Why are schools failing to educate?

December 15, 2019

A flawed and cumbersome education system is taking a heavy toll on students and parents

If you are a parent in Pakistan who is spending hundreds of thousands of rupees per month on the education of your children, the money is probably not being spent on school fees alone. A major chunk of it is also being paid to give your child a shadow education, i.e. on after-school tuitions.

This means that you do not trust the school system that your child attends. You need to ask yourself why.

Did you choose the school because you think that the bigger the name, the better the education despite knowing that students from the school actually learn from the same teachers but after school and at tuition centres?

Or are you a working parent and do not have the time to oversee your child’s homework or are unable to teach them yourself? Even then, it is important to ask yourselves and your child why there is still the need for such intense after-school studies when all the studies should have been finished in the hours the child spends in school.

Barring exceptions which are always there, parents need to question why their child is unable to complete his/her study independently after school if the school they have chosen claims to have garnered top results year after year and also charges premium fees.

Are the school facilities that parents are being charged for being used only for sports and recreational purposes? Are the classes overloaded so that teachers cannot pay adequate individual attention to students? Why are the concepts being taught not clear? Are they not being taught in the correct manner so that your child needs extra coaching?

In Pakistan over the years, unfortunately, a ‘shadow education’ has become the norm. Earlier, private tuitions were considered necessary only for children who were considered ‘weak’.

Tuition centres encourage students to take short cuts. Rather than studying the respective subjects in depth, they provide them with old examination papers to solve in a given time period and work mechanically rather than think objectively. In other words, a rote system is being encouraged.

A recent survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan shows that 59 percent of Pakistani parents say their children go to tuition centres after school. As many as 67 percent of the children in urban areas go to tuition centres after school compared to 55 percent from rural areas.

These figures are nothing to be proud of. In fact they show the dismal state of education in urban areas where parents pay large amounts to top schools.

A mother I spoke to recently confided that she paid approximately Rs 150,000 per month to a school for her four children and an additional pays Rs 100,000 to academies for evening tuitions.

Parents often fall for false advertising where students from these top schools are shown scoring A and A* grades. They should ask that if children from these schools get such high grades, why do they still attend academies? It may seem extreme to say so but the government should ban such advertisements since they mislead the parents. Instead schools should only be allowed to advertise the kind of educational system they are following and teaching. Such regulations will remove false flags and tall claims made by these schools and help parents choose the right kind of educational system for their children.

Primary education is of vital importance simply because it builds the educational foundation of a child. If the foundation is weak, the child is likely to fail at every step. If concepts are not made clear at this stage, then it is highly likely that your child will continue to be dependent on external help in future as well.

However, besides the financial burden on the parents, the children are under an added stress due to the expectations that come with the combination of school and tuitions. After spending so much money, parents think that their children are bound to bring in straight. As or exceptional results and when the children fail to do so, they are mentally tortured for lacking behind.

Today, teachers know that 90 per cent of their students take supplementary tuitions. Therefore, they fulfil their responsibility in the class half-heartedly. The tuition centres are expected to pay special attention to the students instead.

On the other hand, students also pay less attention in the classroom as they feel that their tutors will do the needful. The level of respect for school teachers in the eyes of the pupils has gone down considerably due to this fact.

Students have become dependent on tuitions and tutors for understanding concepts rather than making an effort on their own to investigate a subject and develop their own understanding. This is also because there is no ‘student-centred’ approach as a teaching method in these schools.

Besides the financial burdens and the poor quality of education, shadow education also affects the health of children. After having spent 8 hours in school from early morning to afternoon, children spend the evenings in these academies.

Research shows that children who do not have time for recreation, sports and hobbies perform poorly at school. Finnish kids spend no more than three hours a week on homework.

Too many hours spent on studies can affect both students’ physical and mental health. Extracurricular activities and social time give students a chance to refresh their minds and bodies. Students who have large amounts of work have less time to spend with their families and friends. This leaves them feeling isolated and without a support system.

After a full day of learning in class, students can feel burnt out if they have too much homework. Too much of studies can also result in less active learning, a type of learning that occurs in context and encourages participation. Active learning promotes the analysis and application of class content in real world settings. Assigned homework does not always provide such opportunities, leading to boredom and a lack of problem-solving skills.

Private tuitions also mean that the child is spending so much time away from home. This also affects the parent-child relationship. “Helping children with their studies at home is an important way for parents to bond with them and acquaint themselves with the habits, studying style, areas in need of improvement and strengths of their offspring” (Marion, 2001).

It is high time parents make informed choices. To provide the right kind of education, schools need to introduce the actual methodologies of 21st century education. They need to get rid of the factory model education and traditional teaching methods including “direct instructions” where a teacher stands at the front of the class and presents information in a kind of drilling and punishing way. Pupils just repeat words or phrases after the teacher, memorise and teaching is done and dusted.

These methods need to be phased out in favour of the progressive ‘student-centred’ or ‘child-centred’ learning methods. In these methods, a teacher will not reveal a specific topic or a chapter to students and will not open a book until the kids are ready.

You may wonder how the teaching will be done.

The teacher comes prepared with a designed activity or a project for students to work on and once that activity or project is completed, the teacher tells the students to start research and gather information related to the project from different books instead of their syllabus books.

The students are also encouraged to search the Internet for the same and once they are done, only then the teacher reveals the chapter they are going to study. Following this method, students are fully clear and understand the concept already. This is just one example of great teaching methods.

How about using flipped learning instead of giving too much homework? This teaching methodology is used as an alternative and better way than homework style of traditional or factory model education. In this method, the conventional notion of classroom-based learning is inverted, so that students are introduced to the learning material before class by just providing them or to their parents through students’ online learning diaries a short video link to watch at home and that is specifically related to their upcoming topic in the class the very next day.

This lays an important responsibility on school authorities as well as parents. School authorities need to ensure that teachers fulfil their responsibility to the students. An effective monitoring mechanism needs to be devised to ensure the quality of teaching in the classroom.

Parents too should try to pay more attention to their children as they are the first and most important teachers in their lives.

Pakistan's education sector: Why are schools failing to educate?