It’s generally believed that as a student progresses from school to college and university, eventually enrolling in some masters program possibly leading to a PhD, the quality of instruction and the ability of the teachers to engage with the students will likewise progress, with the best minds sitting at the top of the educational pyramid. In our countrys case, however, the exact opposite seems to be true.
School teachers and college professors are generally well received, well respected, people develop fond memories of them, how they helped them through trying times, how they supported the students learning efforts and paid attention to their weakness; while on the other hand, when people talk about their MS/MPhil and doctorate experiences, youll get to hear one nightmare story after another.
About how the professors not only prove unhelpful, but go out of their way to make the students life miserable. About how they are monopolizing the upper strata of education, consolidating their own positions while not letting anyone else through the system. About how they will cater to the whims of those with money and power, but will turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to anyone from unimpressive backgrounds whose hard work nevertheless deserves greater reward than what its accorded.
Im not even going into the whole fake degree, substandard level of thesis filtering through debate. That sort of corruption seems endemic to our entire social fabric, not just in education. Its far more disconcerting that, in addition to the undeserved degree holders, the actual deserving candidates get bullied out of their futures for no apparent reason other than the instructor or professor just wasnt in the mood to entertain their work.
A female student from the University of Karachi wrote to me recently about how shed spent the last four years of her life working on her MPhil thesis, once it was approved and passed she would go on to her PhD, her father died a couple of years ago, shes now the sole provider for the family, she works full time while completing her education to make sure the family doesnt fall into poverty; but heres the catch, her thesis instructor will not give her the time of day.
The instructor has refused to check the thesis herself, delayed the submission many times over, eventually thrown it around to other hands, sighting one convoluted excuse or the other, and eventually outright rejected the students entry into the PhD program.
This is not an isolated incident. I know of professors who, after the HEC introduced the policy of only having doctorate qualified people in certain administrative positions in university departments, have had their PhD work done by their students in exchange for good grades on their own graduate work.
I know of professors who let their ego decide their grade, who will often ruin the students work in a mere tussle with an external adviser, or someone within their own department. I know of professors who outright accept bribes to pass poorly researched and written papers.
Dr. Pervez Hoodhboy had a famous e-mail exchange that went public last year, about the kind of research and academic work that was coming through the higher education system. Hoodhboy called the papers fraudulent and the research methodology as crackpotism. I think its no coincidence considering what you hear about the caliber and habits of the professors at this level.
This woman who wrote to me, like so many other beleaguered students in this country, enrolled in the higher education departments to do serious work, to better their lives, to further their learning; but for all those good intentions, they might as well have stayed in school.