Here's Why Pakistan Needs To Reconstruct Its Education System

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X.

I have had the privilege of studying in Pakistan and in the Netherlands – two places that have extremely distinct education standards and models. Over the years, I have compared the two education systems and realised that this comparison can be very beneficial for improvements in our own educational system.

I went to the Netherlands in my early childhood when my father was pursuing his PhD. I found myself in a very different environment than the one I knew previously. I met people from all across the world and I learned the Dutch language. I have come to believe that education is indeed the most essential thing for a nation to progress. In the words of Quaid-e-Azam, “Without education, it is complete darkness and with education it is light. Education is a matter of life and death to our nation. The world is moving so fast that if you do not educate yourselves you will be not only completely left behind, but will be finished up.” These words beautifully summarise not only the importance of gaining quality education but also the hazards of failing to do so.

Following are a number of things in which I found the Netherlands to be very different from Pakistan in terms of education.

Firstly, I recall that the environment of classes in the Netherlands was extremely conducive to learning. There were no interruptions whatsoever. Notwithstanding the fact that I was in very junior classes when I was there, the learning was done in a very disciplined and professional environment. In my later years, I was reminded of the environment of those classes in important press conferences. I have not found this quality to exist in Pakistani classrooms.

Secondly, many people in Pakistan are shocked to hear this but the school system in the Netherlands does not have grades. There was no percentage system or any other grading system. The teachers only reported to the parents how their child was doing academically. By doing away with grades, they managed to ensure that there isn’t any inequality among the students. No one would get disheartened and discouraged in this way. In Pakistan, we often find that toppers are made to feel superior in every respect to a peer who is not academically as strong, leading to feelings of resentment between students.

Thirdly, the use of learning aids like illustrations, smart boards, posters etc. was very common in the Netherlands. They also had dedicated rooms for computer and science labs, and libraries, all of which contributed very much to the students’ motivation as well as enthusiasm to learn. These methods are employed in Pakistan too, but only in a very few schools. Their more widespread usage itself can bring about a significant improvement in education in our country. This also applies to the infrastructure of the school building itself, which should give a sense of freedom and provide a lot of stimulation to growing schoolchildren, as this helps very much in one’s ability to learn.

All the schools in the Netherlands teach the same curriculum, creating a sense of comradeship and equality among the students. Moreover, a number of schools are found in every neighborhood, so that students don’t have to travel long distances in order to get an education. In fact, most children find a school within walking distance of their homes. In Pakistan, what we have to compare in terms of ease of access are mosques, but unfortunately not schools.

In the Netherlands, the schools taught students such ethics as crossing a road, making queues, not littering, and serving the community. Creativity was encouraged. There wasn’t any religious education at all in the schools. Interestingly, we weren’t supposed to wear uniforms to school either. These are all points that can directly be compared with what we have in our country. One might dare to say that we can learn quite a bit from them.

Finally, in the Netherlands, education was free. Most Dutch students go to government schools, where not only is education free but the students also receive books and stationery from their schools. In this sense, education in the Netherlands is much better than ours.

Yet none of these things are such that we cannot also adopt in our own education systems. After all the model exists, we only need to follow. It is high time for Pakistan to reconstruct or change its education system, or, as Mr. Jinnah said, we “will be not only completely left behind, but will be finished up.”