It is exam time, a time of tension for both students and parents. All that has been learnt in a year will have to be reproduced in a two-hour written test. All students will be assessed on what they have written in two hours.
It is quite apparent that there is something very wrong with our education system. The whole year, students are cramped with knowledge and this knowledge is tested in a two-hour exam. It is only the ability of students to memorise certain facts that is being tested. Human ability, however, is not limited to memory. There are a whole lot of things, from arts to literature, music, innovation, entrepreneurship, that humans can do and which they must do to save our planet from its myriad crises. Are we equipping our students for this task?
Our education system is outdated, totally out of sync with the current political, social, cultural, scientific, and environmental conditions in which our children are living. Our education system is not focusing on encouraging critical thinking. It is creating a crowd of rote learners who hold the belief that good grades are the only purpose of life. The way our education system is structured, self-doubt seeps into our consciousness and corrodes our ability to think independently and critically.
In this flawed education system teachers are no experts in imparting wisdom to students. An average classroom resembles a jail where no one except the teacher does as he wants. The students can’t even sigh freely. Asking a searching question is prohibited and one who raises a different query is labelled as a nuisance. Novelty and criticism, the very essence of creativity, are a crime in a classroom. The same concern was expressed by Rabindranath Tagore in his short story, “Tota Kahani”, about a free-spirited parrot who only knew how to hop, skip, fly and sing all day. A king ordered that the bird be civilised, so it was put in a golden cage, and so much instruction was forced down its throat that it soon forgot to sing, hop, and then could not even squawk. When it tried to fly, its wings were clipped. Soon the parrot died with nothing to say or sing.
This is exactly the case with our education system where students are learned to cram rather than search for the truth and for the nature of truth. What would have happened if some of the pioneers of human history had allowed the strains of modern education to get to them? Would the Wright Brothers have invented the first aeroplane? Would Alexander Fleming have dared to invent penicillin? Would Graham Bell have caused the revolution of communication that he did? I think not. Our education system is creating robots who just memorise and access information. Our society as a whole is suffering because of it.
The fundamental flaw in this education system is that it creates students with mugging minds instead of questioning minds. It is pertinent to mention here that last night I had a conversation with my cousin, a 10th standard student of Government High school Akhal Kulgam, in which she said that their English teacher, Iqbal sir, had been transferred and there was nobody yet to replace him. I was disheartened to hear that the task was assigned to their Urdu teacher. One can easily predict what kind of skill and knowledge their Urdu sir will impart while teaching English. The education department itself has violated the guidelines of the transfer policy in which it is mentioned that, “Transfer of all the educational personnel shall be made at the beginning or at the end of academic session. No academic mid-session transfer shall be made”. It is high time that the education department should avoid these untimely transfers in order to save the bright future of students.
Moreover, we have to modernise our syllabus. Schools should not be a place to cram knowledge but a place where they acquire knowledge of how to deal with life situations. We should do away with the archaic exam system and students should be assessed by the skill-set they develop and their ability to create, construct, cooperate and find solutions. An evaluation of a student must consider grasp of concrete problems and creativity rather than marks and grades. The present dogmatic approach must be dispensed with and a new open education system which imparts knowledge, assists in creativity and makes students feel relaxed and elated should be introduced. I am just a student, not an educational expert. The thoughts I have put together here are only based on my experience.
—The writer is a postgraduate student of Political Science. [email protected]