IN her poem Children Learn What They Live, Dorothy Nolte writes that if children live with hostility they learn to fight and if they live with acceptance they learn to love. What parents, teachers and all in a position of power need to know is that they must protect children from exposure to violence and trauma if they are to be peace-loving and tolerant.
Are we doing that? Not really. Look at what television shows its viewers, or worse still what is circulated on WhatsApp or posted on social media, and you will understand why we are becoming so belligerent. Even the much-touted Single National Curriculum prefers silence on this issue and the words ‘peace’, ‘love’, ‘rawadari’ or ‘amn’ figure nowhere in the eight files posted on the federal education ministry’s website.
IN tandem with Islamabad, the Sindh government has announced that the students who were scheduled to sit for their Grades IX to XII Board examinations this summer will be promoted to the next class without being tested.
In the absence of an alternative, this can be deemed to have been a sensible step. Moreover, the fact is that the exams we have been holding for the last several decades are no less than an ‘immaculate deception’. They are rife with corruption, and candidates resort to unfair means while massive sums change hands to manipulate results.
As a consequence, the real learning outcome of the students is appalling. Education in Pakistan is exam-oriented and these exams are a farce, leaving no incentive for the students to study. For them, it is a paper chase for the certificate/degree.
Now is also the time for the government to come clean on its failure to educate the children of this country as it is required to do under Article 25-A of the Constitution. The pandemic lockdown and the disruption it has caused are a blessing in disguise. The government should now rise to the occasion to bring about radical changes in our education system.
THE world would have been denied the richness and scholarship of some of Franz Kafka’s literary work — especially The Metamorphosis — had his friend and executor, Max Brod, not decided to ignore Kafka’s instruction in his will to destroy the unpublished manuscripts he left behind. Kafka died young in 1924.
Other writers have generally been pragmatic by not leaving a will. There are quite a number of them though we hardly note it. Albert Camus’ A Happy Death as well as Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder saw the light of day when the authors were no more.
HERE is something to take your mind off the novel coronavirus
pandemic that has overwhelmed the globe. I would like to take you to
another world — the world of education. It is too early to speculate
about the post-virus age. We can, however, use the opportunity provided
by the lockdown to ponder issues pertaining to education. The fact is
that they have never received much thought.
THE medium of instruction in school is once again being hotly
debated, not that the issue had ever been resolved. But now that the
pro-mother language lobby has gained more leverage over the years, its
voice is being heard. That is why passions generated by the language
issue cannot be slapped down.
What provoked the controversy this time? It was a report prepared by a
subcommittee of the National Curriculum Council on the medium of
instruction that caused the ruckus. Later, a member of the NCC described
the report as a piece of ‘misreporting’. The so-called wrong report had
prescribed English as the medium for quite a few subjects from primary
to Grade XII. The regional languages had been omitted totally. It was
the latter omission that had led to the deafening furore on social media
— and quite understandably so. Mercifully, a clarification was later
issued by the government explaining that the question of the languages
to be used as the medium had been left to the provincial governments to
Seldom does one come across any
good news about the state of education in Pakistan. In July this year, a
UNESCO report stated that one out of every four children in the country
do not complete their primary education. Additionally, the government
revealed that 23 million out of 55 million children (40 per cent) are
out of school.
Unfortunately, those who do attend school are not much
better off, for the quality of education imparted at institutions is
ONE reason why our education system is going to the dogs is that our
policymakers earnestly believe that to be meaningful, education must be
serious and dull. They think that a student enjoying herself in class is
not learning anything. That would explain why our classrooms are
generally not intellectually lively and why our students learn so
Having said this, I will ask the question I had asked in my earlier
column, ‘Books are fun’: can a child enjoy any activity in a language
she cannot understand? The answer is so obvious that it amounts to
insulting the readers’ intelligence and I am sorry for raising this
question again. Yet our schools insist on teaching small children in a
language they do not understand and enjoy. In Karachi, with the
exception of public-sector schools and some NGO-run educational
institutions such as TCF, the medium of instruction is either English or
a hybrid of Urdu-English because the teachers know no better. The worst
part is that all the reading and writing is done in English because the
textbooks used are in English.
RECENTLY I decided to have some fun with books and children. Isn’t
that a paradox? We are perpetually told that our children do not read
books. So how could I even think of combining the two and call it fun?
But believe me, it was fun. I decided right away against any boring
imposition on the children. No speeches on how wonderful books are. Let
them discover this for themselves.
My friend Farida Akbar, a trainer of Montessori teachers, and I held a
session during the summer programme of a school for underprivileged
children where I teach English to Grade 9 students on a voluntary basis.
THE road that takes you to the Khatoon-e-Pakistan School, Karachi, is
a steep one. It has been an equally uphill drive for Shehzad Roy’s
Zindagi Trust to transform the institution it adopted in 2015.
The school was in a shambles a few years ago like all peela schools I
have visited. They have huge buildings and expansive playgrounds
testifying to the vision of their founders from the early years of
Pakistan. But lacking maintenance and good governance, they have fallen