Educational reforms are the need of the hour

"A teacher should be an expert in his/her field. A person should not be allowed to become a teacher just to fill in an unemployment gap"

Picture source - Wikipedia Commons

There have been a lot of talks recently related to curriculum changes and the increased focus on faculty training in the educational sector of Pakistan. Amidst these discussions, I had a question:

Why is there minimal to zero involvement of students in drafting policies related to education, especially when students bear the direct impact of these policies both in present and the future?

As a graduating student who has gained all his education in the Pakistani education system, here are my two cents on key changes that I would like in our curriculum/education policy.

We should focus on including tech-based courses such as coding, blockchain, and data analysis in the curriculum for students at an early age.

Research has shown that coding helps kids improve their mathematics, creativity, crisis management, writing skills, and problem-solving skills. These skills add value to their personal lives and when they enter the workforce. According to MIT, the best age for kids to start learning coding languages such as Scratch Jr is from the age of 5 to 7. The future belongs to technology and the one thing I still struggle with despite being a Gen-Z individual is learning the use of advanced technology. Early education can help many upcoming young students in avoiding this problem. I often imagine the wonders that a child aged 15 can achieve if he/she has been taught to create solutions to problems using technology from the age of 8-10 years.

Introducing reforms aimed at the teaching faculty is crucial. This is one of the most important factors awaiting consideration from our government officials. Teaching is perhaps the most important profession, especially in a country like Pakistan. Teachers hold the key to the future of our coming generation. Yet, the job is not given the necessary importance and is resulting in the loss of countless talented individuals, every day. This is why introducing reforms targeting the teaching faculty of schools, colleges and universities is of utmost importance and should be the first step to introducing educational reforms.

Teaching is an art and every art is incomplete without passion and patience. Sadly, most teachers in our educational system lack both.

Today, teaching is considered a noble profession, not because it enables us to directly impact the country’s future but because of the relatively easier career opportunities this profession provides. We need to change this, if we have to create future leaders and critical thinkers. We need to raise the standards of our teachers.

The lack of passion can also be linked to the reason I provided above. However, another reason can be the overload of work teachers have to bear. Teaching too many students can lead to lack of proper attention being given to any student and that is what we should avoid.

Teachers are a child’s first friend and they directly impact a child’s perspective of education and life.

This is why teachers need to be provided with the necessary training before they start interacting with children, especially in the field of empathy and emotional intelligence.

Teaching children is a task that needs to be dealt with patience, care, and love. Teachers should be looked at as mentors, guides, and the light of our path. The followers are as good as their leader. Similarly, a student is as good as his/her teacher.

A teacher should be an expert in his/her field. A person should not be allowed to become a teacher just to fill in an unemployment gap. We have continued doing that since the start of our education system and today, we are reaping the fruits of our actions. Ensuring the quality of education is the key to unlocking a bright future for our upcoming student community.

How can we introduce these reforms?

There is a need to introduce a strict screening process when hiring for teaching job opportunities. This can involve an examination test and interview process when hiring the candidate. The grading structure can be similar to that of the CSS exam.

Teaching should be considered more important than bureaucracy. This is because teachers build a country’s future and the impact of their actions will be felt for decades to come. Good teachers raise good bureaucrats.

Strict monitoring and evaluation of a teacher’s performance should be ensured once they are a part of the educational system. Frequent training of teachers related to the new practices being introduced in their field of teaching and in domains such as emotional intelligence, empathy, and communication skills with children is the key to unlocking a better faculty structure in the educational system of Pakistan.

I also understand the lack of human resources needed to introduce this reform aimed at the teaching faculty. Perhaps this is where e-learning platforms can be leveraged where one teacher can have access to students all over Pakistan.

The solution is available; all we need is to take the initiative.

Encouraging student-led societies and communities is of paramount importance. As students, we are pushed to be a part of the crowd. We are taught to blend in, not stand out. Ban on student unions is a very strong example. Students, in general, are not being encouraged to look and think outside of their books and this is stopping students from standing out. How can students stand out? By developing extracurricular skills. This is only possible if the government urges educational institutions to empower student-led societies and communities.

Student-led societies have mostly been reduced to fancy student communities without any higher sense of purpose. This is mainly because of the lack of encouragement and empowerment by the administration.

If given the freedom to operate, student-led societies can unlock the potential of countless students by teaching them valuable life skills. These skills are valuable and carve the best version of ourselves.

Unfortunately, we are so focused on the grades of our students that we pay attention to the grade scored, not the knowledge gained.

Providing a wide range of subjects to choose from early on is vital. Another area that needs reforms is the availability of subjects. For decades, we have had the same subject combinations. We start and end our educational careers on a few subject choices whether it’s engineering, medicine, or business. The question that arises is, are these the only subject choices we are left with? Are there no other subjects worthy to teach?

Subjects rich with knowledge should be offered as a choice to every student. These subjects should include Islamic History, world history, politics, economics, international relations, public policy and communication skills, etc.

These subjects are necessary as they help in developing an informed mind and also help students learn about their roots and their culture.

We are not Pakistani students anymore. We are global students and we need to approach our education as such.

For a minute, just take a break from this article and think of the endless possibilities for a Pakistani student if he/she has been equipped with the knowledge being offered through the courses mentioned above. We are so focused on bagging good jobs that we forget to focus on learning more, improving ourselves, and eventually bagging opportunities much more valuable than we are chasing right now.

Our government is too disconnected from the student community. A student-inclusive approach is key to developing a well-informed student body. I see a Pakistan where government collaborates with teaching institutions to support the student community of Pakistan. This can be done in several ways. There is a need to organise seminars and workshops that contribute to skill development in the student body.

Government officials should make frequent appearances in institutions and interact with the student community. This will unlock mentorship opportunities for students and will lead to a better understanding of government matters in the youth. Educated youth is the key to a better future for Pakistan and all levels of government must contribute to creating a well-informed youth.

Government officials should act as role models for the young, talented individuals of Pakistan. Opportunities to volunteer with the government should be made common. Every student wants to contribute to the development of his/her country and should be allowed to do so.

If executed properly, the relationship between the administration and the student body can lead to several mutually beneficial opportunities for students and the government.

The education system of Pakistan needs strict reforms, especially in the faculty recruitment and training area. I am a strong advocate of teaching being accepted as the most important profession in the country. It should be treated as such and the government should focus tirelessly on improving the education sector of Pakistan.