What should we teach our children in school/s?

  • Fundamental to any to any country's progress is its education system. Pakistan has, from what I can gather, five different types of schools. Government schools, semi-Government schools, private schools, school controlled by religious organisations and last but not the least school run by the military. Please feel to add any other type that I may have missed.

    My question is about both types of schools and what is taught in these schools. My personal view is that the most important aspects in any school system are what is taught and how its taught.

    Do you think the current systems works well? Does it need tweaking? Or do we need to start from scratch again?

    The children of Pakistan deserve a system or systems that empower them and bring out the best in them. How do we make it happen? Is there hope for our children?

  • A lot can be said about what should we teach. But there is something that we definitely should not teach.

    Our nation has got into a particular type mindset where we forcefully suppress the idea of children asking questions. We do not like when a child gets into a direct conversation with a teacher. Some how our teachers get angry or even hysterical when children gets into counter questioning.

    We like to see teachers being treated like gods by students and this kind of training led to an inferior performance and lack of creativity in Pakistanis students later in their life in almost every field.

  • Rohail Taqi

    Thank you for your very useful and insightful comments;

    Do you think teachers in Pakistan fear questions because they don't know the answers or is there a different reason?

    My view is the best thing a teacher can teach his students is to ask good questions. The best form of teaching involves questioning. Proper title for this is perhaps Socratic reasoning.

    You last paragraph is hugely disheartening but not far from the truth. Without critical thinking we produce second rate followers and no leaders.

  • Well its a little bit of both. Since majority of teachers are not trained to handle the psychology of a kid or a teenager and also they seriously lack the knowledge of the subject therefore we may conclude that they avoid questioning.

    Things like having a good library, debate and sports competitions between different schools, having clubs would certainly help but I am afraid this would not be happening any time in near future.

    Also we need to change the way we see weaker people. For example house maids (masian) chukidars, malis etc. are our employees not slaves or servants, just like somebody employed us. This social behavior of mistreating the weaker propagate in our schools, such that the children are considered mostly worthless unable to contribute except for the tuition their parents pay.

  • from pre k to 5th grad...

    1: how to be a good human...

    2: Teach them to love their mohala, city, soba and country

    3: Teach them how to make logic

    4: Teach them 2-3 languages

    5: Teach them Math science and history

  • Rohail Taqi

    I could not agree more with your comments in the last paragraph. I would just add that not many seem to think that employing a little boy or a little girl as a servant (paying them little or nothing) is odd and unacceptable. Children belong to schools and there are no ifs or buts about it. The strange fact is that many of the people who exploit child labour can actually be quite educated themselves and often have their own children in full time education. So the mind boggles.

    Class size matters in addition to the lack of teacher knowledge. In a class of 60, you couldn't answer questions even if you knew the answers. Poor teaching - Poor learning - poor teaching. It is a vicious cycle.

    Do you think investment of a lot more money on our education systems, schools and teachers might help? Or are we opening the flood gates of more corruption?

    I feel a huge sense of frustration that our children; those that go to Government schools, are hugely let down by the teachers that are meant to inspire them. The people who send their children to these school seem to think that it is fated this way; and this I find outrageous. Why this helplessness?

    The last point I would like to make is; learning by rote is the poison that we have all had to drink. Everyone criticises it but no one does anything about it. Odd, I say.

  • expakistani;

    I would like to add teaching by doing to your list.

    I once asked a teacher how she teaches environmental cleanliness to her students, she replied, 'we tell them about it.'

    To which I simply said, all along the periphery of your school their is filth piled up, why don't you take them out to show it and ask the students their ideas about cleaning it up and then doing it.

    Critical thinking is very important in addition to logic.

    And yes history; there lies the big problem. Have you seen a history book from primary or early secondary schools recently? It looks like a 100 monkeys with typewriters would have done a better job. History teaching is about providing sources to the students so that can make up their own mind. Do you think our 'leaders' would want that?

  • We should teach and train them to become confident, intelligent and at secondary level provide them with some skill, such as basic farming, or ironsmith or crafts etc.

    They dont necessarily need to gain knowledge in the basic education, instead as i said, intelligence and confidence are the most important qualities they should gain.

  • Need to revamp the entire educational system


    "In the U.S. and Europe, the schools were started by the church. Later as forces of capitalism overtook them, they molded them into their image. Moral training was a casualty of that takeover. But capitalism and their political economy did need people trained to work under these systems. So citizenship training was retained as an important, though diminishing, component of the curriculum--- a religion-free subset of the moral training it displaced. Whatever civility we see here is largely a result of that leftover component. The imported versions in the Muslim countries, though, had even that component filtered out. And the results are visible.

    We can solve our problem once we realize our mistakes. The first purpose of our education system must be to produce qualified citizens and leaders for the Islamic society. Tarbiya, real Islamic moral training, must be an integral part of it. This must be the soul of our education, not a ceremonial husk. All plans for improving our education will be totally useless unless they are based on a full understanding of this key fact. This requires revamping our curricula, rewriting our textbooks, retraining our teachers, and realizing that we must do all this ourselves. We do have a rich history of doing it. Are we finally willing to turn to our own in-house treasures to redo education the way it should always have been?"

  • @StingingNettle.......thank you for starting such a valuable and worthy thread, amid all gloom and doom....your viewpoint that fundamental to any country's progress is education system makes lots of sense. You correctly pointed out that the various education systems that exist in Pakistan are also causing confusion among students and parents alike---for majority doesn't know which system would be good for its children......

    Then there is the need of educating teachers themselves who are supposedly imparting knowledge to students...First we must put a system in place where we could train our teachers on modern techniques, tools and methods that lead to (as you put it) "Critical Thinking"...Needless to say without first training our teachers we have little hope of success...

    I must say I was most impressed by ROHAIL TAQI's responses as he put his finger on the right button where the core of problem lies...SUPPRESSING STUDENTS NOT TO ASK QUESTIONS FROM TEACHERS BUT LISTEN TO THEM AND THEN FOLLOW WHATEVER BEING PASSED ON..something on those lines...we have to be wise enough to differentiate between INSOLENT and INQUISITIVE mind and must encourage students to ask questions even if those questions embark upon a pinch of insolence....wondering minds should not be suppressed but made expressive...

    In my humble view unless we establish an education system wherein the mighty and powerful elite of our country feels comfortable sending its children, there is little hope that our education will ever take off, let alone progress...

    Last but not the least, I have read Abdul Rahman's post with due attention and must confess that what he has written holds water....he is basically suggesting uprooting of an entire system and putting in a totally new one that subscribes to our moral/cultural/religious/social values and sentiments.....Abdul Rahman correctly pointed out that we have a rich vein of history and culture, and are gifted enough to establish and run a homegrown indigenous education system that not only imparts knowledge to students how to make their careers but also instills human values, builds character and creates leaders for the Islamic society....

    I know Abdul Rahman's assertion will raise many eyebrows but how can we reject an idea which had not been attempted?

    I am all for the education system that produces good citizens, god fearing humans, leaders and thinkers.....and not the education system that only produces fodder for rich men's corporations!!!

  • Thank you Abdul Rehman and SultanAliKhan for your meaningful and thought-provoking comments;

    Abdul Rehman;

    "We can solve our problem once we realize our mistakes"

    This is a hugely important and valuable insight. We cannot afford to continue stumbling on the same stone over and over again. Sadly most people I come across seem be quite aware about the problems their children face in their schooling but claim to be unable to do anything about it. So the generation we expect to learn from their mistakes is not trained to do so or unwilling to do so.

    You also comment;

    "The first purpose of our education system must be to produce qualified citizens and leaders for the Islamic society."

    I would only edit 'for the Islamic society' to just "society." Religious education does not need to be excluded from the curriculum but it has to be education about other religions too. There is no such thing as 'Islamic' society, there are a hundred hues of Islam and there lies the problem. The failure of the current model is evident and you and I agree on that, it's the fix that must involve an inclusive approach.

    In the golden age of muslims when they lead the world in mathematics, astronomy, medicine and surgery and navigation, what was noteworthy was that they believe acquisition of 'ilm' was their 'fard'. Everyone was welcomed to teach and learn from each other irrespective of what religion they belonged to. I agree with you, we must do it ourselves and mostly using indigenous resources but what is important is that we learn from current best practices anywhere in the world. This what the Japanese did in the late nineteenth century and the Isrealis in the mid twentieth century.

    Whatever curriculum we adopt it must be inclusive and must encourage our young students to ask genuine questions; not rhetorical ones which is the norm at the moment. Questions that will take us out of our comfort zone.


    You are right, Rohail Taqi has hit the nail on the head.

    I think our teachers are pretty insecure and to them most questions are 'insolent' as you put it. I am forever amazed by the gift of wonderful questioning young people have. Teachers are perhaps too pre-occupied like rest of Pakistan, with 'azaab e zees't' eg load shedding, runaway inflation, lawlessness, the 'insolence of office', and corruption that they can be forgiven for not pondering too deeply when they are asked insightful questions during lessons.

    As most people have said, it is about re-training or training teachers but we must also understand it is also about mindset. A person that begins by believing they are right will only pay attention to evidence to confirm this and will ignore a wealth of evidence pointing in another direction.

    To me your following comment is hugely defining and perhaps the first step towards a solution;

    "In my humble view unless we establish an education system wherein the mighty and powerful elite of our country feels comfortable sending its children, there is little hope that our education will ever take off, let alone progress..."

    The million dollar question is; how do we do this? One way to achieve this is to have a National Curriculum so that everyone has to dip in the same pond but their methods can be different. The National Curriculum would prove to be the holy Grail of Pakistan education. An inclusive, enlightened curriculum that will be truly eclectic.

  • In the generation of our parents, the most learned people joined the profession of teaching. In our generation, not the most competent but still competent people joined the profession of teaching. In this generation, mostly the people who find jobs nowhere else, they join the profession of teaching reluctantly.

  • @stingingnettle

    In a free society we cannot stop anyone from running private schools. Personally I don't mind that either, but what is essential is that they follow the same minimum standard of curriculum. Then people can make all the different types of schools they want - provided they obey the law, f.ex. no teaching of hatred etc.

    "Do you think the current systems works well?"

    No, it doesn't work well - in spite of we had the same curriculum. We need to get away from the ratta system and implement something between the system in Scandinavian schools and the ratta system. It is essential to have a good a good memory just like it is essential to have a good understanding of what is studied, so a mixture of both would be good!

    Personally I also favor translation of as many books from English to Urdu as possible - not because people should not learn English, but because students will be better to understand in their own language.

  • Hussain Farooqui

    Very sadly, you are probably right.

    I remember watching a programme on PTV many years ago about career counselling. The resident expert was trying to find a suitable career for a young adult. After going through a string of suggestions for a career, which all proved inappropriate (because of inadequate qualification and right qualities); in the end the expert triumphantly said,'Well in that case, why don't you become a teacher?'

    My TV nearly had a close encounter of a terminal kind.

  • @HF

    Over a longer period of time I see the same development for our religious people.

  • This is what would be the curriculum like in a Stalinist future:

    • Imran Khan is Pious

    • Imran Khan is righteous

    • Imran Khan is our beloved leader

    • Imran Khan is clean and incorruptible leader

  • Scandinavian; thanks for your useful comments

    You write;

    "Personally I also favor translation of as many books from English to Urdu as possible - not because people should not learn English, but because students will be better to understand in their own language."

    The language that I seem to hear on the streets and in the media cannot be called English or Urdu. The Pakistani obsession mixing English with our Urdu is both a sign of insecurity and something gone tragically wrong with our education. Speak Urdu or English, to borrow words from Hasan Nisar (out of context),'Jo bhee hoe, khalis hoe'. I am up for translating texts into Urdu, I think it is a good idea, my worry is that will we be able to overcome our inferiority complex viz a viz our national language?

    The 'ratta' system aka the regurgitation system is a hindrance to critical thinking. We can't produce a gennie from a lamp, we need look seriously who writes exam papers and what kind of questions make it on to them. To achieve the right mix of memory and analysis will require some serious knocking of expert heads. I believe it can be done where there is a will.

  • bsobaid; I thank you for your comments.

    Would you not say that intelligence and confidence should be aided by modern techniques and methods?

    I don't think Pakistan needs to more people in "farming, or ironsmith or crafts" but fewer people who are more efficient and productive. If you think of developed countries, only 5% farmers are over producing (eg UK, Germany and USA) as a result of deploying modern methods and machines. Similarly industrial production in China provides for most of our planet. It's not about only carrying on with basic skills, it's about stretching yourself and learning new and sophisticated methods. We should have more faith in our young people especially rural ones; in their ability to learn and apply the complex techniques with 'intelligence and confidence.'

  • In the future we also need to ensure that we don't lack behind in any subject. We need to compare our students - on all levels - with other students all over the world.

    Btw: In the present situation it doesn't make sense to compare our students with other nations with focus on education. When there is no focus on education this will be waste of money of we did. First we need to raise the budget significantly - in fact declare emergency on education as proposed by PTI, then after a while we can start comparing our students with other students from around the world.


  • @stingingnettle: Thanks for coming-up with a thought provoking topic for a change!!

    On the topic, What we teach at school starts with what our vision is as a nation. We have so many layers of school systems and they all are leading us in different directions. Curriculum for each school/system is based on their vision of the world. Graduates from each system varies in capabilities. Basically, what we have is a class driven system with an evident purpose of not to provide level playing field for all.