By Zeenat Shah
“Education is not just picking up facts learning to read and write. There is another whole side of education and that is the formation of character.” (Prince Karim Aga Khan)
Education is a process of developing values, attitude, skills and knowledge in learners so that they become effective individuals contributing to the formation of a just, peaceful and a progressive welfare society. However, the educational institutions are predominantly imparting only factual knowledge. Students only memorize facts from textbooks and are assessed how much of the knowledge they have memorized and produced. There is no space for assessment of demonstration of students’ values such as loyalty, integrity, truthfulness, respect, patience, empathy, kindness and forgiveness that are basic ingredients for the formation of character. Similarly, our education system lacks the development of attitude of giving to the state instead of expecting everything from it, attitude of self-accountability and hard work , attitude of self-reflection and continual moral refinement, attitude of showing concern for the people and environment and skills that would help to lead a successful life especially in the 21st century such as problem solving, communication, creativity, leadership, how to cope with stress, computer literacy and English language in learners. Students who achieve high scores become favourites of teachers and parents no matter how they are behaving with people and the environment. Similarly, many of so called quality universities set a minimum criteria of marks or CGPA for admissions no matter how this CGPA or A+ grade has been achieved.
Therefore, there is a crowd of ignorant youth racing after scores instead of building their character, developing empathy for the needy, remaining firm with their integrity, loyalty to the country, respect for others with differences and more importantly, they do not know their self-respect or self-kindness and indulge in drugs and smoking. They lack belief in their individuality and hard work to succeed in life.
Moreover, this education system has deteriorated all segments of the society even the high achievers in factual and material knowledge often compromise with fairness, justice, loyalty and integrity for their personal material benefits and therefore, society is in a state of lawlessness, corruption and suppression of the poor and innocent people. In addition, material knowledge cultivates arrogance instead of kindness, humility and enthusiasm to serve the state and its people.
Therefore, we need to have an education system in place that balances material knowledge with moral values, attitude and skills to form a peaceful and progressive society. For this, I am of the opinion that the government should focus on teacher quality while making recruitments. When a nation compromises with the teacher quality, the nation suffers in every aspect of life as we are already suffering. The top five percent of quality university graduates with high moral values must be inducted into the most complex and sensitive teaching profession and primary education must be given more importance by ensuring 100% access for school-age children to high quality primary education in all parts of the country. With reference to improving quality education, President Pervez Musharraf focused on Ph.D. programmes but it was also like sprinkling water on leaves instead of providing a nurturing environment for the roots to help the plant grow and sustain. I mean quality primary education should be the first priority of the state because the formation of values and attitudes in the early years of learners has a greater impact on whole life as Aristotle said, “The habits we form from childhood make no small difference, but rather they make all the difference.” So, to strengthen primary education, adequate number of quality teachers having exemplary character, outstanding subject knowledge with reasoning and passion for teaching and learning should be inducted. Moreover, proper infrastructure i.e. a classroom for each grade and adequate learning materials should be a necessary action to improve primary education and to grow as a united, responsible and progressive nation.
“Education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan. The world is progressing so rapidly that without requisite advancement in education, not only shall we be left behind others but may be wiped out altogether.” (Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah)
The contributor works with the Aga Khan University- Professional Development Centre, North (AKU-PDCN) as a Senior Instructor.