Pakistan’s education sector has stayed rusted for many decades with minimal remedial measures, forcing the verdict that reforms and Pakistan’s educational system do not go along well. The world has entered the modern technological era but we unfortunately follow a school curriculum of the industrial age, which was aimed at churning out factory workers. We educate children in batches and make them follow instructions. Those who obey are awarded and those failing to comply are punished. These were industrial age values important for factory work. Today employers value people who are curious and creative, who can communicate their ideas and collaborate with others but our children are deprived of developing such traits in the current pedagogical system.
We start categorising children as smart or dumb the day they start school. In any given classroom, students are at different levels of understanding and not all are destined for academic excellence. What worsens this is that our schools pivot only around grades and rely on rote learning which has no pragmatic relevance once students enter the real world. All students are expected to memorise a generic set of information and the retention power is tested by administering periodic examinations. The prognosis of this is extremely poor as almost all of it is lost the very next day of the exam.
Subjects which lay the foundation for a child’s cognitive ability are mathematics and science. Data collected by the National Education Assessment System, shows that scores in these two subjects are below 50% for all four provinces. To boost the keenness of students towards mathematics and science initiatives like appointment of a ‘chief scientist’ within the office of the prime minister, opening science museums and astronomical viewing sites, and introduction of laboratory exercises at grade six and seven need to be taken. This, in turn, would produce a wiser population.
Our society faces an unhealthy divide due to marked disparity between the quality of education provided in public and private sectors. The dismal state of public schools is evident by the lack of infrastructure, unqualified teachers, low attendance and poor examination outcomes. There is no learning without questioning. Students in Pakistan are graded on the basis of their answers while no importance is given to asking questions. The concept of ‘no wrong question’ needs to be incorporated in our classrooms.
A great miscarriage of educational justice in developing countries like Pakistan is gender inequality. Females are not allowed to study while males do not want to. The Ministry of Education recently released statistics which revealed that 49% of girls as compared to 40% of boys are out of school in the country. For a prosperous Pakistan, it is crucial that girls are given equal access to education.
Finland routinely tops rankings of global education systems. Finnish schools go against the orthodox, grade-driven educational model. There are no standardised examinations before the age of 16, homework is unheard of and there are no private schools. To become a teacher, one has to receive a master’s degree and complete the equivalent of residency programme in US medical schools.
A shift in our educational methodology from the industrial age to modern digital era is required more than ever. The authorities must review the under-investment in our education sector, at the same time collaborating with the private sector to narrow down the disproportion in the level of education provided in public and private schools. Training teachers with critical thinking methods, revolutionising lecturing by making it interactive and incorporating visual aid which has proven to be the most effective way of learning and strengthening the presence of public sector in rural areas should be considered. Quality education will not only free us of socioeconomic problems but will also provide psychological relief to our youth.