How to reform Pakistan’s education system? An unpopular opinion

There is a common perception in Pakistan that every challenge the country is facing can be resolved if the education system is reformed. In this essay, two Pakistani academics deal with two important questions; has the education system failed us? What type of reforms needed to upgrade the system? An interesting and provocative read for the students of Social Sciences and CSS aspirants.

education system

Prof. Rana Eijaz Ahmad/Farah Adeed |

Education experts and academics in Pakistan have long argued that heinous crimes like the molestation of children and violence against women can be curtailed if radical changes are made to the education system in the country. These arguments usually gather pace when a graphic case captures the attention of the public. Following the motorway gang-rape, an article appeared on this website that stressed the need for reform in the education system to deal with sex-related offenses in Pakistan.

However, is reform for the sake of reform enough to curtail crime? In this essay, two basic presumptions about education reform will be addressed. One of them deals with arguments about contemporary society and outdated education systems, while the other pertains to the steps that could be taken to effectively reform it. The critique offered in the following paragraphs is based upon the inherent contradictions present within the ‘western’ education system that is presently implemented across the globe at large.

The goal of education, as classical scholars sometimes describe, is either to explore the universe and discover the ultimate truth or to ensure peace and stability in order to let everyone enjoy complete freedom. Contemporary education has, for the most part, failed to satisfy this goal. It has, on the contrary, served as a tool in the hands of profit-makers and war-mongers who wage destructive military campaigns against weak states.

One of the basic purposes of education is to create a social setting where every individual gets an opportunity to express his/her potential to the fullest. However, education has, in present times at least, become an instrument in the hands of the capitalists to control human imagination in order to enslave humanity. For many free-thinkers across the world, contemporary education is now nothing more than a well-planned indoctrination to deliberately kill creativity and silence intellectually rebellious youth.

In the field of political science, methodological standardization and theoretical rigidity are reminders of the fact that the current system intends to produce well-trained managers, not powerful individuals with an urge to challenge the base of existing knowledge. Keeping methodological controversies aside, the fundamental question that remains at the heart of our debates remains the same. What purpose does the current education system serve?

It needs to be pointed out that the capitalist system has made education a commercial activity. There are more clients in the schools, colleges, and universities of the developed world as compared to the developing world. In 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan admitted that “the citizens of Pakistan have the right to conduct business relating to the private educational services industry in order to earn money”. The court, however, noted that “such right is not absolute or unfettered” and the state “by virtue of a licensing system” is empowered to regulate it.

Is philosophy the answer to education woes?

Charlotte Blease, a research fellow at the School of Philosophy in University College Dublin, Ireland, wrote an interesting and compelling piece titled Philosophy can teach children what Google can’t for The Guardian in 2017.  Blease attempted to deal with one of the most important questions of our age: How should educationalists prepare young people for civic and professional life in a digital age?

Blease develops a case for philosophy. She says that students should be taught philosophy at schools and colleges in order to make them compassionate citizens of this complex world. Blease argues that philosophy helps kids – and adults – to articulate questions and explore answers not easily drawn out by introspection or Twitter. He also writes that philosophy puts ideas, not egos, front and center. “And it is the very fragility – the unnaturalness – that requires it to be embedded in public spaces,” Blease adds.

Read more: Is education in mother-tongue really essential?

Blease has a point when she demands that countries bring in reforms that train students to answer the questions that are not “Google-able”. However, Blease’s proposal has several problems. Teaching philosophy or abstract ideas without clearly defined social goals is not a good idea for restructuring the education system. Plato’s ‘dear delight’ (philosophy) should not be permitted to the youth for the reason that “youngsters debate the problems of life with no desire for truth but only a blind hunger for victory”.

For education reform to be effective and meaningful, there needs to be a focus on identifying exact challenges and thereafter allocating available resources to fix them. Since no education system in the world teaches corruption, killing, harassment, deprivations, and disrespecting others, why are these evils ever-present in the best institutions around the globe? It is crucial to recognize that the contemporary global education system is a failure as far as the grooming of behaviors is concerned.

The challenge for educators is not the lack of philosophic material in school textbooks, but rather the absence of a defined moral code that has often been an integral part of the education system of successful societies in the past. There is a deep link between moral uprightness and education. Moral excellence, as Aristotle said, is a habit, not an idea. Racist crime in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand clearly showcase the flaws of their education system – supposedly the best in the world.

Moral codes are challenged and violated often, but the emphasis on their implementation should not be decreased merely for the sake of collective growth. There needs to be an objective source for objectively defined primary moral codes. It must not be confused with secondary moral values. For example, Pakistan can rely on Islamic teachings to inculcate fundamental moral values in the minds of young students.

Read more: Handling school education and economy: Lessons from Finland – II

There is a need to develop a curriculum, not a syllabus, to groom thinking processes. The contemporary education system lacks seriousness when it comes to the ethical development of students. Morality is – with a few exceptions – considered a family’s private business. This is where society witnesses the relentless production of submissive managers, not creative writers.

Cut-throat competition is not healthy

Liberacantilism (a mixture of liberalism and mercantilism) promotes monopoly or duopoly that stands in direct contradiction with creativity and freedom. There is an urgent need for a system in which people start cooperating and assisting their fellow-men when in difficulty, instead of increasing problems for others with bureaucratic glitches.

Basic education and development of skills at all levels is important to live a decent life. The idea of cut-throat competition is not healthy. It excites people with cosmetic effects.  Notably, for financial needs, one has to be skillful instead of a certified. Skills matter far more than pieces of papers dubbed as degrees.

Read more: Pakistan education system on knife’s edge

Basic education on reading and writing must be made compulsorily in every country. Higher education has made the world a terrible place. With more scientific and technological sophistication, the world is endangered with wars and a degrading moral order. Therefore, it will be better to have a curriculum that grooms people to share the skills that make surroundings more meaningful.

Dr. Rana Eijaz Ahmad is a Professor of International Relations at the Department of Political Science and Host Director Confucius Institute, University of the Punjab Lahore. He can be reached at ranaeijaz@gmail.com.

Farah Adeed is working as an Assistant Editor with Global Village Space (GVS)The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.


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