Is Our Flawed Education System One Of Reasons For Current Chaotic Situation In Pakistan? – OpEd


The importance of education?

No doubt  Education is the gem of human civilization and is pivotal to a society’s progress. Education brings awareness, tolerance, self-esteem, and confidence, empowering people to defend their rights. 

Some prominent scholars and intellectuals have highlighted the importance of education in the following ways:

Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself (Jon Dewey); 

“It is the key to unlocking the golden gate of freedom” (George Washington Carver); 

It is to turn mirrors into windows. (Sydney J. Harris); 

“It is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela).

Martin Luther King Jr. suggested that education is perhaps the crux of the human fabric a society should be composed of. He said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and critically.” “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

Education continues to be the most powerful tool for furnishing people with the knowledge to construct a social system on the pillars of equality, respect, equal chances, and class mobilisation without disagreement. Education helps sustain the viability of a society. It not only stabilises one society but also helps the whole country in its development, provided the education system is rational and based on reason rather than dogmas.

The intellectual power of people is a necessary factor in deciphering the complexities of the world. It offers people insight to adjust the trajectory of their lives. Nations with a high level of intellect have a sound economic, political, and social outlook. When people cannot think judiciously, they become susceptible to the evil schemes of power-driven politicians. Wise contemplation is necessary to achieve individual and collective prosperity. In today’s world, all the countries throughout the globe are working to improve their education systems, but we are doing the opposite. We, as a nation, have failed to overhaul and modernise our education system so far.

Pitfalls in our education system 

We are pouring the wrong information into the minds of our youth. As John Dewy explained, “being a theorist” defines “miseducation” as a system that stifles children’s curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Knowledge, according to him, is created within the student rather than imposed by authority. Miseducation promotes “indoctrination” and seeks to enslave the mind.

The best example in this regard is the flawed curriculum design, which is a big hindrance on the way to true learning. The biggest blow to school education in 2022 was the continuation of the rollout of the PTI’s Single National Curriculum (the SNC project is, of course, under the present political dispensation). The PTI’s poorly thought-through populist attempt, which has curtailed the rationale and reason from education and brought madrasah into the education system, contrary to promising the erasure of social class differences and levelling access to opportunities for all,

SNC became an exercise in reinforcing the most regressive elements in public school textbooks, which garnered near-universal criticism from qualified education experts.

Ours is the most outdated teaching method and examination system. The run-of-the-mill repetition of closed-ended questions dispirits learners and teachers. Students are tested for their memory, not for creativity. A half-hearted dedication to regulating co-curricular activities in educational institutions is another demotivating factor for learners. Libraries and playgrounds are nonexistent.

Teachers’ stagnant information, training, and knowledge make them vectors of boredom. When teachers lag far behind modern research and development in their respective subjects, they fail to inspire their students.

All our elites, which comprise landlords, bureaucrats, military top brass, industrialists, retired judicial officers, ousted prime ministers, and politicians, tend to settle their children abroad for education and themselves as well once they’re done “serving” us. They are least concerned about children of the lesser gods, 

In the developed world, higher education institutions are considered key architects in the building of a society due to their central role in social and economic development by creating and promoting required knowledge and skills. Contrary to this fact, the current allocation for higher education in Pakistan is merely 0.25% of the GDP, which should be at least one percent as per international standards. This meagre investment is clearly insufficient to cater to the minimum recurring needs of 116 public sector universities and 81 sub-campuses, particularly universities in Baluchistan, which are facing the worst kind of financial crisis and are even unable to pay monthly salaries. 

Since 1947, more than 23 education policies and five-year plans have been presented by successive governments in Pakistan. However, our education system is still facing multifaceted issues related to ineffective management and supervision protocols, poor examination systems, etc.

Improving public education based on reason and logic is the only answer.

Reasons for intellectual poverty 

To keep the system intact and maintain the status quo, the elites impose fear and use power to keep the population in check. To keep their control, the elite rulers prevent their citizens from gaining a quality and meaningful education. Those who live in such societies face poverty with no promise of reprieve. It stops those having no financial means from obtaining opportunities to better their lives. Such people accept an upside-down social structure because of a lack of modern education and intellect. 

Taking advantage of the limited understanding of the public, elites create institutions that promote exploitative practises. In these kinds of societies, disparities in healthcare, education, and sources of income remain obvious. The system carries on, unchanged, from generation to generation.

This way, ruling elites can not only control the people but also increase their wealth through the unjust exploitation of a country’s resources. They protect their interests by spreading their own beliefs, which keep them going. When the people remain unaware of the hidden schemes of their leaders, they maintain admiration for their political idols, even if it costs them their lives. Resultantly, these intellectually deprived people accept the lives politicians provide them. 

In poorer nations like Pakistan, illiteracy, and poverty allow the ruling class to have control over the people and oppress them. The presence of cognitive impairment impairs the prospects for growth and development. In such a situation, the elite groups pool their power and use this opportunity to divide the poor on religious, ethnic, and sectarian grounds. Strangely, people remain unaware of the trap that elites have laid for them.

The people cannot move forward and achieve prosperity because of these harsh realities. The only way to ensure a brighter future for their inhabitants is through the intellectual growth fostered by modern education. To shift the balance of success and glory in favour of deprived segments of society, the country needs to eliminate the blight of cognitive deprivation and an outdated education system. Without it, a country will suffer the consequences of political instability, economic decline, institutional failure, and hindered human development.

Over 75 years after their independence from British rule, both India and Pakistan carry on some of the colonial legacies, including their education systems. India kept continuing to modernise that education system and established its first Indian Institute of Technology in the year 1950, followed by the establishment of six other IITs until 1960. Those institutions have produced a number of people who hold positions of power across the world. There are about 12 such Indian-origin CEOs who run a few of the most powerful companies in the world. Globally,58 top-notch company CEOs are Indian in origin.

Whereas Pakistan bitterly failed to overhaul the outdated and class-based Macaulay education system and establish a single institute of that kind, it has instead established more than forty thousand religious institutions across the country. The students who graduated from those institutions are neither marketable within the country nor required in international markets, including in Muslim countries. 

For meaningful education, the purpose of education should be: 

1) developing and grooming personalities, 

2) creating leadership skills, 

3) instilling a sense of civic and social responsibilities. 

Education must be an integrated sector and force in society, promoting development, change, and progress. It must be a tool to analyse and understand the world around us; what we learn at school is a primary part of the education and socialisation of children and youth. Education should assist a person in developing their mental faculties in such a way that they become capable of handling life’s complications conveniently. 

Education must create the capacity in an individual to comprehend the phenomena of the world. Furthermore, it should enable them to go through the experiences of life elatedly. Education must equip people with the skills and qualities they need to sustain their lives everywhere and meet the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, our education system at 75 is still barren of the targets mentioned above. Everyone, from politicians to government functionaries and educationists, is equally responsible for the ugly face of the education system that emerged during the last 75 years.

Our education system, instead of tolerance, “promoting emotions and excitement in our society” 

The kind of education we are imparting to the youth in madrassas, schools, and colleges, and universities “breeds emotions and jubilation” instead of “maturity, commitment, and integrity,” which is the legacy of our colonial masters. 

In our curriculum, we teach the students  a new, distorted history to educate our children. Unfortunately, instead of our own local heroes, we are glorifying foreign heroes, “the British,” the Arabs, and the Turks, in the curriculum and textbooks. We teach our youth in schools that none of our heroes are statesmen, scholars, or philosophers, but all of them are good fighters who, with their God-gifted fighting skills and religious belief, were able to conquer the Indian subcontinent. Consequently, we have failed to produce good, competent, and sincere leadership, as well as scientists, engineers, and highly skilled and professional human capital.

The result of such flawed teaching in our education system is only misguided elites; therefore, from a common man on the street to a privileged parliamentarian, and from a TV anchorperson to an opinion writer, we stayed away from the rationals and were driven by emotions, and we enjoyed it. 

We are witnessing bloodshed in our streets; our schools have been bombed; our funeral homes and graveyards are not safe; even our places of worship are insecure; but we, as a whole nation, continue to live with emotions and excitement. 

Isn’t it enough and high time to secure a bright future for our youth by introducing a modern, relevant, adaptable, accessible, practical, and sociable education system instead of one based on exclusion, emotions, and excitement? Isn’t it incumbent upon the ruling elites to learn a lesson from our recent blood-stained history and the recent chaotic and perfect storm-like situation facing the nation in the shape of unprecedented judicial polarisation and constitutional crisis coupled with political and economic devastation? Is it not high time to review and overhaul the whole outdated education system in the light of past experiences and divert sufficient resources and time to replace it with a modern, robust, inclusive, and enabling education system to address the overdue issues of a lack of human capital, particularly persistent intellectual poverty and barren-minded, visionless leadership that have faced the nation since its inception?

Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant who served as Secretary of Education for the Government of Balochistan. He can be reached at [email protected].

Sher Khan Bazai

Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant, and a former Secretary of Education in Balochistan, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected].

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