Urgent Need For A New System Of Education: Its Shape And Prospects Essay
There are no two opinions about the fact that the existing system of education is shambles. Almost daily the colleges and universities are getting into news, not for research or scholastic achievements, but for strikes, protest processions, gheraos of the Vice-Chancellors and Principals .and other non-academic matters. Hardly any university or college, in any part of the country, has been totally free from this infection. The students are on the war path. They are out to fight battles, for which any excuse is good enough. The main reason for youth’s rebelliousness is that the syllabic and text-books are hopelessly outdated. The students fwd them pointless and irrelevant to the present needs and future requirements. The courses are just time-fillers their only aim is to get the label or the degree (by fair means or foul), which is supposed to be a passport-often a fake one-to some employment. Since the students feel that their books and instruction will not be of any use to them in later life, they treat them most causally, unable to put their heart into class-work. Hot action and excitement attract them. Since the degree and not knowledge is the goal, they go in for shortcuts, like ‘sure shot’ guess papers and mass copying in the examination. Through these questionable means, mediocre scholars score good marks and divisions, and serve as a disincentive to serious study. Examinations were meant for education; now the whole educational process is geared only for examination. This education develops neither character nor discipline, it inculcates neither initiative nor self-reliance in young boys and girls. It is just a formality, a status symbol and a doubtful investment for future gains. Our educationists and concerned authorities have pointed out many times that educational standards had touched such a rock bottom, that anything would be a change for the better.
For the last four and half decades, we have been hearing sermons on the need for a revolutionary change and complete overhaul of the educational system We are told that system fathered by Macaulay for colonial Pak-o-Hind is absolutely out of tune for the present-day needs of Pakistan. But then no one had the inventiveness and originality to give us the shape of a new education that was expected to replace the old system. And, though, everyone advocated radical change, yet the moment any real change was proposed, all the innate conservatism of the educational community came to the defense of the system, of which they themselves were such ‘worthy’ products. Even the Prime Minister said that there was nothing hopelessly wrong, but much good in the preset system. Numerous educational committees and conferences went into all,these questions and thought, their duty ended with the presentation of voluminous reports, which gathered cobwebs and which few read and the country was none the wiser for them. So we talked revolution and practiced conservatism. Since. the situation is desperate, something has to be done immediately and the government should embark on the implementation of the new scheme. Three chief features call for attention: (i) Schooling should last 12 year (10+2 scheme) and that should be the terminus for most students. The stress should be on vocational training and fitting the pupil to earn his livelihood as soon as he leaves school. (ii) admission to colleges and universities should be severely restricted. Only genuine students interested in academic (non politician-students or the interested mass) should be admitted, and (iii) to break this imbroglio of mass copying and completely outdated syllabuses and courses, autonomous colleges should be created, which will fix their own courses and hold their own examinations and award their own degrees. They would be mini universities .
Take the school reorganization first. The first stage up to the 10th class should impart general education. During the next two years, stress should be on vocational subjects such as agriculture, radio, engineering, carpentry, repair of electrical gadget, dairy-farming and three dozen such topics, out of which the pupil could choose one or more, depending upon his inclination and local talent and market availability. This part will consist of practical work only. This can be idea of Nai Roshni or Basic Education which meant, ‘learning by doing’. So much activity would relieve tensions of adolescence and enable the pupil to be a productive and earning member of society, immediately on leaving the school. The system of examination and evaluation is also to be changed, No student will fail under this system. He will be awarded Grade in each separate subject, for the guidance of his future employer: Grade-A Outstanding, Grade-B Very Good, Grade-C Good, Grade-D Fair and Grade-E Poor. A student may get Grade-E in one subject but Grade-A in his favorite subject or special field. It is not fair the to give a purely literary education in a country where 75% of population is agricultural and 10% industrial. This ‘useless’ education was devised in England for the elite or sons of lords who just wanted to refine their intellect and felt no need of earning their bread in those feudal days. This new education can h~p the poor rural masses or proletariat of Pakistan. The new system will teach our pupils innovations and resourcefulness and they will create self employment, where apparently no opportunities existed. But the irony of fate is our political instability. Political Govt. changes after two or three years. The new government, puts all the plans of the former Govt. to end. As a result we make no progress and are forced to a standstill at the same point where we were 48 years back.
The next main feature is restricting entry to higher education. Huge crowds in colleges and universities must be cut to size, else they turn into a mob and commit anti-social acts like arson and violence under the umbrella of anonymity. Most of these students join only to fail. According to the report at some universities, the failure are 70-75%. That means that 75% of money spent on education just goes down the drain. Expenditure on education for year 1994-95 is envisaged to be Rs. 43 billions. Since the failures are a pure waste, it means that Rs. 34 billions per year are spent merely on keeping these potential failures at the college or university. The cost per student for higher education is very high. The student pays only a small portion of it by way of fees. The rest of money comes from the pockets of the general tax-payer, for the upkeep of these failure-students. Commission on Education proposed the linking of higher admissions with employment opportunities, so that when a student got his degree or diploma, he would also get a letter of appointment as well. But our statistics regarding man-power requirements of the future were very inaccurate. Also the have-nots will demand admissions to higher courses on such tickets as being or belonging to rural or backward areas or being the minister’s voters. These non-admitted students can pass privately through Correspondence Courses of Open University System. But that would again means over-supply of graduates and post-graduates and accentuate educated unemployment. In spite of all this, we have kept an open door policy for admissions to colleges and universities.
The third item relates to autonomous colleges. Well established colleges will receive that status. They could prescribe or change their courses with quick judgement and swiftness (in the universities such a process takes years) and hold their own examinations or devise their own method of continuous evaluation and internal assessment. The danger is that since 50% of education is imparted by non-government colleges and most of them flaunt caste and communal names, they may start giving easier courses and awarding high grades to help their community. They may keep the interest of their community above that of education. The students may have a jolly good time and leave with undeserved degrees and grades. Another danger is that since students have little confidence in the Impartiality of their teachers they oppose the internal assessment, where their own teachers are examiners. It may be recalled that some of the universities introduced internal assessment in the past, and each time it had to be withdrawn in the face of mounting student protests and opposition. It is unrealistic to be blind to proven facts. Students have the impression that under this system marks and grades go according to personal favoritism, money power and for caste and communal considerations. They don’t expect justice, justice should not only be done, but it should also seem to be done. For this reason, this proposal remained a non-starter. Lately, the Govt. has introduced a “Self-Finance Scheme” at University level and professional colleges. But it is not very encouraging and hopeful step for the poor masses, and industrious students. Those who really deserve but cannot afford may miss the chance to study at that level. Instead of this scheme open competition is appropriate and more attractive.