WHEN I was in grade 6, I was absent from school on the day that our English language teacher explained the meanings of a list of words. The next day she gave us a surprise test. We had to construct sentences with those words. I still remember two words that I was asked to use in sentences: ‘phenomenon’ and ‘vague’.The writer, a pop singer, is president of Zindagi Trust, an organisation working for child welfare and firstname.lastname@example.org
I made the following sentences: ‘It is difficult to pronounce the word phenomenon’ and ‘In my exams I forgot the meaning of the word vague.’ After checking my script, the teacher smiled and then gave me what is now referred to as the impressive-sounding ‘corporal punishment’.
This happened in a good private school. I wonder what the teacher would have done to me if I was studying at a government school! Of course, my answers betrayed my ignorance but I think I deserved credit for being so creative by making sentences using words which were well beyond my comprehension. My creativity was discouraged.
Now, seeing the state of affairs in government schools, I wonder how things would be if everyone in Pakistan became literate. Would life improve for the people? The answer is a categorical ‘no’. Reason? Literacy alone is not the answer to all our ills. There is more to education than meets the eye. Along with the process of imparting literacy, there is need for multiple interventions in education, such as sports, art, music, etc. Literacy simply teaches a person to read and write. Education creates a well-rounded personality and shapes the thinking processes of an individual.
Why have we not succeeded in providing quality education to children in government schools? Because we do not have qualified human resources, good syllabi, infrastructure and other components that go into the making of state of the art education. In my opinion, we lack these resources because a majority of teachers suffer from economic constraints and the rising inflation makes it very difficult for them and their colleagues in the education department to make two ends meet and raise a family.
They unabashedly resort to corruption or concentrate on other money-making ventures. Until their problems are solved, they will not be able to focus on their professional development and capacity-building, let alone issues like syllabi and infrastructure. Once these issues are resolved then the few capable educationists in the country should come forward and offer their services to the government to train teachers using good teaching material and syllabi that should include sports, art and music.
The problem is that every time these issues are raised and the issues identified, the concerned authorities respond by raising the salaries of the teachers by a measly 10 to 15 per cent when the need of the hour is to raise the salaries and benefits of the teachers to a level that would enable them to enjoy a life of dignity and would empower them to meet the needs of their families in an adequate manner.
Indiscriminate interventions do not guarantee a quality education system that produces students who can think. Keeping in view the fact that we are not a welfare state, our policy planning must provide for a student who comes from a socio-economic class that is determined by the national economy. A majority of them are impoverished. The students must be relieved of their major worry, of coming to school on an empty stomach and then being expected to fully concentrate on their lessons. No matter how good the school, teachers and syllabi are, if the student is malnourished and hungry and comes from a troubled background with financial woes, especially when his parents are illiterate, he will not be able to benefit from the best of education that is offered to him.
Since the performance of all government departments shape the economy, they should work cohesively, with integrity and honesty, to ensure that the proposed efforts in the field of education prove to be fruitful.
It is time steps were taken to control and improve the state of education before matters get out of hand. A country’s standing is determined by the quality of its human resources. The more illiterate and backward its people are, the more underdeveloped it is considered. Finally, it must be remembered that without ethics and moral values, no education system is worth its while. It is because our education system has lacked these vital elements that our country has been harmed by our highly educated and learned people. n
Courtesy: Daily Dawn, 20/4/2008