by Muhammad Taseer Hussain
While I was doing some research work in a library the other day, I saw a young lady sitting besides my table, scribbling on her notebook. Out of curiosity, I asked if she, too, were collecting data for research? “I’m memorizing a topic for my examination”, she said. Knowing that her examinations were not due for another few months, I admired her dedication to studies and probed, “you got plenty of months to prepare for your exams, right?” She blatantly replied, “ratta laga rahi houn” (I’m memorizing it).
I was forced to ponder as to why she had found herself in this situation. And after a brief conversation with her, I got to know she was a student of MSc. Statistics and was memorizing a formula because her teacher had suggested it was too difficult to understand it through logic. I further asked if she knew practical implications of that formula. “No”, she responded, wearing a question mark on her face. “Then what’s the purpose of learning it?”, I questioned. “Not even my teacher knows it’s application”, she said with defeated looks.
I am a university teacher as well as a researcher. Indeed, it is not the first time I happened to come across such a student. I am gravely concerned for such students and the system that forces them for rote-learning. However, the aforementioned conversation had finally prompted me to share my views.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Rote (Ratta)” is defined as “Mechanical or habitual repetition of something to be learned“. It means rote-learning is more like a mechanical task and does not require much of reasoning or inference. It raises a question, is our youth really learning? Are we producing graduates who can get along with international professional standards? Indeed, we’re producing a generation of incompetent professionals, who pass on half-baked knowledge and values to others in the line.
What is the purpose of the education that has no implication on our professional life? Are we educating our youth or burdening their shoulders with piles of books? We know what happens to the students who pass out of universities in pursuit of respectable profession. Can this rote-learning culture guarantee students’ success in practical life? Or even the students who join education sector could manage to bring a change to this nuisance of propagating incompetent professionals? I can go on and on about the disastrous consequences our nation is facing thanks to this appalling trend.
We need to have qualified teacher who could pass on true knowledge. There is a dire need to make our curriculum more concentrated toward professional demands. Our students should be groomed in such a way that they could think out of the box. Those who step into professional life should be able to utilize maximum of their competencies. If we achieve these goals, I believe, we will change the destiny of this country.
The entire ripple effect of rote-learning eventually reaps immeasurable catastrophic results in all the major and minor industries in Pakistan. It can be avoided with one simple change – a better education system in Pakistan, one that requires students’ cognitive involvement instead of parrot-like learning. Speaking in a broader sense, Pakistan lags behind the developed countries of the world for one fundamental reason, quality education. West spares major chunks of its economy on education and research since they know it’s importance. And how West developed is not a secret. We live in the global village where competition matters. Thus, we need to follow the steps of those who excel in this fast-going world. We need to chose the right direction for ourselves. Though, in Pakistan, higher education is pretty expensive; nothing can stop us if we really want to change ourselves as well as the destiny of this nation. Pink Floyd rightly said, “do we really want to become ‘another brick in the wall?”