“Write the name of the prophet who came after the Prophet Essa (Jesus)?”
Two of the four options: Hazrat Abrahim; Hazrat Mohammad.
I’ve jumped the gun again. Let me begin from the beginning, or as stupid as that sound, from the media report on one of the channels, which revealed the ‘state of education’ in this country.
Last week, according to a TV channel news report; during the board exams held recently for the ninth grade, students in Lahore were making history of probably giving the most ingenious answers ever. According to the report, in one paper, the students were asked about the coastline of Pakistan, and two options were provided to the examiners – between 800 and 700 km – so the students had a wide window to get marks in this paper, by marking either answer. The students can be forgiven in this case, since considering the dismal condition of our curriculum, it could be possible that certain books contained one and others had the other. But the teachers can’t be forgiven for being confused on the facts that they teach to their students, these people should be at the top of their game. They are teachers! But we can forgive them, considering the lack of proper teaching and other things that eat at the neglected educational system of the country.
But one can’t forgive the next incident that occurred in the recently held board exam in Lahore, were class ninth students were asked: “What is the name of the prophet who came after the Prophet Jesus?” The students were given four options out which two were “Hazrat Abrahim; Hazrat Mohammad.” The majority of the students marked Hazrat Abrahim as the answer. But the agony didn’t stop there, according to the investigative report, the examiners were given the same option in the tally answer sheet they are provided when marking papers. Therefore, those who had given this answer instead of Prophet Mohammad got marks, those who didn’t select this option failed!
We don’t tire telling everyone that we are Muslims, and we can’t stop harping that Pakistan is an Islamic country. We are killing each other in the name of religion, and react violently if someone says something that is against our knowledge of religion – which every sect, every ‘religious’ leader and every person believes is the final word. Anyone who says anything contrary should be put in their place by any means. We are intolerant towards minorities, and allow minor girls from other religions to be forced into converting to Islam and then threatened them and their families.
Then how does it happen in this Islamic country, with a majority of Muslim making up the population that Muslim students and examiners ‘forgot’ or were ‘not taught’, or whatever excuse they have for this error, the answer to the most basic question that any student of Islam should know because they are being taught this from childhood. Is it because they lack knowledge or even common sense? Probably both.
Remember when a Christian student of class eighth near Abbottabad was accused of blasphemy, expelled from school and activated the local religious leaders. The poor student who was writing in Urdu place a dot in the wrong place, which caused a word to spell something derogatory while writing about the Prophet Mohammad. This is an error that any one can make, while writing in Urdu – children usually have dots and slashes used in Urdu all over the place but teachers let them go. Was the uproar following this mistake because the child was a non-Muslim?
This child was not only scolded by her teacher, but was beaten as well and then informed the principal and the school management and soon the whole area was brimming with anger and calls for punishment for the eight grader, a mere child. The child’s whole family was under threat, as the local prayers took this up and tried to stir the masses through their sermons. Her mother was transferred to another area. The child and her mother apologized for this error, which they said wasn’t deliberate or based on malice.
Common sense would reveal that a non-Muslim family living in a predominately Muslim area could only be on a death wish to attempt anything like this, in a country where minorities are always living in threat of being accused for blasphemy.
But if this eighth grader could be punished for her error, how come the teachers who are responsible for teaching wrong facts and making an exam paper based on this are not reprimanded. Doesn’t this merit some action?
This incident reveals that our educational sector is dying, if not already dead. No one knows what is being taught in educational institutions, and if this issue hadn’t been highlighted by the media, no one would have even known.
But before I go further I must elaborate two or three incidents that I love to narrate. Before that I want to elaborate that there are more and more master degree holders in Pakistan. That is good news. The bad news is that with quantity, we have lost quality. The majority of these degree holders are not educated – which reflects badly on their teachers, who also came from the same system and are teaching them the same rubbish. For such people I say there is the internet, if you abhor books, which can provide you facts at a single click. I pity these so-called educated people, who are filling in all professional fields and messing them up….
Ok first incident. My friend, who I will call OZ, is a highly intelligent man, with an almost photographic memory. He related a story that needs to be shared here:
While working at a media organization, Dr OZ was busy working when a ‘celebrity’ of the channel came to him, all flustered and agitated. The ‘celebrity’ pleaded my friend Dr OZ to help him with a story he had been asked to work on. OZ asked on what, to which the ‘celebrity’ replied, “Who is Shakespeare?” Need I elaborate..
Second case: While I was in college, we were studying the works of one of the greatest poets of the subcontinent, Ghalib, like Shakespeare he needs no introduction. One of my class mates turned to me one day and said, “Hey did you watch the drama of Naseeruddin Shah in which he plays a poet…I think it is the same poet Ghalib, who’s the poems we are studying!”
Third case: While working for a channel, I was introduced to the ‘intellectuals’ that comprise the media – all masters in something or the other. I was impressed thinking at least the content will improve. These youngsters introduced me to intellectual dimensions I would never have gone to. While discussing some topics for stories they were doing, they revealed that the ancient pyramids of Egypt – one of the most interesting ancient civilizations in the world – were constructed by Muslims. When I dared to point (scared that I might be classified as a infidel) that the pyramids were built more than two thousand or more years before the advent of Islam, they went away disgusted with my ignorance.
My other encounter with them was when again discussing something in a historical perspective, and these sages revealed that the mother of Jesus Christ founder of Christianity, Mary was a Muslim. When I said that but are you talking about Prophet Jesus’ Mary? If looks could kill, I wouldn’t have lived to tell this tale. But after that I think they wrote me off as an infidel and never discussed anything with me, mainly because their ‘broadmindedness’ didn’t allow them to assimilate new information. Although I did offer that I could be wrong, and if they liked they could check on the net or go to a library.
Such illiteracy and narrow mindedness, not to mention lack of general knowledge is probably the bane of this country and a product of learning by rote and sticking to an archaic syllabus that was made in the 40s, which in some cases like science subjects needs to be revised annually. This is a wakeup call to the people dealing with education – religious and mainstream – in the country and they need to really revamp the whole sector. During a discussion with some doctors and government servants during an event, this point kept coming up that the quality of education in Pakistan is horrendous, especially in the government sector and in private schools, springing up in all the nooks and crannies of the country churning out illiterate masses. The government servant explained the dismal situation of our educational system aptly. He said that his father was a bureaucrat as well and he sent his children to the best schools of the country, similarly he had sent his children to the best schools in the country, so people like him would have no idea what the quality of the education was in the government run schools. He further said this was why the state of the education was what it was, because those who mattered were not affected by it and made no effort to try and improve it. And I believe he is right. Until those who matter don’t experience such situations they cannot make a difference.