced a positive economic inclination, with an annual growth in GDP of 6.1%.
The Constitution from 1973 (article 33) needs development of an education policy to safeguard the preservation, practice and upgrade of Islamic ideology and principles as enshrined in the teachings of the Quran and the Holy Prophet. The National Education Policy (1998-2010) clearly states the objective of making Islamic education the code of life incorporated in all forms of education.
The case study:
1.3 Education Sector Reforms.
The Government's I-PRSP sets striving targets for refining education sector outcomes and the Government has moved to put in place plans to achieve these targets. The Federal Minister of Education used an Education Sector Reform (ESR) program in 2001 which seeks to offer national leadership around the Education For All plan as well as address major sectorial issues. The ESR wishes to address these accomplishments have been challenged in the past few months, and the Pakistan economy has been adversely affected by the post-September 11th events. The Government is at work to stay the stated course of action and endure to address the organizational reform agenda.
Some of the critical disappointments of the past in the education sector by providing resource mobilization and utilization, and introducing institutional reforms at every level of education to advance in governance. Goals are set for increasing literacy, gross primary enrolment, middle school and secondary enrolment and higher education, by the year 2004.
The approach for moving towards these objectives include a various number of components and investments at all levels of education, including an ample amount of literacy programme, expansion of primary and elementary level education, bringing up of a technical stream at secondary school level, refining quality of education through teacher training which is one of main process of educational reforms, higher education sector reforms which primarily aims at education higher than grade 12 , and public private subdivision partnerships. In addition, the ESR includes new pioneering programs in examination improvement, a nationwide education assessment system example of which are the HEC and quality assurance programmes, video textbook libraries, along with early childhood education known primarily as nursery and an "adopt a school" program. The Islamabad Capital Territory is being utilized to test a number of the various initiatives comprising the recruitment of teachers on contract bases, implementing training exercises for head teachers and education centers to help better teachers' educational knowledge, advancement of entry qualifications for teachers and introducing a teacher focused code of ethics to solve chronic teacher absenteeism. In the context of devolution/decentralization, governance improvements constitutes sturdily in the ESR. Mechanisms are being established to reorganize school control and citizens community boards, provide various additional resources for education and rationalization of supervisors to district levels. The said Citizen Boards and School Management Committees are given responsibility for some elements of monitoring and supervision of teacher performance which is a vital part of this area. Self-regulating monitoring programs will also be set up to mark policy and practice.
The ESR puts a high priority on consolidation of public private partnerships in the conveyance of education services. Encouragements to the private sector to establish schools, particularly in rural areas and urban slums would be quite useful in this regard which include provision of free of cost or concessional land, non commercial services rates, generous grant of charters, and exception of certain types of dues and taxes. The Government has also taken the main role in reformation of the Nationwide Education Foundation providing it with greater independence under the Societies Act. The Sindh Government's "Adopt a School" program has been quite positive in fascinating corporate and other funds to business textbooks, schools uniforms, and other provisions as well as conservation of buildings, and is being replicated in diverse parts of the country. In addition the Government plans to assimilate private sector and NGO schools into the Education Management Information System (EMIS) and the National Education Assessment arrangement at national and provincial levels.
In equivalent with the federal government's ESR creativity, provincial governments, wherever responsibility for education rests, are also commencing to put in place measures that address some of the most fundamental problems of the system, such as calling teachers to account through a re-certification process, linking pay with performance (attendance), appointment of new teachers on contract bases and specifically for school with various exploring ways to run all available underutilized school buildings. Each province has begun to quite seriously monitor teacher presence and subjective evidence of that has been provided in many areas. To expand facilities, a new start has been prepared on a big backlog of postponeded maintenance and the program of alot new reserves has been rationalized. Education departments are having responsibilities of inventories unused schools and investigating options for their utilization, inter alia through "contracting out" engagements.
The management science perspective of the popular organisational learning theory, specifically the 'technical' strand, has been used and applied to this particular study (Addleson, 1996; Easterby-Smith 1997). It foresees that the university organisation is infact a system that aligns its intentions to particular action plans to realise anticipated outcomes (Agyris & Schön, 1978). As the university answers to changes in its atmosphere, it is possible that it will also redefine its aims or at least change its action plans in order to obtain satisfactory outcomes as it frequently adapts to its unstable atmosphere. The situation in which the university functions has been considered by declining and intermittent government funding, increasing social mandate for higher education, increasing independence and accountability as required by the assessment and quality agencies. The reaction of the university can be a new or a counteractive action plan could be started by a feedback loop when the anticipated outcomes have not been attained. In the same way, the responses of the university organisation can be so prevalent that they move the said intents or plans (existing norms or values) that will also cause new action plans to obtain satisfactory results. Curative plans or incremental fluctuations are the most common in university organizations (Boyce, 2003) although considerable changes in the usual norms have also been reported (for example Clark, 1998). This theoretical arguments have been applied as an interpretive framework within which the responses of the university to public sector reforms have been evaluated.
Similarly, as it is thought of, critical thinking involves aptitudes in addition to certain dispositions. They are brought to bear in identifying a difficulty and its associated conventions; clarifying and concentrating the problem itself; and analysing, understanding and making use of implications, inductive and deductive logic, as well as judging the legitimacy and dependability of the assumptions, sources of data or information which is available (e.g. Kennedy, Fisher and Ennis, 1991).
3. The educational reforms case:
The main objective of government policy in the past few years has been to improve the level and quality of schooling in Pakistan. The government vision is to expand primary education and this measure can be used to assess whether government schools have augmented their coverage, by increasing enrolments quicker than the growth in populace, especially at the lower level because that level forms the core of the well-educated population.
Literacy and primary school enrolment rates in Pakistan have displayed development during last five years but they are still hanging behind other nations of the region. Shortage of resources and insufficient provision of conveniences and training are the primary difficulties in instructing and expanding education. The present government's plan for the sector includes implementing the functioning and use of existing schools, developing the quality of education, expanding enrolment, refining access to education and increasing the primary education system.
Under the 18th constitutional amendment during the reign of General Pervez Musharraf regulation and management of the education sector has been devolved to the provinces. They are now held responsible for the various key areas of the education sector i.e. curriculum and syllabus, centers of excellence, standardization of education up to intermediate level (Grade 12) and it also includes the Islamic education. Planning and policy and standardization of education beyond Grade 12 are covered under Federal Legislative List which is an important factor in relationship to the reforms in this area. All the provinces have emphasized their commitment to the National Education Policy 2009.
3.1 National Educational Policy 2009
The National Educational Policy (NEP) 2009 is an achievement which aims to address a number of various objectives including:
ô€ quality and quantity of education in schools and college education
ô€ universal primary education which is a part of UN agenda
ô€ improved Early Children Education (ECE) known as nurseries
ô€ improved facilities in primary schools both in rural and urban areas
ô€ converting primary schools to elementary schools
ô€ detaching classes XI-XII from college education
ô€ adopting a comprehensive definition of 'free' education which will provide education to every citizen
ô€ achieving regional and gender parity especially at elementary level in order to uphold gender equality
ô€ provide demand based skills and increase in the share of resources for education in both
public and private areas The policy also defines the motives of government at the federal as well as the provincial level in the area of education.
The National education strategy is being applied through a number of different schemes and one of the important scheme in this regard is the Quality Assurance Programme.
3.2 Quality Assurance Programme
According to information from HEC's website, the mission of the Quality Assurance Programme is to deliver an integrated quality and assurance management service for higher learning where goals of the scheme are:
â€¢ To analyse the gaps in the background of quality of higher education in Pakistan
â€¢ To meet the trials of global adaptibility in higher education
â€¢ To improve the standards of higher learning in cross-cutting areas and various levels
â€¢ To develop a feasible and maintainable mechanism of quality assurance in the higher
education sector of the country
An advisor of Quality Assurance in HEC is in charge for initiation of the Quality Assurance Programme.
Under the Quality Assurance Programme, a Quality Assurance Committee was established in 2003. The committee is made of Vice Chancellors from various universities with the objective of having representation from smaller and medium universities and universities for women and to improve geographical equality. The Team has an extensive goal to ensure the assessment, improvement and promotion of higher education. The Committee articulates policies, guiding principles and significances for higher education institutions, organize plans for the development of the institutions (in cooperation with the institutions) and sets up national or regional assessment councils to carry out certification of institutions.
One of the first tasks of the committee was to resolve on the Ranking of Universities. The reason for this judgment was to: "promote positive competition and foster improvement in standards of higher education programmes";
"According to the Powers and Functions of the Commission as stated in "Ordinance No. LIII
of 2002, Para 10, Clause e" the Higher Education Commission may set up national or regional
evaluation councils or authorize any existing council or similar body to carry out accreditation of Institutions including their departments, facilities and disciplines by giving them appropriate ratings. The Commission shall help build capacity of existing councils or bodies in order to enhance the reliability of the evaluation carried out by them."
Accreditation councils in Pakistan have been established for computing and engineering, while councils for accreditation are also planned for agriculture, business and education.
National Computing Education Accreditation Council (NCEAC)
NCEAC is another body that is improving the quality of education students receive in subjects in applied sciences, computing, engineering and technology education in the universities and various related institutions of higher education in Pakistan.
The objectives of the said councils are to guarantee quality in computing degree programs in educational institutions by assuring that programmes meet certain distinct standards or criteria. It shall be obligatory for all relevant academic programmes delivered by public and private sector organizations to be accredited by NCEAC. It is also an objective to ensure transparency of equivalent study programmes.
4. Critical thinking:
Evaluation is considered as a core ability. Attitudes or dispositions such as a 'spirit of inquiry' are also seen by some authors in the field as very important (e.g. Ennis, 1993; Perkins, Jay and Tishman, 1993). For example, Ennis's view of critical thinking involves broad dispositions, transferable over different domains such as being 'open-minded', 'drawing unwarranted suppositions cautiously' and 'considering the credibility of evidence'. These capabilities and dispositions occur within a global outlook in which thinking is abstracted as a type of reasoned argument with an explicitly social dimension (Kuhn, 1991).
Kember (1997), after studying the available published research evidence, it is suggested that teaching approaches in tertiary education may be influenced by interaction of factors. For example, one factor, curriculum made, was seen to influence university and college lecturers to be more subjective in nature when teaching rather than on the development of critical thinking. This may be due to the fact that content is usually specified far more fully than possibly generalizable the abilities. It seems too that teachers are presented little help in illuminating what is encompassed in the notion of 'good' thinking. Thus they are not clear on what it is they are supposed to be helping students to progress. Not astonishingly, lack of clarity about the ability of critical thinking leads to misperception about how good thinking might be measured; assessment and evaluation of critical thinking has been greatly neglected worldwide (e.g. Kennedy et al., 1991). Continuing confusion about these problems seems sometimes to lead to education approaches to problem-solving which are doubtful to develop more widely transferable generalizable critical thinking aptitudes and outlooks.
Research in the UK further education sector, where the growth of work related thinking has been highlighted since the late 1980s, provides examples of education which is varying with this aim. Teaching activities likely to develop critical thinking were known to be rare in Social Care courses. This was a surprise, provided that the courses in this zone were an initiation into a profession which values critical examination (Anderson et al., 1997). Bloomer (1998) reported a similar trend based upon his research of a range of various programmes leading to the General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQ). In these courses students engaged in much activity, although it rarely included critical examination.
Nonetheless, there appears to be a shortage of published research which examines the progress of critical thinking during degree-level courses. In a study of critical thinking involving 256 Scottish and Australian university students studying education, an endeavor was made to size critical thinking using the Smith-Whetton Critical Reasoning Test (CRT), a reasonably valid and reliable standardized psychological test with varieties available for both countries namely UK and Australia (Pithers and Soden, 1999). Average CRT totals were equated for course candidates with degrees and those who had no degree, as well as for phase (year) of course. Overall, it was found that there were no noteworthy between-group CRT differences for graduate vs non-graduate pupils or for stage or phase of the course. In fact, graduate applicants had CRT scores not significantly greater than nongraduates nor did last stage (Years 2 and 3) students, on a mean score, achieved significantly better than Stage 1 students. As a whole, these results propose that the sort of critical thinking restrained by the CRT, based on Ennis's (1993) conception which is drawn shortly, was not being well developed in the tertiary education course examined in both countries. Nor did the critical thinking abilities and dispositions measured by the CRT appear to have been developed significantly by the students during their previous study at degree level. Furthermore, CRT mean scores for these students were not signi. cantly higher than the normative sample means provided in the CRT Manual (Smith and Whetton, 1992) for schoolleavers who had taken examinations qualifying them for university entry (e.g. in the UK, A-levels; in Australia, HSC-level).
In a subsequent paper (in preparation) the authors report instances of critical thinking in a sample (n = 40) of essays for a similar degree course whose programme aims included the development of abilities encompassed by the term critical thinking; these abilities were described explicitly in course descriptors issued to lecturers and students. Instances of critical thinking were rare and there was a high frequency of assertions without justification. Lecturers, tutors and students seemed not to share an understanding of what it means to think critically. These findings, perhaps, should not be viewed as surprising, given the published
literature over a relatively long period about the practices which inhibit critical thinking (e.g. Raths et al., 1966; Sternberg, 1987). Evidence that students enter higher education with underdeveloped ability to think critically is another argument for finding effective measures to promote this ability. Kuhn (1991) supposed that thinking as argument was variably implicated in the beliefs people hold, the judgements they make and the conclusions they arrive at; it was at the heart of everyday thinking. Among Kuhn's 'skills of argument' are the ability to propose opinions alternative to one's own and to know what evidence would support these, to provide evidence that simultaneously supports one's own opinions while rebutting the alternatives and to weigh the fairness of one's own proof and that of others. Kuhn provided proof that none of these aptitudes is widespread in the adult population in the USA, even among those who have had a college education. In a UK involvement, Anderson et al. (1997) confirmed that students' thinking, as conceptualized in Kuhn's model, could be meaningfully improved (over that of a control group) in the normal curriculum by inserting measures discarding the main themes in the literature reviewed in this paper. The better quantity and quality of explanations the students incorporated into their report inscription by the fourth month of the intrusion were still apparent at the end of the academic year.
Many writers have highlighted that thinking and content are closely related. These staffs imply that learning to think involves learning to use content in successively more sophisticated ways in understanding the world. Barnet (1994, p. 153) suggested that an educational aim should be the growth of wisdom, collective exchange, and a recognition even a critique of inner assessments'. Bonnett (1995) claimed that any assessment of 'good thinking' which fails to afirm the reliability of content is likely to be deficient. Indeed there is sound pragmatic evidence that good knowledge and good thinking are Inseparably tied up (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1993; Chi, Glaser and Farr, 1988). It appears vital therefore that critical thinking is teached in the course of teaching discipline knowledge and implemented through the available means at hand. Combination of these ideas with the descriptions of critical thinking already outlined, it appears that one direct and effective measure lecturers and teachers could install in their teaching is to put far more emphasis on the specific forms of reasoning within their own discipline area and to provide examples of how these forms of thinking can be applied both within and outside of that discipline. Another important strand in the discourse on 'good thinking' which helps to amalgamate the ideas previously outlined is the notion of self-regulation of thinking (e.g. Schunk and Zimmerman, 1994). The supposition is that this metacognitive ability, for example, involving perception, critique, judgement and decision making, are all factors which allows people to orchestrate and self-regulate their own learning schemes and those capabilities are included in the term 'critical thinking'. It is vital to add them in the education reforms as stated by the evidences shown above where we see a lack of any real significant factor that indicates a movement towards highlighting the achievement of term critical thinking in the education reforms mandate.
On the bases of the ideas arising from the current reforms performed by the government in improving the quality of education as well as the studies of making students more of a critical thinker, the requirements of the day are not only to expand the current education infrastructure but to make students a more critical thinkers so that better Human resource is available at every level of the government and private sector.(Pithers, Rebecca 2010)
It will be very difficult for a country that has so many problems including the first and foremost of security issue since the regime change in Afghanistan. The primary issues included in this regard are: unrest in the Baluchistan province and tribal areas, a lot of resources going waste on protection of nuclear assets of the country along with a threat of confrontation with the neighboring India. At the moment the education reform looks to be hiding behind these issues of security, poverty and health. It is quite likely to remain like that unless a strong commitment from a trusted government is shown. I suggest that the following agenda should be entered into the education policy and implemented through the Quality assurances programs in order to develop critical thinking in the students and improve education in Pakistan.
Research evidence suggests that learning to think well needs to be acknowledged explicitly as an aim and appropriate changes made to courses. Lonka and Ahola (1995) interpreted their results as suggesting that there are two qualitatively different ways of progressing in psychology studies: high-quality active learning, which may be slow in the beginning, but provides qualitatively better results in the long run, and highly structured lecture/tutorial teaching, which is related to success in early phases of studying. There would seem to be benefits in overhauling the entire degree curriculum, so that the amount of first-year discipline specific information could be reduced to allow the students time to engage in activities which are likely to develop their intellectual abilities. The question of how much discipline knowledge is good for students needs to be revisited.
Research suggests too at all educational levels that staff development initiatives may need to focus more on teachers' conceptions of education and teaching if they are to arrange the teaching methods suggested in a reproductive way. In fact some empirical research specifies quite strong relationships between teachers' conceptions and education approaches (Kember, 1997).Teachers or lecturers who are simply succeeding the guidelines in program documents do not seem to teach rational well. Kember suggests that conceptions of teaching can be summarized in terms of two broad alignments labeled teacher-centred/contentoriented and student-centred/learning-oriented.The teacher-centred orientation comprises outsets that teaching is about imparting information or conveying planned knowledge, whereas the student-centred orientation includes beliefs that teaching is about easing understandings, promoting theoretical change and rational development. It will be about time that Pakistan's education reform policy put a serious thought of introducing it into the current education scenario.