M Omar Iftikhar
A drastic shift in perspective has occurred in the Pakistani society during the last two decades. Children by the age of two are forced to go to school. Here, the word ‘forced’ refers to society’s demand for children to attend pre-school. Years ago children would spend their formative years at home with their parents and grandparents. Mothers will forever remain the first institution for her child. Today, schools have overtaken this child-mother relationship.
Schooling in Pakistan, especially in Karachi, is a roaring business. Schools are no longer avenues from where knowledge disseminates. They are money-minting machines. Teachers are not icons of imparting education but are henchmen of the principals who see students as a capital asset giving them heaps of revenue each month. These words may be harsh for many but the reality is evident. Going to school is never a fun activity for children. It is because education is pushed down their throat instead of teachers collaborating with students to make learning fun. With utmost respect, teachers too only wait for their monthly salary. They also have their home to look after. Their job is to impart education in the most profound way and not become a Hitler-like administrator.
Whether it is the adult-ego suppressing the innocence of the child or the teachers imposing their undue hegemony, the student-teacher relationship has turbulence. The case of a teacher beating to death a class 10 student in Lahore signifies the supremacy teachers enjoy over children. The same is the case with Molvis at Madrassahs who beat the child senseless if the lesson is not properly learned.
The school management and the parents both are at a fault. Where the school management and teachers are looking for students to achieve grades so the school’s name comes in the limelight, parents too want the same. They want their name to be heard across parties and social gatherings because their child passed an examination with a good grade. The fault lies in schools and with parents seeing students and children as trophies that bear their name. The burden falls upon the childrens’ shoulders who must perform or face the brunt from both sides. If the student underperforms, teachers become strict while parents consider them as failures.
Schools, as many parents view, do not focus on learning but rather on achievement. Learning must precede victory. Success does not come without knowledge. Schools break this hierarchy and expect students to become achievers knowing that each student is different. Every child cannot become a high-achiever in a learning environment that provides similar and non-customized avenues for each student. If one student is facing difficulty learning mathematics, the teacher must find a different way to teach mathematics. Teachers must facilitate students and not become autocrats who impose a one-rule-fits-all strategy. Students then hate their school because compulsion does not breed learning. Children need time to learn, they want a smiling face to teach them. They certainly do not expect a frown to overshadow their existence. Schools only serve their capitalist business model instead of educating the students and helping teachers find their strengths and weaknesses. Parents are the target who fuels the school’s need for revenue generation. Parents consider the teacher’s report about their child as the final verdict. Parents punish and praise the child accordingly. This further breaks the child-parent relationship as the parents never find the source of the problem but agree to what the teachers say.
Another mistake parents do is to send their child to school during their formative years. The child becomes disorientated as to whom to follow – the teacher who is a stranger or the parent who he meets only for half of the day. Marketing strategies implied by schools lure parents in admitting their child to school. Parents also make this decision because of the societal pressure. They see someone’s child going to school since the age of two and hence their own child must follow suit. Moreover, parents do not give importance to their child’s learning but are eager for their child to attend the most expensive school. Brands only matter to the mind. The heart dwells on learning which can come from the most unexpected of places. The need for differentiated learning is also imperative. Students differ in language, socioeconomic status, culture and personal interests. Teachers must tap into these differences and devise a learning strategy to assist every student instead of looking at them as products on a factory’s assembly line.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Karachi.