By Farkhanda Qaiser
It is high time that reforms were brought about in our education system which is deteriorating day by day. Reforms that affect the multitude instead of just benefiting the selected few who acquire higher education in universities. After all we are a third world country whose majority lives below the poverty line -people who earn less than one dollar a day. For such people, education comes last in their list of priorities. Nevertheless ,if they enroll their children in a government school, what do they get? Adults who are not capable of applying their knowledge to everyday life. Who’s the culprit? The Government? Technically incorrect textbooks? Rote learning system? Teachers?
As far as I think, it is a combination of all these factors that have crippled our education system.
First, I would talk about the role of the government, who needs to understand that augmenting the education budget is not a solution to our problems. What we need is a policy change that includes conceptual based teaching instead of rote learning, revised and updated textbooks and a fair paper checking system.
In order to revolutionize the learning process, it has to be ensured that knowledge is imparted to the young brains instead of asking them to cram the textbooks. In fact the basic concept of a particular subject should be taught in such a manner that students are able to relate to and apply them in their daily life.
Let’s take the example of English language taught as a subject in our local schools. Students are required to learn essays from guide books, memorize short stories from the textbook and translate a few passages into urdu. The result is that they are incapable of speaking or writing a single grammatically correct sentence let alone write essays or stories on their own.
Thus the approach to learn a foreign language has to be changed. Students should be encouraged to converse in English during school hours. They should be given unseen comprehension passages in exams. A reading culture has to be developed in which students are encouraged to read urdu and English literary books. Thus making them capable of creative writing and thinking instead of indulging in plagiarism.
Here, an important measure to be taken is to update existing school and college libraries and build new public libraries. Sadly the public libraries are almost non-existent in Lahore unless you count Quaid-e-Azam Library which requires its members to possess a master’s degree and Children Complex Library for children up to 14 years and not more. Where does this leave people like me who are more than 14 years old but have not yet reached the masters level? This is definitely a point for the government to ponder on.
Moreover, the local textbooks are sometimes technically incorrect and outdated especially those of science. The reason being that the world at large is progressing rapidly in science and technology whereas nobody bothers to update these books.
In addition to this, we are told by our teachers that the Matric/FSc board exams are unfairly checked. To the extent that the examiners award marks merely on how neatly and primly headed the paper is without reading the content at all.
This has to be changed so that proper mark schemes are made and competent teachers are enforced on paper checking duties thereby ensuring fair results. Likewise students should also be given the right to challenge their marks and evaluation if they feel that injustice has been done to them.
In short the positive points of the GCE system should be adopted which in my eyes is the best except the fact that urdu is not given much attention. For that the Matric/FSc urdu syllabus-after a few modifications-can be taken up.
Now coming to the second major culprit of our crippled education system-Teachers.
Majority of teachers in government schools and colleges show a cavalier attitude towards students. They teach much better at academies than in colleges thereby forcing students to take additional evening tuitions. This largely increases the burden on the poor children who are driven as a yoyo from one educational institution to another till they are mentally and physically exhausted.
Add to this the teachers’ non committal attitude when they are asked questions. They thoroughly discourage this particular habit, possibly to hide their inefficiency and inadequate knowledge of the supposedly ‘mastered’ subject. Ultimately this results in the students being shy and confused. They are not then properly equipped to face the practical world as opposed to the products of private institutions, who surpass them during job interviews and other competitive examinations.
Therefore the teachers need to enhance their knowledge according to international standards and attend teacher training workshops to make learning a fun experience rather than the drab and dull one that it is now. This definitely includes encouraging the spirit of inquiry as one of its postulates.
Another common problem is the rude and immoral language used by teachers especially male ones in academies. They should realize that they are a source of inspiration for students who are actively absorbing every action of theirs like a sponge. Thus such negative attitude should be discontinued immediately. These spiritual parents of ours should realize that teaching is a noble art that requires commitment and sincerity to produce fruitful results.
In the end, I reach the conclusion that once our education system has been modified by the collective efforts of the government and teachers, it will finally start being beneficial to Pakistan.