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12 years of a student

One of the many perks of being an Army Brat is that you have the pleasure (or agony as some have come to call it) of being dragged all over Pakistan, and when you have a mother obsessed with giving her children only the best you end up changing 11 schools in 12 years. 11 schools in 12 years may seem unfathomable to some but yes folks that’s the figure and in my 12 years of intense labor I have learned a great deal about our Education System. As good ol’ Uncle Ben used to say “With great power comes great responsibility”.

As a toddler I remember moving around a lot and being the lazy bum I was (still am), I remember my mother making tours of the school to collect my missing work. The paramount reason behind this was, Paramount Publishers along with dozens of other foreign and local publishing houses pushing their books onto children. I’m not a fan of those dull lifeless books by Punjab Textbook Board or National Book Foundation, I remember my 9th grade books being black and white and that I would often have the colors drained out of me when trying to concentrate on them. Neither am I fan of those extremely overpriced hefty textbooks by foreign publishers, although I do remember the first time I saw the O level’s book for Chemistry I felt like shoving mine in microwave oven and setting the timer for 10 minutes.

A new Central Textbook Board is needed altogether, which can print good books at a low price and books with big pictures for the children of course (as Shahzad Roy pointed out). No one will want to trade in his colorful books for the dull grey ones with blurred diagrams the government would have us read, therefore there is a need to produce cheap quality textbooks which are at par with foreign/local expensive books so that all schools will automatically opt for the new books. This venture may seem tedious and expensive for a country that spends so little on education but I’m sure it’s cheaper than distributing free laptops. Foreign textbooks should be burned to ashes I say! too drastic? An easier approach would be to tax Foreign/local publication houses heavily in such a way that printing textbooks becomes unfeasible for them as our government is ever so fond of making money (talking about school/college textbooks only here).

Of course the West would refer to us extremists and launch all sorts of propaganda against us and an all-out verbal assault will be launched against usbut rest assured that Christiane Amanpour, FareedZakaria and Richard Quest will grow tired of this affair and something more juicy will pop up soon enough for them to poke their fingers at. I have nothing against Western or local publication houses but in order to achieve what sociologists refer to as ‘National Integration’ these seemingly radical steps are necessary. Being a student of Science I believe there are two kinds of forces which determine a nation’s stability; Centripetal forces (the ones which bind us together) and Centrifugal forces (the ones which pull us apart). Today there are so many powers trying to tear us apart and there is a shortage of Centripetal forces, under such conditions it seems a necessary step to promote one syllabus for all schools and colleges so that they may act as a force of cohesion rather than create rifts amongst different classes of students who study different syllabi under different Boards.

Federal Board, Sindh board, Punjab Board and Cambridge board are only but a few of the 40 or so educational boards imparting education in Pakistan at secondary and higher secondary level and all of them(Including Cambridge and Federal) have lost their credibility. How you may ask?

We all know how Cambridge board took a retake of the Islamic Studies paper last year on the base that they had a leak somewhere, Some students were clueless as to what this ‘security breach’ was, some claim that there was an actual leak somewhere in Islamabad, however some say that the paper was almost exactly identical to a guess paper made by a famous teacher in Karachi, whatever the reason may be but putting students through the ordeal of taking a paper again is shameless.

In Federal board students suffered an even worse faith, last year some crazy old bald guy on a big fat chair decided that the Chemistry-I paper for HSSC-I was too easy and hence to maintain the so called high standards of the board strict checking was needed to be imposed, as a direct corollary of this a vast majority of the students failed in Chemistry-I (22,000 according to a rough estimate by a Board official) and those who passed barely made it, I personally know a student who got 90+ marks in Physics and Mathematics but failed in Chemistry. My complains may register to some as the rants of your average student but rest assured they are based on empirical facts gathered from reliable sources.

My point being, none of these institutions can be trusted anymore therefore there is need to centralize the education system (All hail the federation!), A new Central Education board is needed to be established from scratch which touches all the corners of the country, yes this means no foreign boards too. Of course some parochial bigots along with some pseudo desi liberals will raise their voicesin protest but there shouts shall soon fade awayand the sound that shall resonate throughout the land will be that of a strong and plausible Education System.

I have served my time, my 12 years are up and as I bid farewell I do admit I will miss school/college with all its uncertainties and shortcomings (must be Stockholm’s Syndrome). As I leave I feel like Red finally shaking the shackles and leaving the damned walls of Shawshank Prison, but we must not lose hope because of this dismal state we finds ourselves in for as Andy Dufresne said “Remember red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.

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