By Wali Shahzad
What we, the educated people, have gone through - and the young students are still going through - is, I am afraid, to say a system that is flawed to its inner roots by stereo typical thinkers, bent upon implementing foreign syllabuses - like that of Oxford - for profits, building public relations and increasing productivity. I cry out to the people who are controlling the private education systems that this is the ‘life of the youth’ and not a profit game, and also to our government’s implementers of the education system; as to when they will grow a consciousness.
At first, we need to admit that all the teachers in this system are child abusers. I am a private tutor, and if you are a teacher as well, repeat this line with me: “I am a teacher and I am a child abuser.” Let me tell you how; I come from a background of teachers. My mother has been teaching even before I was born. Teaching became a family business for us at one time, and we owned a school and an Academy for the slow learners. So here is the truth that they don’t tell you, it’s not a controversy, rather, it is what we couldn’t get around our thick heads. Your child has been wasting his time and your money! Sadly, you are responsible for torturing the mind of your own beloved child who was meant to love the world, its people and the Creator that made him. He could have fallen in love with the beauty of literature, or he could have actually understood quantum physics in the 8th grade, or even learn the depths of philosophy and become a child the other kids would have learned the greater good from.
Let me give you a little taste of ‘yourself’. Look at your kid when he is playing a game. If a person - even you - are given a sense of achievement, a big golden star or the chance to become the ‘defeater of fascism’, you are highly likely to repeat that action. In a game, you are given the same sense that you are rarely given in real life. No one comes and tells you - a normal person living a normal life - that you have done something amazing, while on the other hand, in a game, you could be the world’s top scorer for Temple Run OR you, a single person, could defeat a whole army and save your world. The thing that you have to understand about the games is that they are very difficult and require a lot of concentration, as that is the only way it can keep you interested; if you fail to complete a certain task, you have to do it again, and that could go up to doing the same thing 50 or 100 times, which might make you seem utterly insane to the person sitting next to you, but you would be having adrenalin rushes, anger and sweats while you’re doing so. The students have been played with the same game and you, as an adult, have also fallen for the same game.
You’re still wondering what that game is and how you have fallen for it? Your child has to give at least four major assessments in a year, which are the minds, the finals, and the monthly tests. The compilation of all those grades will make up your kid’s final grades. In addition, you have marks for class participation and class tests. A good school, these days, has a homework roster, which gives homework for three subjects each day.
Let’s take the example of grade 5.
Chapter - Living Things: Question: What is singular cell and multicellular organisms and how do they reproduce?
Chapter - Life Cycle: Question: Write about the water cycle.
Chapter - Soil: Question: Write about the three layers of soil in the correct order.
Now, I am sure you would not be able to give the correct answer to any of these questions. I am not saying that you don’t have any idea as to what the answers are. You definitely would have, but in order to give the ‘right answer’, you need to remember the exact book-definition of singular cell and multicellular organisms (which is theoretically incorrect); you have to give 6 points about the water cycle whereas in reality there are no points; water just evaporates, condenses and then there is rain fall. In reality, there are 4 layers and 9 horizons of the soil, but a student needs to learn the 3 exact book-definitions, which include things like the topsoil is made up of very small, dark particles. (Could this be more general? Very small!! How small? Is it the size of a peanut? And do dark particles mean dark matter? Dark is supposed to refer to the color? Well, mostly, the topsoil seems anything but dark, its brown and off-white. What does that mean, then? I couldn’t understand it in grade 5, and I can’t, today.) And remember, if you don’t write them in order, you get zero marks.
They also include words like humus, the meaning of which I, as a teacher, would never tell my student because it’s a shady word; it’s just used once in the book. My student has to learn 8 definitions, 6 questions and 20 word meanings, a few fill-in-the-blanks and some MCQs. After he has done that, I would go yelling at him that ‘he has done it very slowly’ and that he needs to do 2 more subjects. He has to give a class test, a monthly test, a midterm test and a final test to each of these questions along with 100s of more of these sorts of questions, which takes a lot many of hours and days to prepare.
Ironically, he would not remember any of the things he did after he passes the class, because it is not relevant any more. He is not going to get another “A star” for remembering the answers to these questions; now he has to remember a lot of other senseless questions and their answers for which he will get an “A star”. It is not that I am the one who wants to destroy the minds of my students; from time to time I would come up with real science, like the String Theory while explaining electrons, but the students suddenly get disinterested because that seems to be irrelevant information since it is not in their syllabus, therefore, it is not going to get them an “A star” and now ‘I am wasting their time’.
The exams these children give are anything but knowledge-testing. It is a test of memory and sharpness, and like any IQ test, you cannot succeed in going higher no matter how hard you try. Some Students have low IQ, some have high IQ, but IQ doesn’t make you a great man; on the other hand, grades make you a great man. ‘If you have grades, you have success’; that is what parents tell their kids. Parents would beat their children and ground them, in other words, literally torture their children on low grades, and it’s not even the kid’s fault!
Where did the literature go, where did poets like Allama Iqbal and Shakespeare go? These people changed the course of history, they taught people to see, to think, to love God and His creatures. I will tell you where they went. They went into summaries, character sketches, questions and answers, MCQs and fill-in-the-blanks.
People like Allama Iqbal had the power to change masses of illiterate people through philosophy and poetry and motivate them to get a free nation. Hundreds of thousands of people died in the cause, and now they are a part of a course, which even I would be proud to burn and throw away (because it has been put in a way that it doesn’t move us an inch).
In history, we have had people like Ashoka, Alexander the Great, the Prophets, who were talked about by the ancient historians as if they could see the ground tumble in their presence. Now I teach that Ashoka was the ruler of the Mauryan Empire, and that Buddhist temples and monasteries greatly grew in his era, that’s all, and then I yell at the students to start remembering the answer to the next question.
Don’t they deserve to know that Ashoka wrote the first charter of human rights, which is still far better than that of the wise ‘United Nations’? He created the first ‘network’ (in the form of those pillars) to flow out throughout the subcontinent, so that those rules of human rights were available to the common people, in 200 BC. Those pillars still remain all over the subcontinent, 2200 years later, on which these rights are still preserved. He created not just something far better than the internet; he created the ‘truth’, the ‘conscience’ and the ‘awareness’. We should cry over the evolution of our education. Bravo! We have done justice to these great people!
Let’s come to language. Now, we have all tried to learn our language and foreign languages in every grade through grammar books; it has been proven through recent research that it is all a waste. Through repetition and learning of the bookish grammar, we actually dramatically reduce our capacity to learn these languages. How does a kid learn to speak his mother tongue? Does the mother give him language classes? Grasping new language concepts and learning new languages comes innately to us. We learn languages subconsciously, to say in short. Grammar comes to us through practical means, or in other words, naturally. You can, according to new revolutionary research, learn a new language within a few weeks. The tenses and the grammatical literacy we all gained through school-based learning of the language took us way longer than we could have if we were to naturally learn the language. How is it that students study a foreign language for 12 years in schools and still can’t speak it?
Well, think of all the beating you got, the inferiority complexes you suffered from, and the abusive tone of the teachers while you were learning these languages, think of how many times you have failed in languages and then think that the teachers were, in reality, making it impossible for you to learn that language. In my educational period, the phrase I have come across the most is, “Enjoy rape when it is inevitable” (allegorically referring to rape of the thought system here).
I will not comment on religious study, as I myself find it very offensive to comment on the matter.
According to Plato, true wisdom was the knowledge of everything. If you, hypothetically, had the knowledge of everything, you would know the right choice and the wrong ones. Look into yourself, have you ever made a decision that you thought was wrong at the time you made it?Men of Athens, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the God rather than you; and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy, to exhort you and, in my usual way, to point out to any one of you whom I happen to meet: “Good Sir, you are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation, and honors as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul?
Where did philosophy go in this evolution of education? What made us men and what gave us wisdom is long gone. You should proudly tell your children, and the generations that follow, that you were a part of the system that believed in utter irrationality and helped give children anxiety and depression. Indeed, in my teaching and study experience, I have not come across one student that did not have anxiety or depression at some point in time because of this educational system.