The Hypocrisy Must Come to an End: Education in Pakistan

While it is safe to say that the human race itself is not immune to hypocrisy in one form or another, but of course,  some lines must be drawn to maintain enough sanity which could prove that we are intelligent beings.

This is why I will never go too far in criticizing any particular people’s extent of hypocrisy. But I would take the audacity to briefly comment on certain hypocritical behavior of the society in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, which can adversely affect the lives of the people.

Of course, no one minds the fact that Thomas Jefferson used to dislike comedy as a genre, while having Don Quixote as one of his favorite books, quoting the Millennium issue of the TIME magazine, but you would surely object to contradictions which become a hurdle to justice and to conduct with the public instead of this innocuous personal habit. In fact, contradictions occur naturally at times, but sometimes they are deliberate, and that is when they are the most malignant.

A noticeable, but rarely noted act of hypocrisy prevalent in Pakistan, as I have discussed with a couple of friends, and it is thanks to them that I am writing these lines I must say, is the occurrence of three parallel education systems in Pakistan. These systems are the English language medium based on the Cambridge system or even if we include the matriculation system in it, the Urdu language medium and the Madrassah or Traditional Islamic schooling system.

First of all, let it be clear that none of these systems are inappropriate for any reasons and that all of them hold an equal value. But the reason why they can complicate the lives of the students is that they find it hard to switch from one system or medium of education to the other, and unfortunately, when students reach the level of higher education, then they are forced to make the ultimate shift to the English language medium of study.

This may sound easy to some, but it is not to millions of children in Pakistan who study in the Urdu language medium and the Madrassah system. Since those studying in the Madrassah system are doing so due to the stubbornness of their parents, so there is not much use into going into that dimension of this discussion. However, as for the Urdu language medium education, the irony is that it is offered by a great majority of government schools, if not almost all of them.

There is nothing wrong with studying in the Urdu language medium. It is the national language, and probably that is the reason why it has been used in government schools for years, which are the only affordable option for a great majority of masses. A seemingly noble step, but having no connection with the ground realities. From the very inception of the state, English language has been the prerequisite of most of the higher education and employment opportunities.

Even if you want to join government service, and want to take the civil service examination, your proficiency over English is mandatory for you to pass it and to even be considered for selection. This demand of the government’s recruiting institution FPSC and its provincial equivalents seem to be quite unreasonable given the education language medium provided by the government itself in its schools.

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but from the way the education systems have been set up in Pakistan, it seems that it is a deliberate effort to prevent a large segment of population from exploiting more educational and professional opportunities. Although higher education is expensive all over the world, except for in some liberal countries, but consider that most of the masses will be handicapped for an altogether different reason.

This point could be proven wrong through a number of instances in which students from the Urdu language medium schooling have been able to settle well in the English language medium of study and have excelled in jobs in both government and private sectors. I accept that before any one points it out. But to be honest, those are exceptional individual cases and no one really expects  all the students to accomplish that.

But that is not the point anyway. The point to consider is the difficulty that millions of students face in Pakistan to settle to different language media and education systems. I personally know of students who had studied in the Urdu language medium schools and had to learn English from scratch when they reached college. May not happen in the large cities, but it does happen to the students living in the rural areas. Believe me, it is not easy to do so.

The point which appeals to the common sense is that when they ultimately have to make a shift towards English, given our socioeconomic setup, then why not introduce English as a compulsory subject from the very start, and hire quality teachers for teaching them in government schools. I know it is easier said than done, but at least we can make a start. We just need determination, resolution and a sincere intention to do so, more than money and manpower.

We have all the resources we need. And while the bureaucracy, politicians and feudals, who have an obscurantist record anyway, are largely responsible for this mess (along with the people themselves), but they could take the masses out of it if they sincerely wanted to. Provide quality education with an equal opportunity to all and nothing can prevent a nation from progressing. But what to do when some parts of the population are not having access to even a basic education.

Furthermore, as a matter of principle, there should be unity of education systems in the country, with every student having the same opportunity and the same access to an indiscriminating and single education system, meant for every citizen of Pakistan. And that should be made possible practically, not just in word.

The Madrassah education should carry on as they will, since they always will operate as a separate entity due to the religious element, and maybe it’s a good thing. But they should also be required to strictly adhere to certain requirements which the government education authorities should instruct them to follow, which could help the students to remain in touch with all the fields of life.

The fact that the government does not have enough funds to run a well-organized education system, while offering decent wages for teachers and furnishing the school with quality equipment is immaterial here. They could have at least made their efforts in the right direction in the first place. But it is never too late to start, and yes, we have all the resources we need. Better start working instead of whining.

And besides, we, as a nation, have a lot of funds for defense and for a lot of unnecessary expenses, such as those incurred ever passing hour in the Prime Minister House, the President House and for the expenses at the disposal of the minsters, but we do not have a paisa to spare for providing the masses with quality education. What a shame!

America, IMF or even Allah would not help us if we don’t help ourselves.