Welcome to the most of the educational institutions of today: they are the new breed of the institutions which have blossomed into an industry of catering to the educational needs of the middle class , rich upper middle class and of course the elite. The word industry might sound crude or even vulgar to few who would think that schools are the alma mater of the students and are the sacred grounds ; but , it is the bitter truth and the soon we swallow it the better. Schools, colleges & universities all have become industries which produce students packaged in fancy gift wraps, with a colorful ribbon like a cherry on icing, and then dished out to the unsuspecting, at times suspecting, parents who only want the end product: the child with marks. Hence, the manufacturing of the students is a profitable business and combine it, with fancy slogans, foreign programs and of course a real learning sprinkled here and there and it is the recipe of opening an educational institution in Pakistan; if you know your business and you have done your research, have the knowhow of running a business and have partners who are the so called educationists of the past two decades and are a big name in the present one.
So, how did education, if we should call it education, reach to this level; it is a question worth probing into. Many factors are responsible for it and I dare to identify a few of the leading ones. I do not wish to offend anyone in doing so, or point a finger at any institution; it is just a social commentary.
• Rise of the materialistic and the technologic world ; A tale of two generations:
I remember my parents were into marks, asking me about my progress and they used to attend parent teacher meetings; so were the parents of my class fellows and my friends too. But these never were into marks only; they always expected teachers and schools to give a true picture of their children’s capabilities and performance. They never expected a false report card landing into their laps; hence sending kids to schools was one part of their duty. They never neglected the other part of their parents’ duty: spending time with their kids, sitting with them for homework, setting a routine for work. It was the children’s job to study and parents to supervise at home. I remember my mother was also unable to help me with my Math and Science work at home in secondary school , but she was always there and I knew it very well that I could not go out to play at 6 until I had done my work and she had signed the diary and listened to my tests. Of course, Fathers were busy then too in their jobs, but the parents always knew what was happening with their kids. They used to see my notebooks regularly and I was always asked to work on my weakness over the weekend. Gradually, such type of parents started becoming mommies and daddies with the rise in the social setup of our middle class and upper middle class. The race for more money, foreign trips, branded clothes, expensive furniture gave a rise to a culture where parents only became a source of money for the children. The rise in technology further gave rise to a materialistic approach where the kids learned the application of the gadgets in their mothers’ wombs, but the parents failed to learn the things which they so proudly bought for their young progenies. The parents are happy that their kids have the latest laptops, gadgets, mobiles, X box and it will make their kids intelligent and smart just by using it. Most of the children did become smart, but smart in what way: in dodging their parents, in becoming ease loving and taking their parents for a ride. A major part of this generation which is growing up unsupervised in their homes with the entire world at the touch of their fingertips gave a rise to a new breed of education; the new face of the private sector.
• The tuition culture : replacement of real parents:
Well, when I was a student, there were hardly a few students in the schools who went for tuitions. Those who needed support at school or at home were identified and were given realistic help. Just for doing the homework or babysitting for a few hours, parents very seldom used to send their kids for tuitions to aunties as they were called. Even at O levels, the children used to get summer classes in schools and it used to be enough to get good grades. When the parents stopped paying attention to their off springs, and they started thinking that by spending money on tuitions is enough and they have done their job, the real problem started. The tuition centers and the schools day care for even one month old babies mushroomed and the whole scenario changed for our education sector. Well the tuitions centers for O levels and a levels is another story altogether ; I am talking about summer camps for toddlers and evening schools and after school centers for working moms which have replaced what parents used to do. What kind of students they will give to the society and what kind of rosy picture they give to parents we all know very well.
• The new face of private institutions to meet the new generation of parents ‘demands
Obviously, this new emerging culture in Pakistan needed schools that were also selling education to the precious clients and catering to the need of the materialistic world. How could schools not change to meet the rising demands and not sniff what was to become the most profitable business in Pakistan. Now parents send kids to schools, pay a hefty amount of fees and demand their kids get good grades in the name of education. This changed the system completely. Let us delve deep into the changes that I feel have taken place over the years:
Now parents demand marks, students want marks, teachers give marks and schools sell marks.
The policy of making everything easy in the name of education has emerged. You make things too easy for the students and just keep on promoting the kids to please the parents who do not have time to check their kids ‘abilities but only see the end result : a result card which gives them the certificates of their money well spent.
Along with a new breed of parents, schools and students, of course, a new breed of teachers have emerged too, who are apt at finding the easy way out of things, not to bother about notebook checking, and why should they, when parents and higher ups only want marks and all students passing, only grading papers as per the new requirements. These teacher do not teach or make students learn anything concrete; but yes they know the necessary art of superficial coverage and pleasing all concerned; the clients and the employers. Of course, that is the right way in today’s world. All that glitter is gold indeed.
To conclude, the real sad truth is that Pakistan is in dire need of a revolutionary change in education and culture where all need to sit and think, and bring a change together before it gets too late. The damage done over the past decade is I hope not still irreversible.
The change should come from the real educationists who are still a part of the old leading institutions and have tasted real education. They must all sit together, join hands and bring the schools back to their old glory. If the real teachers, educationists are brave enough to change the thinking of the young generation under their care by providing students with real education and its value, the next generation of parents will not be mommies and daddies and the vicious cycle will ultimately end. The real change will come but we all , who actually care , need to work hard for it .
Beaconhouse School System