Our education system is ripe for a revolution
It is amazing how Mr.No.1 has heaped wholesale condemnation on a system of which he is himself a product. The sweeping remarks he has made betray an unbalanced and cynical approach. Naturally, he has failed to find any good in the present educational set up in the country. Yet it was this very set-up which produced men like Dr. Iqbal, and Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah. I would not deny that it may also have produced quite a large number of rascals and charlatans. But what does that prove? It goes only to show that there is hardly anything intrinsically wrong with the system. With apologies to the Bard, I may be allowed to say:
The fault, dear friend, is not in the system But in ourselves, that we are unworthy.
We have to look within ourselves to find whether education has been a success or failure. It has become a fashion nowadays to put the lame for every problem facing the country’s youth at the door of the education system. If student unrest is getting out of control, it is the education system that is to blame. If unemployment is increasing, it is because of the education system. If the number of drop-outs is growing, the malady can be traced to the education system-so on and so forth. Old people do that because they do not want to offend the young. And the young are happy to blame their failings on anyone or anything excepting them.
The older people seem to have lost their capacity to call a spade a spade, and the same weakness manifests itself in the young as a preference for plausible excuses over tangible results. The malady that basically afflicts this country is an almost universal crisis of character. We have lost our souls to consumerism. Ostentatious living and the get-rich-quick mania. In fact all of us appear to be in a terrific hurry all the time. We want quicker means of traveling, quicker cures for our ailments short cuts to degrees and diplomas, and byways to prosperity. It is this mentality which is bedeviling national life in all sphere-politics, economy, education, etc,. we appear to have lost all capacity to concentrate and work hard. In this situation, however hard we may try, and in whichever way we restructure our education system, the results are going to be identical. What is ripe for a revolution is our national character and not this system or that. The prevailing education system has stood the test of time as we can see if we consider that it has produced brilliant people like Mr. No. 1 Let us beware of any monkeying with it for the sake of bringing about a phony revolution.
The main argument advanced by Mr. No.2 in defense of the prevailing system of education in the country is that it has stood the test of time. In support of his argument, he has cited the examples of Dr. Iqbal and Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the products of this system. Evidently, the presumption is that what was good for people a century ago should, as a matter of course, be good for me and my contemporaries also. Well, Sir! I just do not agree with that. The world of today is a very much different place as compared to the world of yesterday. Today it is more competitive, more complicated, much more demanding. Naturally, it requires a different type of individual to cope with it. This is the era of the common man, and there is hardly any place in it for the intellectual confined to his own ivory tower. He is doomed if he remains confined in the world of his own thoughts and displays no will or capacity to serve the people with his knowledge. This sort of attitude can be crested only if our centers of learning encourage and nurture initiative. But this is precisely what they discourage. They revel in conformism. Let a student of literature while answering a question paper venture his own opinion along with that of established critics, and he is doomed. My friend Mr.No.2 has probably lost sight of the fact that the education system we have in this country is a legacy of foreign rulers. That is why we find our intellectuals suffering from an inferiority complex in relation to the West and the knowledge it has to offer. They look to the West as the supreme ideal and rely upon it to provide new ideas and the latest in technology. It is time all this was changed, and there is so much that must be exchanged. We have to develop our own capital of knowledge and brain-power. We have to discourage elitism and bring into being a class of intellectuals who are thoroughly integrated with the people and are eager to serve them whole-heatedly instead of imparting only book knowledge. We have to ensure that manual labor becomes compulsory in our educational system so that when our young men and women leave schools and colleges, they are not physical wrecks but useful members of society capable of enriching anti-national life. All this needs to be done. The ills from which the system of education prevailing in Pakistan is suffering are drastic. There to cure it calls for drastic remedies like a virtual revolution. But is there anyone who will be bold enough to start this much-needed revolution on its course?
Sir! Everything we hear the cry that the intellectual elite is alienated form the people. We are constantly being reminded, as my friend Mr. No.3 did just now,, that this is the era of the common man, and that everyone, including the intellectual, should hurry up to integrate himself with the masses. And to that end, the system of education must be a revolution here and now. What is this system of education we have been talking about? Are we sure what we mean by the word “education”? If the word is being used to denote technical and professional skills that enable ea man to earn an honest living, I am prepared to concede that changing conditions and needs of society will always dictate changes (call it a revolution if you like) in the courses of study for such subjects. But if by education we mean that instruction which increases a man’s inborn worth and which teaches him the essential virtues, I would wish that all “revolutionary” influences are kept away from it. We have to draw a line between education as a business assets and education as an intellectual experience. I do not subscribe to the theory of the alienation of the intellectual. Somebody ( I forget his name) has very aptly said that true education makes for inequality, and inequality, not standardization, is the measure of the progress of the world. Form time immemorial, those thirsting for education have delighted in being exposed the best that has been said and written in all ages. Such education has acted as a civilizing influence on man and I would not agree to any scheme of thins that seeks to change al that and bring about a revolution presuming that everyone is capable of enjoying the refined and delicate pleasures of the mind. The inequality of talent and genius is the law of nature and no revolution can change that law.
I doubt very much whether the lofty concept of education propounded by my predecessor has any relevance to the present discussion. I believe all that we are concerned with here is employment in the service of the community. And looking at the proposition from that point of view, it is obvious that education as at present organized in Pakistan is not serving the purpose. In our curricular of studies, there is too much emphasis on bookish, knowledge, and very little that might prepare a student for the realities of life in a developing country like Pakistan. Our constitution prescribed equal opportunities for all. Yet it is a fact that higher education and the best professional training have thus far remained the sole preserve of the urban rich. As we all know, an overwhelming majority of the population of Pakistan lives in villages. Yet very few students from rural areas reach the top of the ladder because education at the higher levels is so expensive and time-consuming that a large majority of them fall by the wayside. There is great dearth of medical care and health facilities in the countryside but qualified medical practitioners trained a great expense to the state do not like to go to villages. They prefer working in cities where the gains are better and life more comfortable. The engineers of our universities turnout after years of training may be well-versed in theory but have no on-the-job experience. The insistence of Government recruiting agencies on making a degree the minimum educational qualification needed for a majority of jobs has served to overcrowd our colleges with people who have no interest in education but want a degree anyhow, irrespective of whether, it is obtained y fair means or foul. This preference for money rather than the capacity and ability to learn, inequality of opportunity, a predominantly urban orientation, lack of a practical bias, and rush for degrees have so bedeviled our system of education that nothing short of a revolution can set matters right. In this manner, we can profitably take a leaf out of China’s book, where the old system was recently brought to a halt for some time and then re-orientated to subserve the actual needs of a developing society be shifting the emphasis fro theory to practice, from book-learning to manual labor and from sermons on citizenship to active participation by student s in civic life. There is a crying need for similar shock treatment being given to the out-dated and outmoded system of education in Pakistan.
Yes. Our schools are producing only unemployable physical wrecks, this is not education. Our education system is plagued by a certain and holism. It needs to be changed in its entirety. No. The fault does not lie in the system but in the weakness in our character caused by consumerism, love of luxury, and wealth. We have lost the capacity to work hard and no revolution can help us. Yes. The system we have is a legacy of foreign rulers. It may have been good for our predecessors but we have to develop our own capital of knowledge and brainpower. For this, we shall have to adopt drastic measures. The only thing we lack is a person old enough to start this much-needed revolution. No. we must draw a line between education as a business asset and education as an intellectual experience. The former type of education will always be subject to change but the latter embodies eternal values that are lasting and permanent. Yes. We are concerned with that type of education which equips a person for gainful employment. As at present organized, education in Pakistan puts too much emphasis on book-learning. Higher education is open only to the urban rich and then it does not involve any practical orientation. The rush for degrees is unhealthy. To remove all these defects, nothing short of a revolution is required.