Tuesday March 21, 2023

Smart schooling

January 29, 2023

Pakistani students are quite intelligent, and almost every school-going child has the ability to learn what s/he is taught in classrooms. But the fact that most of our students are unable to understand basic concepts reflects the incompetence of their teachers.

‘Change’ is the only constant, and yet teachers in Pakistan show little interest in changing their teaching methods. Most of them know little about smart teaching at all levels, especially schools.

The world has welcomed 2023, and 23 million Pakistani children are still out of school. According to Unicef, at least 3.3 million children in Pakistan are working as child labourers in the agriculture sector and textile industries. Also, a majority of those who are enrolled in schools are not getting quality education either. Apart from a plethora of problems faced by students due to vulnerability in the education sector, they also have to deal with the consequences of poor teaching methods.

After having completed my degree last July, I met various academics from education institutes across Balochistan. During my meetings, I realized that most teachers were unwittingly following traditional and outdated teaching methods in classrooms. Even though such a teaching environment may seem good, it has little impact on students’ cognitive development. Hence, when these students go to higher classes, they find themselves equipped with negligible skills. Resultantly, the number of the jobless youth of the country continues to add up.

Also, when these young students reach Grade 8, they are supposed to appear in the board examinations. This is where they are really tested, and so they get exposed. Unfortunately, this also reveals the competence of the teachers who taught them. Last year, the Balochistan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BBISE) conducted the annual examinations for Grade 8. In December, a number of young people appeared in private examinations to get a Master’s degree. I met two students; one took the Grade 8 exam and one took the other one. One thing was common between them. Both were – unfortunately – smart cheaters.

The Grade 8 student showed the question paper for the mathematics exam to me. Even though he had a perfect score in the multiple-choice questions (MCQs) section, he could not solve those mathematical questions in front of me and knew the solution to one question only. According to him, he had memorized other mathematical problems – average and percentage calculations among others. Later, he accepted the fact that a teacher inside the exam hall told them all the correct answers.

The other student, who was one exam away from completing his 16-year education, was an equally smart cheater. He did not even know the complete names of the subjects he was appearing in. With the good use of technology – WhatsApp groups – he was able to jot down answers to all those lengthy subjective questions. The answer to one question was at least eight-page long.

These two real-life stories depict the poor examination standards prevalent in our country. They also reflect the general environment of exam halls. One can safely guess that other students in the same hall would have used cheating techniques too. Their behaviour highlights the environment of the classrooms they go to. Either teachers are purely incompetent or they are truly dishonest with their profession.

Smart schooling and effective learning are interrelated terms. Competent teachers in classrooms should teach students by adopting novel pedagogical techniques. They must deliver knowledge to recipients in a fun way. Engaging students in mini activities – pertinent to both academic subjects and life – will translate into a smooth and continuous learning process.

To have effective smart schooling, teachers should be updated in terms of their knowledge and skill. Measuring the efficacy of instructors can be done through various lenses. The litmus test is to know how smart students are at handling problems. Unlike the two students I met, people should not rely on using unfair means in exam halls. They must know the difference between wrong and right.

People generally do not think of following illegitimate sources when they can get something via proper channels. The same goes for students; they will not think for a moment to cheat in exams when they know they are prepared. Prohibiting students from cheating will strengthen the teacher-student relation. This is possible when teachers teach well, and students learn accordingly.

Teachers at individual levels can conveniently create a conducive learning environment. School principals can arrange monthly workshops to equip teachers with the skills required for a better environment in classrooms. Similarly, to gauge the level of the environment, a sample of students should be selected and asked various questions to understand whether they have learned the concepts well.

Cheating in exam halls is not practiced only because students are not taught well. There are some faults in the education system that force students to stick to unjustified means. Overhauling the system is the only solution to eliminating the roots of this serious problem.

The writer tweets @DawoodKhanHere and can be reached at