The tragicomedy of ‘sending every child to school’

The political parties, social work organizations and our society in general, all have consensus over the need of sending every child to school – they all discuss the implementation of education emergency in the country.

However, it is observed that education emergency has never been an emergency after all. Sending every child to school sounds a fair slogan though, it has never been deliberated upon in complete earnest. And why should every child be in school anyway? Do you think this little ‘gesture’ is the key for peace and prosperity?

If the conclusion is on the basis of education being the key to positive outcomes, we must differentiate between ‘sending kids to school’ and ‘educating children’. Mistaking one for the other, not only creates confusion; it keeps us from addressing the real issue. When we mention education emergency, we mistake it for the urge of sending children to school and deep down we all know that there’s no emergency to send every child to the existing schools of our country. These schools are not capable of making any difference in the society or nation.

When we discuss the poor education standards of our schools, it’s assumed that either, government schools are being criticized for their incompetence and corruption, or small and cheap private schools are being targeted for their business oriented attitudes.

Despite being critiques of discipline management, organizational skills and continuously bulging fee bills of expensive private schools, the idea that a poor quality of education is being delivered at these prestigious institutions, seldom crosses parents’ minds.

Ironically, extra help in form of private tuitions and coaching centers is more common in students of these schools. Poor quality education cannot be compensated by extra coaching; it may help in getting better grades in exams, but inculcating superior attributes of education has never been the mission statement of coaching centers.

What exactly is good quality Education? One of the ‘U.S. leading academic minds’, Elliot Eisner said, “As long as schools treat test scores as the major proxies for student achievement and educational quality, we will have a hard time refocusing our attention on what really matters in education”.

While living in digital technology era, what has been concluded so far about quality education includes elements like 21st century skills. These aren’t only required for current jobs, but are needed for the jobs that haven’t yet been created and are predicted to be taken by 65% of freshly graduates in next 15 years.

In his book, Creating Cultures of Thinking; Ron Ritchhart describes the profile of a 21st century learner, as “… an engaged and active thinker able to communicate, innovate, collaborate, and problem-solve” He concludes: “What we see as most important to develop is not a discrete collection of knowledge but rather a set of broad characteristics that motivate learning and lead to the generation of useable knowledge.”

Our schools’ sole purpose of education; distribution and consumption of published knowledge, tells a different tale.

Pakistani schools have also floundered on the STEM Education. Rhetorically, consuming the content, mentioned in the syllabi of STEM, i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is not desired. Being an underdeveloped country, the need for research; deliberation and innovation, in Pakistan is perceptible.

Moreover, the most important component of education; to develop the love of learning, is not only absent, it is rather discouraged in our schools. This results in the incapability of developing a lifelong learning habit, which is the key to success in future. Sadly, this is only one aspect of the damage; learning for materialistic reasons alone (marks, grades, jobs and powerful positions in society, all inclusive but not limited to) is well promoted by the schools as well as our society in general. The damage done in various forms, including degradation of human values; phenomenal increase in self-centeredness and corruption of minds and souls has been intentionally overlooked.

With the schools in Pakistan, which are either incapable or simply disinterested (or both) in terms of true learning aspirations, the wish for ‘sending every child to school’ is similar to the dialogue of a tragicomedy. Unless, there is a deliberate plan to produce so called educated but unskilled and jobless youth, who are mentally more equipped to rebel against the government (or society) for their rights (or their ideologies), the administration of this education is futile.

While discussing the implementation of Education Emergency in Pakistan, our leaders and educationist must consider the change in both, public and private schools, an imperative. The shift in paradigm of education standards is the key to conceive a true emergency situation. A situation that demands deliberate consideration of Pakistani educational needs: Inculcation of 21st Century Skills; Deeper Learning in STEM Education and Character Building Pedagogy; only that will bring both, prosperity and peace for the region.

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