EducationFeaturedVolume 13 Issue # 15

Encouraging automatons, suppressing creativity

Rida Fatima was very excited. The first lecture in her BS First Year class was going to be held at her department, and she was very anxious about it. She had got admission to the social sciences department by choice (department’s name withheld on student’s request). She had secured very good marks in her F.Sc. Pre-Medical exams and had the choice of getting admission to any medical college. However, she preferred social sciences over medicine, to gain a better knowledge of human life and society.


According to the schedule, the first lecture was going to be delivered by Prof. Ubaidur Rehman (teacher’s name changed at student’s request). Prof. Ubaid appeared to be a senior and experienced teacher when Rida saw him entering the class and walking to the podium.


After a brief introduction, the professor opened a large-size notebook, spread it on the podium and started reading from it. Rida felt as if the professor was a robot, or a newscaster, reading out some information to his unseen audience, as he was not looking at his students at all.


She saw students around her bent over their notebooks and writing down word for word whatever was being uttered by the professor. She also followed suit for some time. But she failed to keep the pace. She raised her hand to get the attention of her teacher.


The response was quick and robotic: “No questions during delivery of the lecture. I am teaching you from the “notes” I had prepared during my studies at the university with lots of hard word. These [notes] are very precious, as I had consulted many books for their preparation. You just learn them by heart and you won’t need anything else to appear in the exams. And if any student has any questions, he may ask them when the lecture is over.”


Instead of satisfying her, the professor’s explanation caused more anxiety in Rida Fatima. She was waiting for the teacher to end his lecture and ask students for their questions, but it never happened. Abruptly, the professor concluded his lecture, and started going towards the door. “Sir our questions?” She asked loudly.


The professor stopped for a moment, looked at Rida, and said: “Time is over. Next teacher might be waiting outside. If you have any questions, visit my room.”The episode had Rida really worried. She had a different idea of the university and university teaching. The next period was free, and she asked her classmate, her friend from college days, to accompany her to the teacher’s room. Though her friend advised her against it, as it might offend the professor, she was not ready to give up.


When they reached the teacher’s room, they met quite a different man there. With a smile on his face, the professor treated them with respect. However, he was not ready to discuss anything academic at all. He offered them tea, and told them not to worry about passing his paper.


“Everything is contained in my notes. You get them photocopied, learn them by heart (ghot ke pi jao), and you will get A+ grades in my subject,” he advised them. Later on, Rida Fatima found out that even in the university, 99% teachers were professor Ubaidur Rehmans, with a little difference. They neither themselves raised questions nor encouraged their students to do so.


Is it the major problem is our education system?

You ask any educationist, and he will relate a long list of the problems facing the education system, the most important sector, for decades. Some of the problems might be: No conceptual understanding among students No creativity Children are stressed, etc., but all these are symptoms, and not the root-cause. To ascertain the root-cause or the fundamental flaw in the education system, let’s play a rapid fire game. You have one second to answer every question. Let’s start:-

First question: “A” for? ….


Okay, no more questions.

So you also think “Apple” is first? 98% of people are most likely to think so. Because that was what we were told in kindergarten.

Imagine this was done differently. Say, we had asked you the list of words starting with “A”: Ant, Ace, April…

Then different answers would have popped up in everyone’s head.

So what do you think is the problem?

Before children start going to school, every child is unique. Every child thinks differently. But the pre-education system makes every child think the same. This is the fundamental flaw in the education system.


Why did this start?

During the Industrial Revolution, during the 18th century, the pre-education system was designed to make children ready to work in factories. The factories did not require people to think, but work like robots. So the pre-education system stripped children of their freedom to think and destroyed their true potential. The same education continues even today, only the industries have changed. And you can better understand why Rida found robots in her department, instead of teachers.


A study by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] showed that 98% children think differently before they start going to school. As they go through this education system, at the age of 25, only 2% of them think differently and 98% think the same.


So how does the education system make every child the same?

Let’s go back to the apple example. Kindergarten lessons told us that “A” is for “Apple”. And we asked you for the words which start with ‘A’: April, Ace, Ant.

In fact, our education system gives us only the answers.

And answers make you the same.

Then we asked you a question.

And questions make you different.

Right from kindergarten, the education system keeps giving answers.


Instead of asking the children how plants make food, the science teacher gives you the definition of photosynthesis. Instead of asking them to describe the sun, the teacher tells them that the sun is a ball of fire and the centre of the solar system. Through their years in school, children lose their capability to think on their own. Whether their choice of career, or relationships or any situation in life, they become dependent on others for answers. They completely lose their true nature and their extraordinary potential remains unrealised. Now, we face a million problems in life, for which we keep waiting for answers. So what’s the solution?


We need an education system that recognises that every child is different. The system should be questioning-based, so that it brings out the extraordinary human potential in every child. It will not only be satisfying for all Ridas that they are getting a true and complete education, but also help our society move forward.


Every teacher, every parent, every educator, every policymaker, everyone who has a role to play in the development of a child, should join hands together to reform the education system and help realize the true potential in every child.