You probably know what the Pakistani Education System is like already if you remember being forced to write the life story of Allama Iqbal and an essay on “My school”, year after horrible year, from the first grade till graduation. It was always about where the philosopher poet got his “ibtidai taleem” from and how he dreamt of a separate Muslim Homeland. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I only recently discovered that he didn’t actually see Pakistan in a dream. Just shows how little one learns from all those lengthy essays; which happen to be dictated half of the time.
Our classrooms have never had that conducive environment for learning through discussions and debates. We have always been told there’s only one right answer and it’s pointless to consider others. But what do we do when we are out in the real world, constantly haunted by situations the textbooks say nothing about; forever plagued by indecisiveness?
The country is full of bright minds; no doubt about that. But do we really manage to recognize and acknowledge all of them? According to Howard Gardner’s Theory of multiple intelligences, there are different forms of what we call “Intelligence”. Our schools only serve children with perhaps linguistic and logical intelligence. Sometimes, smarter kids are mistaken for slow learners. How many educators here ever consider that maybe a child can’t- or won’t- solve the math problem the usual way because he can see an easier, less complicated way to do it? The dull methods of teaching and learning don’t work with everybody, after all.
Once, when I was younger, we were doing the word matching exercise in our English class and I suggested matching the word “Loyal” with “Subjects”. The teacher was amused; asking me if subjects were ever loyal. I still remember thinking at that point, “Hasn’t she ever watched the King Arthur cartoon?” She went on making mundane combinations and I soon lost interest in what seemed to be an exercise in mediocrity. Thinking outside the box has never really been encouraged here, has it?
And then there’s the infamous Matriculation system of Pakistan. Some opt for it because it’s their only option; others, to get into Pre-med and engineering. And no one’s particularly happy with it. There’s just one textbook for every subject and the questions set on the exam are taken straight from the same one book. The answers are hence expected to be the same too- word for word. Any deviation inevitably results in loss of points. So, who needs research? What good is grasping the concepts? All you have to do is cram, cram and cram; without getting anything!
Young minds are impressionable. You can mold them any way you want. You get to frame their concept of right and wrong, what is acceptable, what’s not. That determines how they perceive the world; and even themselves. And who do you think wields the power to make them or break them? That’s right: the teachers. There are many teachers in our schools who are discouraging, intimidating or even plain abusive. And there’s this thing about kids: they have amazing memories. An offhand comment can haunt for years and do more than a little damage to one’s self- esteem. If you tell a child he’ll never succeed in life; he might just believe you. And never try.
Ibrahim Shahid, the boy who set a world record by securing 23 A’s in his O’ levels, was told by his teacher in Australia that he would “never excel”. He had the will to succeed; what if the many talented ones here don’t?
If we don’t revamp our Education System, we might just end up with a generation of unyielding and utterly confused conformists with no sense of how to get around in the world. We will have lots of unhappy, incompetent doctors and engineers but few genuine leaders, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, lawyers or athletes. And what kind of a society would that be?
Mariam, you should start teaching me writing articles on websites. :) We will be glad to learn from you. :)
Very well-researched piece of writing! I agree with you on most of your points. Bringing innovations in the academic curriculum is the key to success. Teachers and students should not always stick to the book. Thinking out of the box can help improve student productivity. But these days teachers have to go through so hectic work schedules that they can’t put their 100% efforts. In order to eliminate that problem, I would really like school admins to give teachers some space by bringing http://www.archivistonline.pk into the system.
well done! very well written….but i always thinks that we just talk about these problems,we are really doing nothing practically to improve our system….is there any way to bring about this change? what we can exactly do? this is really a burning question because we know that this is going wrong,we also want to change it but still we can’t do anything.Isn’t it so pitiful to be so helpless……..?
Well done. You will certainly be a great writer in the days to come. I am afraid the kind of society you feared already exists by now. Its too late to turn things for the better now. False history, guilt conscious teachers, false glorifications …. all these things have been in place for more than sixty years— which is enough time for some idea to materialize in somebody’s mind.
Thank you and hopefully :]
I agree with some bits of your comment. It’s true that the effects of our brand of education are increasingly evident in the present society. The resulting vices include intolerance, fanaticism, judgmental thinking and a strong aversion to change of any sort, to mention a few.
As Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
So yes, when a major chunk supports lynching as retribution for having a different opinion, a la the killing of Salman Taseer, it might as well be considered a mob of literate jahils instead of a civilized society.
This article was about the majority of students i.e the ones in state-run schools, not the ones fortunate enough to be attending Model United Nations and actually being encouraged to think differently. It does paint a bleak picture but that’s because it’s only about the mainstream system. Some independent thinkers might actually be able to bring about a change for the better because even if they’re in a minority, they still exist.
It was about the main type of graduates our schools produce. One time in God-knows-what grade, we’re were being taught the different ways of closing a letter. The teacher crossed one of the examples instead of erasing it. A student actually wrote the closing crossed out in her letter because she thought that was the way it was to be done. We laughed about it then, but it really freaks me out when I think of it now. Thinking is not encouraged because it eventually leads to questioning, but is THAT amount of unquestioning compliance healthy?
It’s *never* too late for change. As long as you’re alive, you can always strive for it. And you certainly can’t stop the winds of change from blowing. 60 years is nothing. Even being alive is a grand thing in the present situation. But do you notice the generation gaps? Hopefully, it won’t be long before somebody bright and concerned comes along to revamp the whole thing :]
It seems like I talk about something entirely different every time I post on this thread. There are so many aspects to the whole thing, I don’t know if anyone will ever be able to discuss and do justice to all.
Read the quote below. It’s from Grey’s Anatomy. Not exactly related to the topic at hand but food for thought :]
“When we say things like “people don’t change” it drives scientists crazy because change is literally the only constant in all of science. Energy. Matter. It’s always changing, morphing, merging, growing, dying. It’s the way people try not to change that’s unnatural. The way we cling to what things were instead of letting things be what they are. The way we cling to old memories instead of forming new ones. The way we insist on believing despite every scientific indication that anything in this lifetime is permanent. Change is constant. How we experience change that’s up to us. It can feel like death or it can feel like a second chance at life. If we open our fingers, loosen our grips, go with it, it can feel like pure adrenaline. Like at any moment we can have another chance at life. Like at any moment, we can be born all over again” – Grey’s.
Thank you for your comment.
You know what I think the main hurdle is? Every measure, well-intentioned or otherwise, gets bogged down in bureaucratic muddle. There’s no concept of transparency whatsoever as everything seems to happen through middle men. Even when reforms are introduced (every few decades), nobody does a follow-up on them.
Sometimes the budget is too low for the over-ambitious schemes. Other times, the ones with the executive power don’t really care about the implementation aspect because their own children go to elite schools which are totally independent of the state.
I’m going to assume your talking about the education system as a whole and not just the aspects I have discussed in the article and hence list the points *I* would like to see implemented:
– New, updated curriculum i.e out with the Zia era contorted history books and in with the unbiased, hate-free ones. And preferably less frog related topics in Matric.
– Change. It’s common sense that children are more likely to retain and learn things that interest them. Think Multimedia. The ways of teaching and learning are changing across the globe. Why should we stay behind?
– Student Exchange Programs. Not with other countries, but between the provinces. Who knows? It might actually lessen regionalism and even lead to a more uniform system.
– Screening of teachers. There are actually schools out there where one teacher teaches a dozen different subjects with no particular qualification in ANY. And unfortunately, many consider teaching a last resort and only opt for it when they are under-educated. Result: frustrated teachers frustrating students.
– Uniformity. We all know Bhutto tried and failed, but one can always hope, right? :]
3 steps to it:
I would write more but I doubt anybody’s gonna read what I already wrote so I’ll restrain myself this once. And yes, I’m aware most of the above comment is very, very confused ^_^
Thank you for reading the article and this comment (If you made it this far) :]
Thats really nice but do you think we can actually revamp the ed. system.Well talking about your writing, you have done a fabolous job.
very nice article miss maryam humayun !
Thank you :]
nice article. your Iqbal’s statement about Pakistan’s dream made me laugh btw.. :D
Thank you for reading it :]
I was actually very surprised to learn that half of my grade had the same misconception for a long, long time. Sad innit? A decade of schooling and we are still so confused about the origins of our own country.
who is responsible for all that.??
Is it the state because of the low priority given to education; the indifference and callous disregard?
The teachers for not going the extra mile and not having the slightest inkling of how child psychology works; for their blatant abuse of authority?
The parents for letting the schools and the idiot box do all the grooming?
The students for disinterest in their own future, so little faith in their own dreams and their very own weak, passionless spirit?
I doubt there’s a straight forward answer to that question. The truth is, everybody’s in a state of denial. Who doesn’t whine about the pitiful state of the rotten system? Yet nobody does anything about it.
No single raindrop feels it’s responsible for the flood, after all.