Changing Education

In my article with the same title published in this newspaper on November 25, 2011, I had advocated the adoption of the GCE, International Baccalaureate or any other good international system by our state schools as well besides those which offer this system in private schools, because the curriculum, syllabi and methods of examinations of our federal and provincial boards of education are rigid and antiquated.
These boards rely on rote memorisation and mere acquisition of certificates instead of genuine learning and creativity. In contrast, the advanced countries have utilised an enormous amount of research, theory and experience in designing their educational courses.
It is, therefore, heartening to read in our press recently that the federal capital’s public-sector educational institutions will formally start O and A-level classes from September 3, 2012. The fee structure is expected to be fixed at one-thirds that of private schools offering these courses.
Initially, Rs5000 has been proposed as the monthly tuition fees for O and A-level courses in these state schools in Islamabad. This is far less than the exorbitant fees being charged by the elite schools here. A ten per cent quota will be reserved for poor and deserving students.
In my earlier article, I had mentioned three dimensions in education – values, methods and framework. The framework has been mentioned above. For values, it is essential to lay the basis for a child’s personal and intellectual integrity. A good education must develop a child’s character free from dogma and bigotry. A child must imbibe a commitment to truth – sadly lacking in our social milieu.
In terms of method, the emphasis must shift from rote memorisation towards analysis, originality and creativity. At present, teachers in our schools copy material from absolutely useless textbooks onto the blackboard for students to copy down and memorise. Students are then expected to reproduce all this useless stuff in examinations.
Those who do well in this rigid system have not really learnt properly in terms of ability and skills. And those who do not fare well in these tests do not necessarily lack talent. The purpose should be to develop a child’s own critical understanding and enable him to analyse facts and the relationships between them.
It is also important that the child’s emotional well-being is fostered. A good education must develop well-rounded persons. Science and mathematics are imperative. But due importance also needs to be given to the humanities and social sciences. In most schools of advanced countries, western classical music is taught as an aid to developing a child’s cognitive ability and mental pattern.
All our schools should fully encourage sports, athletics and physical fitness for both boys and girls. This is essential.
Most discussions on and proposals for educational uplift in Pakistan are invariably couched in terms of allocation of money and funds. While adequate funding is important, merely throwing away money to solve this problem will not, by itself, bring about the requisite results.
Instead, great care and attention needs to be given to the proper and sensible utilisation of funds. Raising money is not as important as making the best use of scarce resources. This is true in every situation.
The biggest difficulty in developing good education in Pakistan is the shortage of good teachers. This is the most crucial drawback. Teachers of competence are extremely scarce. Those who do manage to get into fixed government jobs are, in general, unable to foster proper learning and intellectual growth.
It is imperative to tackle the enormous question of attracting talented and competent persons into the teaching profession, training and updating their knowledge and skills and making their earning of a decent livelihood possible.
Pakistan has to become part of the developed world. For this to be facilitated, our population needs to acquire proficiency in English. One of the prime reasons for India’s progress has been the inculcation of the English language in its educational institutions.
It is surprising but true that most people in Pakistan, including especially those in the rural areas, want to send their children to English-medium schools. Overcoming prejudices against English in this regard amongst our orthodoxy is, thus, called for in my opinion.
Our students and teachers need to be both effective in the use of English as well as being adequately numerate. The need for the latter arises because science and mathematics are predicated on measures, measurability and the probability theory.
As I had stated in my article last year, a good education presupposes an open mind, an opposition to dogmatism and superstition, a spirit of inquiry, a stress on critical and analytic thought and a respect for the scientific attitude. It needs to develop precision in reasoning. The necessity for precision is great.
All these presuppositions are lacking in Pakistan. Intellectual vibrancy is rare to find in Pakistani schools, colleges and universities. What kind of citizens will then be produced here in the future? The prospects are depressing.
It is, therefore, necessary to radically change the direction of and approach to education in Pakistan.