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Where are we heading?

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In Pakistan, there are various modes of schooling. Primary division is that of religious madrassas and conventional schools. Madrassas’ curriculum, style of teaching, purpose of study and enrollment segment is very different from conventional schools. Study of Al-Quran, hadith, religious jurisprudence and basic courses of scientific learning is trademark of their curriculum. Their ultimate goal of study in madrassas is noble i.e. they teach their students to lead their lives in such a way that they be entitled to Jannah in their permanent abode. Nonetheless, at times it appears that they are not even preparing the students to earn a reasonable livelihood; though acquiring rizq e halal tantamount to worshipping. Further, there is a general belief that they drift more towards hardline approach rather than embodying the teachings of our prophet as the Rahmat ul Aalmeen (mercy for all universes). The conventional schools in their turn are either government run or privately owned and administered.

Whereas government run schools in cities and bigger towns can easily be considered as reasonably good schools in terms of infrastructure and training of teachers, it is unfortunate that majority of teachers push (even harass) their students to join private tuition academies where these teachers also teach. Repercussions of compelled tuition are very damaging, because it sows the seeds of corruption in the society. The teachers do not consider extra earnings from teaching tuition as bribe because in their view, they are earning extra money after putting additional efforts and sacrificing their free time. However, the students quickly understand that their teachers are committing corruption by teaching them at the tuition centers instead of the schools where they also draw their salaries. If in future such students become doctors in government hospitals, they also practice the same thing by treating their patients in their private clinics instead of government hospitals. Similarly if such students become bureaucrats, professionals or politicians they knew what to do! The situation in government run schools of smaller towns and villages is bleaker. In smaller towns, besides the tuition culture, some teachers even encourage their students to resort to cheating / copying in their examinations to earn higher percentage marks. In villages the situation is worse. Some schools in villages may even look like buffalo barns or horse stables where feudal lords can keep their livestock. Ghost schools, ghost teaching staff, unwilling and untrained teachers and reluctance of parents to educate their children especially girls are hallmarks of many of the government schools in villages.

Within the private schools category, distinction is based on the infrastructure and facilities. Ordinary private schools stuff themselves in rented premises mainly residential. Majority of their teaching faculty is untrained and less qualified. Their first and foremost aim is to earn more money so that they can get catch up with the facilities of high end schools so that they can charge exorbitant fees. They survive however because (a) getting admission in these schools is relatively easier (b) teachers do not harass the children to seek private tuition from them in evenings, and (c) fees, though high, are still affordable for middle income or lower middle income parents. But their capacity to impart quality education is far low even in comparison to government schools in cities.

In comparison, the high end schools have proper buildings, custom built classrooms, high-tech laboratories, libraries, computers, multimedia projectors, playgrounds, and even swimming pools. They really prepare the students well for bagging A grades in higher number of courses. They also make them aggressive so that they could compete fiercely in the corporate world. True to their classification tag, they charge hefty fees – even more than what is justifiable. They believe that their schools should be accessible only by the high income segment of the society and if they reduce the fees they may lose a big chunk of business. Not so weird however, upper-middle income and middle income segments of society also prefer to send their children to these schools, even though they squeeze on their routine household budget. There is yet another set of parents who believe that the class discrimination in the society is too compelling to send their children to high end schools. They believe that failure to do so would downgrade their status in the society. This mentality entails them to resort to unfair earning means to maintain their standard and pay the hefty fees in high end schools.

Before induction of modern-day private schools, education and teachers in sub continent used to enjoy lot of respect. Schools used to be treated as the foster mothers and places of respect where everyone had to behave in a disciplined way. But gradually, like in the whole society, deterioration of values in name of modernization set out in schools. The first casualty of deteriorating values was the teacher’s respect and his role as that of a mentor and guide. That role gave way to his becoming mere tutor of the course work. But here the blame lies with the parents. The goals which parents are now setting for their children are not ‘learning’ and ‘education’. Instead they are interested only in higher grades for their children. For example they are least bothered if after completing Islamic studies, their children do not practice Islamic values. However, they would create furore if their children get B or C grade in Islamic studies. When a race of such parents increased, then a breed of investor-educationists was bound to flourish. Such opportunist investors do not consider imparting education as a ‘service’ to the society; rather, they treat education as a sellable commodity. Mannerism or ethics is not their priority. To amplify their wealth they need higher number of A and A plus grades which their school students may get. They do not mind if their students use cognitive enhancers or so-called smart drugs to perform better in examinations. They do not mind if use of smart drugs ultimately leads their students to use of hard drugs such as cocaine or brown sugar.

In this environment, who cares about bullying which is also on the rise in Pakistani schools? When someone based on his physique, wealth or tribal strength starts manipulating his weak colleagues then school administration also turns blind eye to the incidents of bullying. The schools probably do not want to engage themselves in non profitable venture or risky avenue of controlling the bullies. But this escapism by schools would surely bring disastrous results. The bullies who are not disciplined in their tender school ages are bound to become hardcore tyrants by the time they reach their university age. No wonder if they kill many Shahzebs around them, or commit other heinous crimes.

Before it is too late, it is the responsibility of the government to (a) break cartels of drug suppliers selling drugs in schools, (b) make schools responsible for controlling bullies in their schools and (c) to legislate for declaring the act of bullying in schools a cognizable offence. That offence may be pardonable at the first occurrence provided that the aggrieved person forgives the bully. On the second occurrence the act of bullying be punished with community service, and thereafter by awarding a term in juvenile jail. In addition to these steps, there is a dire need of seriously reviewing the whole educational system in schools so that instead of producing literate savages with A grades, the system could produce wise, educated, mannered and responsible young lot who in future can serve and lead the country. Salaries of government teachers be increased to respectable level and they be restrained from teaching in private tuition academies. And last but not the least stature of government schools be raised so high that students feel elevated studying in them.

The writer has 28 years’ experience working in power sector. He can be reached at:
asifabro@hotmail.com

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