Tag Archives: essays

Reforms in Pakistani Education System

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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.

InshaAllah!

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Euthanasia-choice to die

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This essay was given for the Biomedical Ethics Essay Competition 2010 organized by King Edward Literary Society (KELS)

By Farkhanda Qaiser

 

It was early spring. The birds were twittering on the brightly colored trees. A cool breeze was blowing at that ungodly hour of 5 in the morning. She’d suddenly woken up with a premonition that something was wrong. However the moment she stepped out in the garden, all her fears were dispelled.

 

“What could go wrong with such a beautifully perfect day?” She thought.

 

Alas, her optimism didn’t bear any fruit. While preparing breakfast for her two young sons, she suddenly collapsed.

 

All that she remembered after that was the wailing siren of the ambulance and the bustling activity of frightened people shouting at each other.

 

She had been diagnosed with Blood cancer. Doctors said that the cancer was in the last stages and she hadn’t long to live. She was still unconscious after the blood transfusion and so entirely dependent on the life support equipment for the numbered breaths of her life.

 

At this point, a crucial question arose. As there was no hope whatsoever of her living through this predicament, so should the life support be withdrawn from her to relieve her suffering?

 

The medical term used for this condition is Euthanasia which is the Greek for “good death.” To be more precise, it is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. There is a great debate regarding this issue among the medical, legal, religious and political communities of the world. The huge media hype created around it always amused me because I felt that the verdict was very simple. Euthanasia should be banned once and for all because it was highly unethical to take someone else’s life for one reason or the other.

 

However once I started researching Euthanasia, I realized that the matter was not so straightforward. It was the perfect example of a labyrinth within a labyrinth.

 

To begin with, Euthanasia is classified according to different parameters like choice and method to kill.

 

According to choice, it may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia a.k.a. Physician assisted suicide (PAS), as the name suggests, is when the person who is killed has requested to be killed. It’s legalized in Belgium, Netherlands, Albania and US states of Washington and Oregon.

 

The desire to die could be due to a number of reasons. The patient may feel that he’s a burden on his family either emotionally or financially or he could be pressurized to sign his own death will. Or worse still a doctor’s solemn pronouncement of him being a hopeless and incurable case may have catalyzed his decision. Should he be listened to?

 

Strong proponents of democracy would immediately nod, citing personal autonomy as the reason. They suggest that every person has the right to die and nobody can impinge on this fundamental right of life. How ironic! The opponents would cry. Which right are you protecting? The right of life or death? Which is more sanctimonious? And who would carry out the act? The doctor? The person in whose hands people so trustfully put their lives. Once he has been established as the taker of lives, how will the aggrieved patient go to him with hope of cure? The healer would now be the dealer of death. Moreover he’d be openly violating the “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death…” clause of Hippocratic Oath that he’d taken at the start of his practice. And if he has dared to violate one clause, it wouldn’t be long before all others are stricken down one by one. Even thinking about the possibility sends a shiver down my spine.

 

However the next type is more macabre than the first one. It’s called involuntary euthanasia. In this case the person who’s given the death sentence is not in a mental or physical condition to give any opinion about the matter. He may be post traumatic comatose, a newborn with a severe spina bifida, or a terminal cancer case in severe distress due to pains. The decision is then made by the family members. Who could be better suited for this post? You might ask. And the pessimist that I am. I’d say who could be worse? The world has become so materialistic that son can kill father to gain his share of inheritance, husband can kill wife to acquire her property and every Cain can ruthlessly murder his brother Abel for ulterior motives. For the majority, money is the driving force. These money makers should not be appointed as the decision makers of such a sacred thing as life. What to do, in that case? Let life and death take their course at their appointed times. Do not try to be God. If a person is destined to die a painful death, then do not interfere with his fate. Maybe he has been given an opportunity to grow in wisdom, character and compassion. Life is not futile. It teaches its lessons at every step. And it’s said that suffering makes a person reach the highest and noblest points of what they are. So we have no right to take that away from anyone!

 

Neither can we take someone’s life by omission. i.e. by intentionally not providing the necessary and ordinary care, food and water. It also includes withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life. This classification of euthanasia is based on the method to kill which could be by omission or action.

 

Sometimes doctors plead the lack of public financial resources to refuse life support equipment or tube feeding for terminally ill patients. They solemnly declare that necessary medical procedures like x-rays, prescribed drugs or lab tests could cost ranging from $50,000 to $100, 000 and this huge sum could be used instead on other types of care, like prenatal, where it would save lives and improve long-term quality of life. Moreover, the already under staffed hospitals are over worked which affects the quality of care that they provide. So attending to dying patients is not the best use of medical staff. These patients should be assisted to a speedy and painless death. They further argue that such patients could be used for organ donation which is a very noble cause. In all my research, these are the only few arguments in favor of euthanasia which sound convincing. However, this could make the financially weak people more insecure and susceptible to mishandling by authorities. And this goes against the socially accepted fact that all human beings are to be valued, irrespective of age, sex, race, religion, social status or their potential for achievement. Moreover the slippery slope argument is valid here which states that if we allow something relatively harmless today, we may start a trend that results in something currently unthinkable becoming accepted.

The example of such a trend is the last type of euthanasia which is Active euthanasia. It is the use of lethal substances or forces to kill. It could be a lethal injection or euthanasia machines like Thanatron, mercitron or deliverance machines. They use diverse mechanisms to end life like pressing a button that release deadly chemicals or a mask fed with a canister of carbon monoxide or a notebook computer and software titled “Deliverance”, which asks the patient a series of questions, and automatically administers a lethal injection of barbiturates if the correct answers are made, respectively. Imagine if all of this were legalized! Hospitals and medical stores would become the devil’s shop full of such deadly instruments. Where would suffering humanity then go? They’d be led to believe that it’s better to be dead than sick or disabled. But that is not what hospitals and doctors are supposed to do! Instead they should provide intensive training in pain control, compassionate care and alleviation of fears. It is believed that the unbearable pain can be controlled to tolerable levels if given proper care from the hospital staff. In the words of Alison Davis, who suffers from spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and multiple other disabilities, May 30, 2009:

“In my experience, when the pain is bad, what I need is not to be told I’m burdensome and it’s my choice whether I want to live or die, and that perhaps I would be better off dead. What I need is to be surrounded by people who tell me, yes, my life does have value, and I’m not burdensome … they can’t take the pain away, but sometimes it’s not the pain that hurts the most, it’s the fear of being abandoned.”

Moreover the focus should be on finding a treatment for incurable diseases rather than disposing off the patients with such diseases. Visualize the impact the physician role models carrying out euthanasia would have on students and young health care professionals. Would we devote time to teaching students how to administer death through lethal injection or save lives? It would be very difficult to communicate a repugnance to killing in a context of legalized euthanasia.

Mercifully, this form of euthanasia is illegal in all countries of the world. But the debate is not just about the legality of euthanasia but also about its ethical viewpoint. If once the doctor has accepted the fact that he can end life, no amount of rules or regulations will protect the public and with that I rest my case.