Heraclitus, the famous Greek philosopher and historian of 6th century BC, said that one cannot put the same foot in the same stream for the second time because by then, neither the foot not the stream are the same. What he means to say is that, change is the crux of life. Certainly, one of the purposes of education is to bring change in the life of the learner, but it is not merely a matter of change, rather is a process of undergoing metamorphosis, or to be exact, transformation in thinking, behaviour and actions.
The prevalent education system, with its network of Pakistani schools, colleges and universities has failed in creativity and innovation. There is lack of change and lust for commercial and vested interests has suppressed the urge to tap into human potential. In Pakistan, till 1995, the focus had been on a supply side, but the education system was not demand-driven. As jobs were scarce, the result was a brain-drain phenomenon. Almost everyone knows the education today is an area of cut-throat competition, where without a contest jobs are not available. Yet, the decision-makers are unaware of education and its real purpose.
The self-imposed whimsical bureaucratic regulations are antagonistic to unchained curiosity and these experiments tend to kill creativity within the learner whether he is in a madrassa, school or a higher level academy. The end result is that the learner remains unequipped with work-friendly skills because his or her training and coaching was devoid of those gifts, despite spending millions on fees and other expenses.
Apart from the introduction of changes based on science and technology, the requirements of a huge population imposed its own specified unique pressures. The two countries, China and India have combined a population of 2.5 billion individuals and are multi-dimensionally different from those of the countries with lesser population.
Globalisation has also given new meanings to rising standards in education, with focus on means to achieve economic strength by increasing number of students in schools, colleges and universities. The sole purpose of primary education has been to prepare students for secondary education and the role of secondary education is merely to prepare for tertiary, i.e., a university education. And as for university education, it chiefly concentrates on methods and resources in nation building. The criteria in all three stages of primary, secondary and degree is written examination, which is more a test of memory rather than of skills and potentials.
All through this ordeal, in a presence of an already tense competitive environment, the worst pressure comes from the parents who instead of helping the learner in overcoming the specific insurmountable difficulty keep telling them not to waste time. These are admonishing imperatives and instructions that further entangle them in a labyrinth of obscurity and confusion.
The policy of improvement of standards has not been so successful because unprecedented unemployment has been frustrating the youth of the country all through years. The problem, in a nutshell, is that degrees have gradually lost their value.
Lack of infra-structure is the main reason for much of the fuss and mess in the education system. This has led to criminal activities such fake degrees, where this is one of the worst examples of corruption at an international level and an unpardonable offence.
The travesty of the situation is that nobody in Pakistan is ready to acknowledge their role in creating this mess, even when caught red-handed. The blame for poor performance is always shifted from policy-makers to the rectors, principals and head masters, and then is shifted to teachers and students.
Now the fundamental job is to realise transformation in education. Politicians can provide the logistics, where they can provide facilities, if their intentions and activities are clear and targeted. But politician must also realise that activities do not take place in a house of parliament. They take place between the teacher and the student at various stages of primary to higher education level.
As there are inimical forces, the first step is security and safety of the learner. The recent tragedy at Peshawar Army School can never ever be forgotten if the nation understands the value of precious innocent life. The prime duty and chief aim of the government should be protection of the new generation.
With this also goes continuity of a well-thought and chalked out vision. For example, it should be the transformation of schools, colleges and universities into excellent seats of learning compatible with international centers of higher learning. As for objectives, they should have access to quality education, to provide opportunities for research at national and foreign universities, and to develop relationship between educational institutions, trade and commerce organisations. As new learning and advances in education system, are going to work as major remedies, a division into three areas of Academia, Administrative responsibilities and financial setup will help in focusing and suggesting remedies.
The assault on the unknown, confidence, enthusiasm and hard work are sources of energy which keep students going. Success depends firstly upon whether the curriculum provides what they want, or what the market requires for them. The purpose of education, designing curriculum, the art of learning and teaching, testing techniques and fashioning education policy are the basis of new bearings in education.
Competence of the mentor in the art of teaching is not enough. Thy must have a knack to inspire the learner and to facilitate learning, where the best teachers keep the curiosity of the learner alive. There is still need for more improvement in standards which can be achieved by bringing vocational studies at par with academic studies, so as to reduce clash of the white with blue collar class. In the same manner, agriculture should be linked and integrated with industrial sector. An integrated, unified approach would help not only in protecting agricultural production from decay through technological innovations manufactured in industrial units, but in giving a boost to both agricultural and industrial growth.
The development of infrastructure depends upon the teacher’s instructional task and the student’s receptiveness and responsiveness as shown through their performance. In other words, conducive and peaceful working environment is a prerequisite for quality education. New technologies, if used sensibly, can yield better results. Imagine, if, on one hand, a laptop can bring universal exposure, on the other hand, without printing press, how narrow the scope and approach would have been of new technologies? The new technologies are now integral to learning in the 21st century. A purposeful vision, well-targeted objectives, re-orientation of curriculum, improvement in competence of the teachers, use of teaching methods and devices, has more chances for curious Pakistani students to turn into a meaningful innovator. In short, education is the main hope of the new generation.
If the students do not realise spirit and sensibility of the new age, then they are paying not for success in life, but for failure. It has, therefore, become mandatory for them to know and understand which way the world is developing and to learn how intelligence, independent free thinking and rationality determine the affairs of human beings.
New Bearings in Education | Shahid Zubair