By Faizan Afzal
“Fold the Jaye Namaz (prayer mat) or the Satan will pray on it”, Molvi Saab at a mosque in Hub Chowki, Lasbela said to a pupil. “Isn’t that a good thing?” the kid asked. Yes, the kid is right! Making Satan pray is a good thing. During my three months stay in Lasbela district, I came across many students and children who stunned me with their brilliant answers to some strikingly sensitive questions and changed my perception about many hardcore beliefs, which I used to hold since childhood. No wonder, brain of a child is the purest form of human intelligence, unpolluted and innocent.
We all, at one point of time, were also uncontaminated with the believes, theories and notions coming down the generations, but our schools, colleges, madrassas and universities drained away our innate ability to critically analyze things, prosper our thoughts as per our mental filters and having creative out of the box thinking. Now, we are forced to believe Darwin’s theory of evolution, Delton’s atomic laws and the philosophy of super natural. I am not talking about high art, but empowering students to use their imagination. Not everyone can be Mehdi Hasan, but everyone can sing. I believe everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us at school, where we are taught literacy and numeracy. There are classes for writing and art, but what’s really being taught there is conformity.
Children are filled with new ideas, they always look for new way to deal with things. Wonder why kids eat dirt and break their toys to discover what’s inside? Children are fizz with ideas, they always look for new ways to experience something new out of old things. But, the very moment they go to school, they lose their freedom to live their life their way, exploring, taking risks and experimenting.
Education ministry, related departments and schools are working on the same 19th century outdated model that taught children to obey and conform, not to challenge or think creatively. Many people have discussed ways to change education system, but what good has it done if we are leaving out students voices? Years after years, some students graduate, some fail-out, some drop-out and nothing really changes. This overall system reminds me of a dictator that is unwilling to step down. We need ‘Social Engineering’ in education to produce leaders and dynamic citizens, rather than robots, who only follow commands. At present we are stuck with the social engineering of an industrial workforce in a post-industrial era.
I think there is no single education system available to retain the born ability of a child to reason, but some of the best ones have this in common: they open up rich worlds that children can explore in their own ways, developing their interests with help rather than indoctrination. For example, BRAC Pakistan schools in Lasbela give quotes of famous people to the pupils and encourage them to interpret and explain them in their own way. Many of the students explore different meanings and interpretation of the quotes.
These teaching techniques and schooling models are unique. Teachers and school management have to take the initiatives to inculcate these creative measures in the system. It neither need large infrastructural or budgetary support nor a high-tech administrative ends. It only needs the will to create creative enabling environment that unleash the child in the rich diverse world and ignite his/her curiosity and allow them to discover a way of learning that best reflects their character and skills.
Faizan Afzal is a freelance journalist and a development professional. Tweet him at @Faizan_Afzal1