Pakistan’s daily disasters and constant crises mean that long-term issues, education prominent among them, get little attention from our harried leadership. When education is addressed, the focus is almost entirely on increasing access, enrolment and literacy, and if we’re lucky, on girls’ schooling. Getting children to go to school, and to stay there, is obviously critical. Fortunately, we appear to be on a positive trajectory in terms of this goal, especially in Punjab.
But that goal overlooks the glaring education emergency within our schools. The fact is that our schools are failing miserably in educating the children who make it to them. Each day is an opportunity lost for each uniform-clad, schoolbag-burdened child who heads to school in the morning. These children attend school, but are not getting an education. Their inquisitive spirit is crushed, their thinking ability never developed. They are never taught that there are, at least, two sides to every story, and every history. They never learn to question and to analyse, much less to imagine and to create.
Let me be clear here — I am not talking about the schools which cater to our elite, but about those that reach our masses. In these schools, textbooks following the official curriculum, with their poor quality, and questionable and biased content, reign supreme. The teachers literally teach one page of the textbook per lecture, asking students to memorise the content, with barely any explanation and no additional material taught.