Saturday, July 05, 2008, Rajab-ul-Murajjab 01, 1429 A.H


Role of school in gender identity construction

A better share for the better halves
Techno Moot-2008
In the name of books




Role of school in gender identity construction

Construction of gender identity is a social process and education contributes a lot to perpetuate or transform gender stereotypes


By Salima Baig

Gender disparity is becoming a global issue. Similarly, in Pakistan this issue is also being witnessed in every sphere of life such as social, political, legal, and at education level. Each one of these fields of life has its own significant role in terms of gender identity construction therefore each area needs prompt and vigilant attention to be dealt with.

During the past two decades the worldwide community has undertaken international commitment to eliminate gender disparities within the educational field and empower women through education as reflected in the Education for All initiatives (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). During the past twenty years, Pakistan being a signatory to all these declarations, has taken some significant measures in terms of gender equality in the educational sector such as providing accessible primary education for all children including girls. However, UNESCO's latest monitoring report (2007) declared that some countries including Pakistan are still at a risk of not attaining gender parity by 2015.

Unfortunately, despite all the measures that have been undertaken, gender gap still exists in educational field, which is a debatable issue for the countries around the world. According to Leach (2000), Zafar & Malik (2004) merely focusing on access to education and neglecting instructional practices within the school is a simplistic and narrow approach towards gender equality. There is a great need to explore the underlying processes, which result in different patterns of educational discourses and practices to achieve gender equality.

The term gender itself is one of the reasons for not achieving gender parity at educational level. 'Gender' has always been a subject of debate in literature due to its complex and controversial nature. Therefore, often in contemporary perspectives 'gender' is defined as the dichotomy between essentialist and social constructionist ways of understanding. In essentialist perspective gender is about biological differences whereas in social constructionist perspective gender is about socially constructed roles and responsibilities (Kehily, 2001).

What is gender identity construction? It is a process where an individual explores and develops certain feelings and attributes related to her/his own personal identity. These attributes or feelings of being a man or a woman are usually learned from the family and surroundings starting from the age of 2 or 3. However, construction of identity as man or woman is a social process and education contributes a lot to perpetuate or transform gender stereotypes.

School is one of those places that contribute immensely in identity construction through various sources such as playground space, opportunities to access resources, classroom discourses and teachers pedagogy. The teachers also play a key role in this process but unfortunately, teachers consciously or unconsciously often perpetuate gender discrimination in school, particularly in classrooms.

Teachers have different expectations from boys and girls in terms of achievements and behaviours. The reasons behind teachers' differential treatment or expectations might be their own gender experiences in the society. Therefore, boys are provided with more opportunities and time to participate in classroom activities whereas girls get very less chances for participation, encouragement or feedback. Boys are generally exposed to leadership tasks such as collecting note books and registers from the class while at the same time girls are excluded from such tasks.

Similarly, rewards and consequences are defined on gender basis too. For example, girls are mostly punished through scolding while boys are told to stand up or pulled by ears. All these practices express certain ideology about the gender and represent girls as less capable than the boys thus favouring the deep-rooted stereotypical roles of male and females that have been established by the society.

All the above mentioned practices to a certain extent indicate that gender disparity exists in one way or the other in a school's day to day activities. Prevailing gender relations or practices may be harmful for both males and females but it has been seen that girls are affected by this to a greater extent than boys as in most of the cases they are considered fairly unsuitable to do a particular task as compared to a boy, simply because of the stereotypical characteristics that are associated with them.

Gender discrimination at any level of education may cause low self-esteem among students and due to this the students may suffer in their learning and achievements. It may also affect the enrolment in terms of students' dropout rate. Furthermore, gender discrimination at school level prevents boys and girls from interacting and learning from each other. Thus, these barriers reinforce gender stereotypical thinking and practices rather than opening opportunities for the children to benefit from each other's potential. Moreover, discriminatory school cultures and classroom environment may have implications for students evolving identities and future position in the society. According to Streitmatter (1994) students from gendered segregated environment tend to develop gendered value system, which result in perpetuating gender bias throughout their lives. These gendered experiences of school life may perpetuate gender division in their later lives in the form of career choices and domestic chores. Schools reflect the dominant gender ideology of the society, thus it is responsible either to compliance the beliefs and perceptions of societal gender stereotypes or be a potential site for developing non-traditional gender identities.

Schools ought to serve as change agents in terms of quality education and gender equality. To develop gender equitable environment in the school certain things should be kept in mind. First of all, teachers must be conscious of the detrimental effects of gendered practices and should be committed to change. Secondly, teachers' training and in-service trainings should emphasise reflective practices on classroom gender-related issues and develop strategies to educate teachers about the consequences of gender bias treatment. Thirdly, schools must provide exposures to their teachers about gender-related seminars, conferences so they can realise the importance of gender equality in education. Finally, schools must have their own self-developed policies regarding gender to ensure gender equity and equality.

Gender disparity is a global issue at all levels of life and from past several years some practical efforts have been made to eliminate gender disparity from the education level. Despite all these efforts gender disparity still exists in the educational systems because the prevailing gender issues have not been explored and dealt at school level. Hence, exploring gender issues at school level is very important because it is the place where children construct their gender identities.



A better share for the better halves

The worldwide numbers reveal shocking levels of inequality in education between girls and boys; Pakistan has some of the worst statistics in the world in this regard


By Amna Nasir Malik Jamal

There can be no significant or sustainable transformation in societies and no significant reduction in poverty until girls receive the quality basic education they need to take their rightful place as equal partners in development. (Carol Bellamy - Executive Director; UNICEF)

The second half of the 20th century, brought about an increased emphasis on the significance of education in the progress of any nation. Education for girls in particular contributes immensely to the betterment of any society since, females today account for more than half the population of the world. The developing world seriously lags behind even in the basic facilitation of education for its masses and particularly the female population. UNICEF stated that 121 million children around the world do not go to school - out of which the larger number is that of girls.

In our male dominant society it is a norm to constrict a girl to the boundaries of her house and expect her to be of use only for the fulfilment of the needs of the male members of the household. The situation is much more severe for the females of the rural areas in comparison to the females of the urban areas of our country. The discriminatory structure, cultural suppression, social and traditional practices and family behaviour deny girls any opportunity to fully realise their potential and are the major contributing factors to the low rate of women's education in Pakistan.

Furthermore the tuition fee of the education institutes and expenses to be endured for the books and uniforms cause additional restraint on the budget of the household. The parents, therefore, feel more inclined towards the education of their male children in order to limit their expenses. Since the general notion prevalent in our societies is that eventually its the male child who will be the bread-earner and head of a family. The girl, especially of the rural areas, will be married off soon enough and will then considered to be the responsibility of her husband. According to World Bank report, the evidence of a direct relationship between women's deprivation in education and its impact on economic growth is not fully conclusive. However, research findings suggest that countries that take steps to increase women's access to education, health care, employment and credit, thereby narrowing the differences between men and women in terms of access to economic opportunities, increase their pace of economic development and reduce poverty.

"No nation can develop without investing in girl's education. Being responsible for our tomorrow, women are catalyst in our society that shares half the human resource and skills of the country. Focus on girls schooling and especially at higher levels education could be beneficial for government in more ways than professed. When we talk about the benefits of girls' education, one benefit out of many is increased economic productivity," says Prof Dr Mohammad Nizamuddin, Vice Chancellor University of Gujrat. "Girls' education is the only medium which has recognized and simultaneous impacts on all the social goals of Pakistani society. Education of girls and improvements in their health facilities means more effective investment in the next generation.

One should never forget that in failing to invest in girls' education we put our development goals in jeopardy. Universities, NGOs and social forums should step forward in bringing about a social change through supporting females in becoming more functioning members of society," he concludes.

The worldwide numbers reveal shocking levels of inequality in education between girls and boys; Pakistan has some of the worst statistics in the world in this regard. Half of the adult population is illiterate, while more than two thirds of Pakistani women cannot read or write. Approximately 50 per cent of all those enrolled in school drop out before completing primary schooling out of which, the majority consists of female students. In Pakistan, only 17 percent of girls in rural areas complete primary school. According to one survey in Pakistan, 20.7 million children have attained primary school going age but lamenting that 10.3 million can't afford to go to schools, 7 million being girls.

Without education, it is difficult for women to exercise their rights and achieve their aspirations. Progress of a nation depends upon the education of both genders. A number of programmes and projects that focus on female literacy have been initiated both in private and public sectors. But a lot more needs to be done to ensure betterment in the condition of the female population, since the upcoming generation's well-being depends on them.



Techno Moot-2008

Techno Moot 2008 provided a platform to academicians, industry executives and software companies to interact and find out mutually beneficial solutions


By Aqeela Asif Shahmadi

Abbottabad, the city of picturesque landscapes is not only famous for its scenic beauty but also for its reputed educational institutions. It is for this reason it is called "The City of Schools".

Knowledge acquirement and higher education are transforming virtually every aspect of today's world. Higher education institutions have been trusted to be the central stage of academia. These institutions have the mandate to evolve a knowledge based socioeconomic culture in the country and to help the nation, face modern challenges.

The COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) established its campus in Abbottabad in July 2001 at Tobe Camp. CIIT is one of the leading institutions in Pakistan, with a well-established repute, a wide range of interests and facilities. In just few years, it has expanded from one campus in Islamabad to five other campuses, one each at Abbottabad, Wah, Lahore, Attock and Sahiwal.

COMSATS-IIT organises different types of international and national academic activities as part of its teaching and research process, Techno Moot being an example. It was held at the Abbottabad campus and is a high-tech national level event consisting of seminars, symposia and exhibitions. It was the third in the series of multidimensional gathering of scientists, engineers, technologists and business experts form variant disciplines and background.

The Techno Moot 2008 was a result of the efforts of many people and was a success due to the unconditional support of Dr SM Junaid Zaidi, Rector CIIT and Director Campus Dr Haroon-ur-Rashid. It was convened and organised Dr Saleem Farooq Shaukat. This event, being an activity of COMSOFT, provided a platform to Academicians, industry executives and software companies to interact and find out mutually beneficial solutions and activities.

The activities lined up during event included:

Electrical System & Microcontroller Applications (EMCOT) that was organised by the Department of Electrical Engineering. Students from variant universities of the country, displayed different projects based on recent world's technologies such as Electrical Systems, Microcontrollers, and Telecommunications.

Computational Complexities, Innovations & Solutions (CCIS) that was organised by Department of Mathematics. The primary objective of the symposium was to provide an opportunity to the participants and students to interact with renowned computational scientists in the fields of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine and Engineering. Panel discussions were also conducted to enlighten students and other participants of the Moot.

Conference of Software Enterprises (CSE-2008) was organised by the CITC COMSOFT, a subsidiary company of COMSATS-IIT, Abbottabad. The objective of the event was to provide an opportunity to industry and companies to acquaint visitors and students with latest development in ICT. Thirty companies participated in the event from all over Pakistan, namely NCR, Pi Sigma Group and NetSol etc.

The VisionICT (Information & Communication Technology) was organised by the Department of Computer Science. It provided a platform for conducting various IT-related activities with a focus on the challenges of the ICT world and quality education.

Managing Innovation Leadership Strategies (MILES) was organised by the Management Sciences Department. Keeping in view the importance of management and its strategic role in today's ever-changing and dynamic environment, the Department of Management Sciences, CIIT, Abbottabad, has decided to provide a platform for not only the business students but also the working entrepreneurs, managers, businessmen and faculty for interaction and exposure within their community at national level for sharing the latest trends in the field of management sciences. It aims at providing solutions to manage innovation, leadership, entrepreneurship and strategies. The objectives of its activities have been focused on the betterment of society and businesses through improved management practices.

Along with faculty, students, scientists, engineers, industrialists and entrepreneurs from all over Pakistan, the Techno Moot was also attended by the Director Campuses and Deans of variant Faculties of CIIT. Dr Shahid Ahmed Khan, Dean Faculty of Engineering, CIIT Islamabad campus was the Chief Guest, Dr Usman Javaid, Communication Technology Expert, Vodafone was the key note speaker in the opening ceremony of Techno Moot 2008.

In EMCOT, a total of more than 90 projects were also displayed, by the major engineering universities like UET Peshawar, College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering NUST Rawalpindi, UET Texila, GC University Lahore, NWFP UET Abbottabad Campus, Military College of Signals NUST, Pakistan Navy Engineering College Karachi, Dawood College of Engineering and Technology Karachi, PIEAS/PAEC Islamabad, CIIT Wah, CIIT Islamabad, Air University Islamabad, University of Sargodha, SUIT, Sir Syed University Of Engineering and Technology Karachi, NED university Karachi, Institute of Industrial electronics engineering Karachi, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute, International Islamic University Islamabad, National University of Science and Technology, UET Lahore, Hamdard University Karachi, CIIT Abbottabad.

More than 15 enterprises from Karachi, Lahore, DI Khan, Islamabad and Abbottabad also participated in the exhibition. These included Pi Sigma, Next Bridge, Abacus Consulting, Dee Byte, Amos Global, Interactive Technologies Gateway, Suave Solutions, VizTech, Web Maestros, CITC CIIT Abbottabd, National Testing Services, International Islamic University, Zong China Mobile company and Wateen Telecom etc.

Apart from this, a seminar on "Growing need of Telecom Software and Carrier related Opportunities." was also conducted and was headed by Mr Adil Munir Malik from Nokia Seimens.

The projects on display were a clear indication of the changing trends in Engineering education in Pakistan. The student's projects on display were competing for cash prizes of 30,000, 20,000, and 15,000 for first second and third position respectively.

The panel of judges for the different categories included Prof Dr Asghar Saqib UET Lahore, Dr Junaid Mughal GIKI Topi, Dr Laiq Khan CIIT Abbottabad, Dr Iqbal Awan, Chief Manager, IDBP, Islamabad Prof Bahadar Shah, Chairman, Department of Public Administration, Gomal University, DI Khan and Dr Khalid Rasheed, Head of Department Computer Science CIIT Islamabad. Dr Iqbal Awan, Chief Manager, IDBP, Islamabad, and Professor Bahadar Shah, Chairman, Department of Public Administration, Gomal University, DI Khan.

Panel discussions were headed by Prof Dr Asmatullah Khan CIIT Abbottabad, Rehmat Ullah Kundi FAST Peshawar, Dr Noor M Khan MAJU Islamabad, Prof Dr Shafiq GIKI Topi, Dr Usman Javaid Vodafone UK, Prof Dr Q.K Ghori CIIT Islamabad, Prof Dr Qaisar Mushtaq from Qaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, Dr Ghulam Qanber Abbassi, the Chairman Mathematics CIIT, Prof Dr Tasneem M. Shah from Air University Islamabad, Dr Asgar Qadir from NUST Rawalpindi, Dr Talat Afza, Dean Management Sciences, Dr Asad Zaman, Professor, International Institute of Islamic Economics, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Dr Safdar Butt Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences, Muhammad Ali Jinnah University Islamabad, Dr Mahmood A Bodla, Director CIIT, Sahiwal, Dr Faredullah CIIT, Islamabad, Captain Naghman Director, PN Farms Navel Complex, Islamabad.

The 3rd Symposium on "Computational Complexities Innovations and Solutions" was attended by more than 100 participants comprising a number of prominent mathematicians and scientists from various universities and prestigious institutions of Pakistan. A total of 30 speakers also delivered speeches on different fields of Mathematics including Computational Fluid Dynamics, Number Theory, Group Theory, Astrophysics, Graph Theory and Quantum Mechanics. The Symposium was highly appreciated by all participants.

Prof Dr Raheel Qamar, Dean Faculty of Sciences CIIT Islamabad was the chief guest for closing ceremony that was also attended by the guest of honor and acting Rector Dr Muhammad Azim, Dr Haroon-ur-Rashid, Director Abbottabad Campus, Dr Shahid Ahmed Khan, Dean Faculty of Engineering, CIIT Islamabad and Dr Hassan HOD Telecom Engineering, CIIT Islamabad.

TechnoMoot provided a platform for conducting various IT-related activities with a focus on the challenges of the ICT world and quality education to the level of excellence. All in all, the event was a successful affair and gave the students a chance to explore avenues of internships at enterprises.



In the name of books

People underestimate the extent of positive influence that a good book can have on the mind's perception and evaluation abilities


By Syeda Mahwish Fatima Naqvi

Reading and collecting books is a great hobby; something that not only benefits oneself but can also be of use to the coming generations. Reading for fun in the form of comics and romances has its significance. However, serious and purposeful reading enables one to be affluent with the language and broaden the horizons of one's thinking and understanding of life and world at large.

With the advent of computers, however, reading habits of people generally have suffered a downfall due to increasing trends of chatting and net surfing occupying any leisure time available. Whatever reading is indulged in, it is through the net or computer itself and not books. As a result the demand for books has been negatively affected.

If reading for the sake of reading is what you are interested in then there are numerous sources where you can easily have access to good books, with less attractive exteriors though.

The most basic and important source of books at a good bargain price are the book fares held by book stores and publishing houses once or twice every year. Then there are the book bazaars every Sunday as well. Besides these, you will be surprised at the amount of good books you can come across at those seemingly 'good for nothing' push carts loaded with books.

The point that needs emphasising, is the inculcating of the reading habit in the younger generation. It is sad to see how informative and in-depth books are neglected and disregarded these days for the sake of superficial stuff like fashion and showbiz magazines and comics.

People underestimate the extent of positive influence that a good book can have on the mind's perception and evaluation abilities. Nothing can replace the satisfaction that can be derived through carrying around a precious book in your hands and being able to dwell in the world that the words in those pages reveal to you, no matter where you are.