36 A’s or a 4.0 GPA won’t make you a genius

Published: June 13, 2012

My goal in a classroom setting has been simple; make students as uncomfortable as possible with the content of the lecture. PHOTO: FILE

My goal in a classroom setting has been simple; make students as uncomfortable as possible with the content of the lecture. Once they get uncomfortable with the ideas that I float, they despise me, and to prove me wrong they go back home and do research.

I have observed three outcomes of such a situation:

1) Students do some research and agree with my views.

2) Students curse me and reject my views outright.

3) Students get confused and realise that the world is complex and requires much more in-depth study.

I aim for students to end up in the third slot.

What we produce, through our educational system, are pseudo intellectuals, who, as I observed in my classrooms, have read the Holy Quran in Arabic but do not understand the meaning as they don’t understand Arabic; they believe Islam to be the only righteous religion but can’t justify it; they have degrees from elite institutions but still take Ahmadis to be kafirs (non-Muslims).

Students end up getting degrees but no education.

The burden of blame also rests on the students. At the end of my first week of teaching, in two of the leading universities of Pakistan, I was branded an atheist, Freemason and Hitler all because I forced them out of their comfort zones.

Instead of the number of As scored, I believe that evaluation should be based on the amount of learning in the classroom through psychological testing techniques that gauge true intellect and make test taking an activity that becomes fun and not stressful.

For instance, in my Islamic Political Philosophy course, there was only one question in the final exam:

Is God Just?

In another one of my courses, Political Science, the midterm question was:

Justify murder

And in my Pakistan Studies course, I gave the students a very simple question, one that would challenge even the most intellectual people. It was:

Who are you?

In all the answers I received for these questions, there was a common inability of understanding the rationale behind our beliefs. For the ‘who are you’ question, majority of the class talked about the creation of Pakistan, corruption, suffering, load shedding, manipulation of the elite, and Islamic identity.

The irony here is that the socio-economic class that these students belonged to is least affected by the crisis in Pakistan.

Also, such intellectually challenging questions proved to be torturous for rote-learners. Appropriate teaching and evaluating methods will not only instil intellectualism among students, and provide them with the necessary think-tank tools to question stereotypes and prejudices, but will negate the culture of cheating in our classrooms, and society in general.

Pakistan’s education policy, like the mindset of a majority of the people here, is ‘number-oriented’ and not based on quality. Whether it is the obsession with achieving the first position in class, bagging a bunch of ‘A’s’ in O’ and A’ levels,  attaining a 4.00 GPA in university or the concern to start off with a salary package of Rs100,000 after graduation – the depth and purpose seems to have gotten lost in the pursuit of numbers.

What Pakistan needs is not just an upgrade in the educational curriculum but a revamp of the teaching method used. Innovation and evaluation should be encouraged amongst teachers and students, so the system can ensure that they are producing intellectuals and not just numbers.

The O’ and A’ level system is only producing a generation of youth embroiled in a rat race to secure the maximum number of A’s. Their study then revolves around achieving this objective. Studying past papers, rote learning prepared answers or indulging in strenuous out-of-class tutoring all have become an indicator of what is now defined as ‘intelligent’.

Evaluation is equally absurd at the university level where a relative grading system puts students in competition with each other. This drive for grades not only kills the learning component of education but also forces students to cheat on exams – one of the major problems I have noticed at the universities at which I teach.

This could all be changed if we were to bring innovation into the current model of teaching and evaluation that is practised in Pakistan. Innovation in teaching could be ushered in by philosophising subjects – by making students question the reasoning for certain events and by training them to think analytically and critically.

In order to achieve this we must, first, change the nature of the student-teacher relationship in Pakistan. Having a laid back, friendly student-teacher relationship will make students comfortable enough to ask bold questions without the fear of being labelled as ‘stupid’. I have observed from this approach that more students are interested in attending classes and coming to teachers’s office casually for an intellectual talk. This not only makes room to spark a healthy debate, but also gives students the confidence to challenge my ideas and those of their peers.

In terms of evaluation, instead of the GPA system, a pass or fail system should exist. This will help to ease the rigidity of the ‘number’ based approach with a fresh ‘learning’ approach – something desperately needed in Pakistan.

To sum it up, there is a need of to break off from the older system; change the philosophy of learning and education by accepting creativity and originality in teaching and evaluation. Such a change will make the class room and learning experience something students look forward to. It will train future intellectuals to seize the tools needed to become successful. The students will learn to strive to be the best in their own individual capacity and this will generate the kind of people who we would want leading our country in the times to come.

Read more by Hussain here.

Do you think good grades and success are correlated?

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Hussain Nadim

Hussain Nadim

A faculty member teaching political science and international relations at NUST Business School and Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Adnan Rasool

    Thank You for Writing this.. Seriously Thank YOU SO SO MUCH!Recommend

  • ad

    Most neglected area in Pakistan is education, Secondly in a state where budget of PM & govt officials are greater than overall budget of Education such thing is considered to be a normal thing

    Anyway Nice article bro keep it up Recommend

  • http://pakistani-edu.blogspot.com/2012/01/please-dont-make-your-child-arfa-kareem.html Usman Shahid

    Agreed but it is hard to change the thinking by a lone teacher. Doing the same for the last 4 years but often i have to compromise and go back to outdated method of teaching.

    Reason: Semester system is too short for this type of teaching. Mostly course never completed and you are stamped that you don’t teach Recommend

  • http://www.nabihameher.wordpress.com Nabiha Meher

    As a teacher, I completely agree! Great piece. Recommend

  • Shahid

    Absolutely correct.Recommend

  • Imran Ahmed

    Very interesting, and well timed article, since most of the students are having finals. The tragedy of our nation is indeed that we get attracted to superficial things. Getting A’s and GPA is one of those things that students aim to show off, rather than to learn, Good readRecommend

  • SS

    Great! I can’t imagine the looks on the students’ faces after they saw those questions.Recommend

  • Ordinary Villager

    Great article indeed. Sir your place is not in Pakistan but in Europe. I left Pakistan after developing these ideas and I am sure in coming months you will have to leave Pakistan for West as well. Otherwise the Fatwa maker factories will make your life miserable in a country like Pakistan. Either you should be pretty rich to stay away from Ordinary middle class fanatic youth or otherwise if you are from Middle class then society will persecute you to the point that you have to leave this land of the Pure(?). So now that is your decision that when you will have to leave for good this Pure land made only for the Pure people and not the Freemasons…:) like you. Dont try to change the mindset in Pakistan. Just go with the flow or else you will perish.Recommend

  • Ramiz

    Brilliant read! You bring up some very good points.Recommend

  • Ordinary Villager

    @ad: Budget in education of Pakistan have nothing to do with the change of Confused mindset. Arab states have more budget for their education than Europe but in the end they are churning those people who are of the view that Freedom of Expression. liberalism and democracy are only Western means of dominance and they have to devise ways and means to counter them with science and then their ideals become likes of Harun Yahya rather than Einstein So blame the mindset not the budget in this regard.Recommend

  • Ali Ahsan

    Critical Thinking is the ONLY path to true education.

    Rote learning formulas, theories, explanations, definitions etc makes you a good parrot rather than an intellectual.

    Education should CHALLENGE and TEST the limits of our knowledge and understand, not make us comfortable in our self-created bubble of paranoia, fear, and ignorance.Recommend

  • Rabia
  • Nadir

    Excellent! 110% agree!Recommend

  • Taha zaki

    Right..It ruins the life of many talented boys & girls.Recommend

  • Umair

    I disagree. I believe I can become a political analyst and a educational expert overnight if I get 21As in A levels. Even though those subject might be agriculture or woodwork,but I am pretty sure getting A in subject like Urdu or Commerce will make me a genius like John Nash and allow me to make groundbreaking discoveries and theories. Of course there is a possibility that I might never have read any newspaper, read any good book or newspaper, watched news and gained no knowledge about the world I live in while I was studying three dozen subject in the comfort of my air-conditioned room, I believe my grades will have the power to cure cancer and put an end to global terrorism. Recommend

  • Haya

    Very nicely put …. loved it Recommend

  • Ali Asghar

    Either you never got an A or either you are not willing to see people in pakistan doing well.

    As far as your rata system goes then getting 1100/1100 might not make you a genius but have you ever bothered looking up into your heavily emphasized ‘O and A levels’ have you even bothered looking at the assessment objectives where factual knowledge is just a tiny part and he skills of interpretation and evaluation all of which require creative and critical thinking have the most weight ? So is this system producing only those with A’s or those with the ability to be creative ?

    It is the political system that holds back these minds from being creative in Pakistan, they go out to do 1 good deed and a thousand idiots try all ways to prevent them.

    No wonder why the UK/USA has all the nobel laureates and you people are just stuck with your one Dr Abdus Salam. Simply because you idiots are there to criticize the tiny genius minority that has recently come out in the crowd in Pakistan.

    The west is ahead because the system allows the most qualified and passionate to come to the top rather than failures with labels of being creative only. Recommend

  • Ehsan

    I’d love to take your classes. We actually think alike. I just cant believe in what others say about religion, politics etc. I do my research and try to find answers for the questions my mind asks me. Please email me sir, [email protected]
    I would love to share my intellect with you. Take careRecommend

  • DUH

    DUH….. !!!!!!!!!!! The writer is too naive to understand that universities are all about “bang for buck”. Universities just allow you to re-package your skills under sexy brand names and go in the job market. University stage is too late for the kind of eduction he is talking about.Recommend

  • maz3tt

    Well i really love you for that. Why i can’t find post like this very often in the newspapers. I salute you for your mentality as the teacher and really don’t give up. even if your one student developed your mentality then it is your success not failure. really the student’s mindset has to change if we want to produce world class Pakistan. Recommend

  • Master

    Please be my teacher. I am so so sick of having to participate in this gpa rat race because if i don’t i apparently won’t get anywhere. I need to actually LEARN something.

    Educational inqilaab anyone? Recommend

  • Rehan

    I’ve observed that quite a few of these fanatic middle-class youth get their worldly information from straight-to-DVD ‘documentaries’ made in America by struggling film-makers and drug-addicts looking for a quick dollar. That is where they get these comical and cartoonish theories regarding “freemasons” and whatnot from. It’s quite tragic, but also rather funny that an educated adult can be influenced by such garbage documentaries produced by scam-artists looking to feed their drug addiction.
    Regards,
    RehanRecommend

  • Khurram Riaz

    Seriously, this is such a great article! I’m glad people with such mindset do exist in our so called education system. More of you are needed desperately to save this country.

    Honestly, i wish i was a student in one of your classes. Thanks for this article.Recommend

  • Brilliant article.

    I study under the American school system, and one day I got curious so I compared my cousin’s Aitchison College coursework to mine. His was much more focused on rote memorization and formulas and such. The starkest contrast I noticed was that his history courses were all about fact and date and name memorization, whereas mine ask questions like “What did the world learn from the Treaty of Versailles and World War II?”, or something like that. Something that makes you THINK. I also find it ridiculous that people take the trouble to memorize the Quran in Arabic when they don’t even understand the language, if you are so religious that you want to memorize it, at least do it in a language you can actually understand.

    Bottom Line: Education has to make you THINK and UNDERSTAND, it has to CHALLENGE YOURecommend

  • Hasan S

    This is amazing. Everyone calls me a hippie atheist so I know exactly what you mean. Thank you so much for writing this.Recommend

  • Hammad

    I appreciate your approach Mr. Hussain Nadim. I was interviewing a no. of people for the seat of Manager in a telecom org. and ‘unfortunately’ I rejected them all because fortunately I put forward a simple question i.e. who are you? to each of them and none was able to get to the crux of the question.Recommend

  • Ali Shahid

    I wish I had teachers like youRecommend

  • Farhan

    Very nice blog. I really appreciate this. Education system in Pakistan need to be changed and I agree with most of the points that are mentioned here. Recommend

  • kanwal

    Most comments suggest a change in students mentality, when they r not to b blamed alone. Parents, teachers, corporates, employera evwryone need to ubderstand the bigger picture. The greater need for understnding the difference b.w intellect and degrees. Students r hungry n desperate to learn n they ll take in watever u present. Teaching process shud b reversed 180 degrees whr teachers learn frm students by challenging them to life.Recommend

  • Confused

    Yep. Always wondered why people love to memorize the Quran or recite it but not learn the Arabic to know what they’re actually reciting, how do you learn from that? I realize there is translation, but is it not better to learn the language in the first place..Recommend

  • DUH2

    DUH returns…. The greatest mistake the writer makes is that all real learning in life is actually either “self-learning” or “on job learning”. Classroom is just for “halla gulla”. Secondly the “employers” do not bother how well can you define God or how well you can analyse the the “observer effect” on reality. The employer seeks a “hunter” a “fighter”. And your hunting and fighting spirits are best reflected through your ability to ace the admission criteria of top schools and your top scores in standardized tests…. So if you want to get a good job, don’t listen to the writer.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/britishmuslims Mohammed Abbasi

    What a delightful article – very apt and indeed the mentality of Pakistani students needs to expand!Recommend

  • http://regularteenageworld.wordpress.com A Pakistani Boy

    I just wish parents understood that! That would change so much.

    It’s basically the fear of change. We are too afraid to be wrong and lash out if someone questions the norms and traditions.

    Bravo sir ji! I LOVE what you’re doing. Keep doing your thing :)Recommend

  • M

    In my 4 year bachelor’s degree + 2 years Masters, both from a reasonably good local university (I wouldn’t call it elite, though some would), I came across only ONE teacher whose way of teaching was very much similar to what you have written. He taught a finance course and it was remarkable how he converted a traditionally ‘dry’ course into a highly interactive forum for intellectual debate. I may not remember all of the other courses I had studied via ‘conventional’ means but I still remember – in great detail – the material we had discussed in said teacher’s class room. Even to this day (3 years since-), I can confidently discuss and present my opinion on the respective subject-matter. Same can’t be said for alot of other courses, some of which were forgotten as soon as the final exam was attempted, mostly because it was taught in way that the students ended up hating it.

    Having said that, I completely agree with the author. For too long, we have succumbed to this ancient way of teaching (rote-learning, number-chasing and such). Okay, I would understand if the ‘conventional’ system was applied in early schooling because at that stage the children need to be taught the basics and be sufficiently motivated (via grades if you must) to put in the desired effort. But to follow the same system all the way to a post-graduate level, that is just a spectacular waste of time and money for students, teachers and parents alike.

    It’s about time we revamped this age-old system of education and caught up with the rest of the world.

    Cheers,
    MRecommend

  • donku

    all the losers are appreciating the authors just because they suck at getting A’s and somehow they believe that, naturally there is a genius inside them, its just they don’t need A’s to prove it to others.

    what if the person getting A’s is in fact genius and you, while not getting A’s are actually dumb as it seems.Recommend

  • Shahnawaz khan

    Duh i wish our parents could understand this majority of the C graders are labelled and taunted as dumb crackpots. it’s so demoralizing and annoying one cannot imagine.. …Recommend

  • Mr A.

    Cannot agree more….
    Certainly, Universities in Pakistan are more of grade machines…. They teach less and burden the student more….!!! I want it to change…, Recommend

  • Morning Glory

    How about those who actually learnt but are still being mislabeled due to what your article suggests, for they got good grades as well? :DRecommend

  • Faraz

    absolutely brilliant – one of the best articles I have read in a very long time…can’t agree with you more…Recommend

  • Farhan

    “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. — Einstein”

    I like your style of teaching but I hope you were soft grader as wellRecommend

  • Zubair Naeem Paracha

    You sir are my hero.. Recommend

  • so…

    we also need to change the values that prevail in the society. getting straight As gets yoy a lot of snob appeal and appreciation from everyone, but doing something original doesn’t. Even our media tends to portray some pseudo intellectuals as heroes who think that attaining a large number of As in A levels was a huge favor they had done to the world. there also has to be a better and innovative admissions criterion at universities instead of gauging the students on the number of As they got thru rote learning. psychological testing techniques shall be put to use.Recommend

  • M

    Yeees.Recommend

  • db

    @DUH2: This article is not about how to get a better job. It’s about how to produce intellectuals in our society. Most people with hot shot jobs are pretty dumb – you shall tell by the way our economy and our organizations perform in comparison to the rest of the world. we are the followers, we copy and paste everything that is being done elsewhere. we never originate new products, processes or ideas. it seems you are a part of the traditional education system that you have failed to understand the basic objective, aim and the topic of this article which is very clear.Recommend

  • AI

    Thank you for this article.
    I didn’t realize how close minded I was and how narrow my views were about myself, people, life etc until I moved to the US. I then realized my thinking was a direct result of what I was taught it school, by my parents etc and that my views and my thoughts are not the only right ones.
    I can understand why students got confused when you asked the ‘is God Just’ question. We live in a majority Muslim nation. To question anything about God is akin to defying God and shirk but I think everyone should take a class on philosophy. I think our believes should be challenged and questioned. How else would we progress if we never get out of that bubble.
    And I do believe education and how we are taught makes a big difference. I was an average student in school because ‘ratta’ was beyond me. In college I took Computer Science. All the ‘ratta’ disappeared and logic appeared and all of a sudden I had As in every class. My point is not everyone learns the same so the way students are taught shouldnt be the same. It’s not just a problem in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Abdul-Aziz Rashid

    great great articleRecommend

  • http://samanrk.wordpress.com Saman Rukh

    Sir, being your student for one whole semester was an honor and at the same time quite unsettling for me, because you made me feel uncomfortable with your arguments. We were raised by our elders with the instruction that “barroon se ziada sawaal nae puchtay” and we accepted whatever was given to us or thrown our way. but you taught us to “think”. But sir i wish this educational approach existed at grass root levels ( i.e schools and colleges ) because i now feel that my 12 years of education before coming to university were a complete waste. Recommend

  • Venie Martin

    While he is correct that education needs to teach students to think – his current methodology is guaranteed to fail for most students. Its like teaching swimming by throwing the learner into the deep end of the pool. A few will survive but most will drown. A new approach to teaching and learning needs careful preparation for the learners and a gradual induction into new ways of doing things. It needs to be integrated into curriculum and assessment throughout the university. It is very unfair to students for one lecturer to make such a radical change by himself. In universities, lecturers have a lot of power and can fail students most unfairly – then failing even one subject can hold the student back for a whole year. IMO this teacher’s goal is admirable but his methods are not correct.Recommend

  • Adnan

    True to the last word… i feel the same way… i also have a strong urge to make people realize the importance of learning… and the difference between learning and knowledge… knowledge is just what u know whether or not u understand it… learning depends on what u understand and what u can make of it further… i also love the teachers who feel the same way… a very good article indeed…Recommend

  • Bilal

    Well I am not defending Olevel, but things are different from what everybody thinks. Pick up the sociology course of A level, or pick up Pakistan history of Olevels. They all include a lengthy questions that ask for analysis which command a in depth understanding. Much better than the Matric/Fsc. And there are somethings, which HAVE to be learned. A’s show how much one has understood about something. Tutuion centers abuse the olevels, but teachers at my school still enlighten us with understanding.Recommend

  • AR

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this. I study in one of the universities that you teach in and I wrote a thesis essay on the same topic but by the end of the essay I was left confused if de-grading our educational system is even possible. How wold we manage otherwise? You are just one person who is working towards this, I don’t even think that the rest of the teaching department even worries about it.Recommend

  • Bilal

    And, if you study World History in Alevels, then too you will know. Sometimes, the Olevels are hacked, but most of the time, understanding is gets you A’s. In Olevel Islamiat, they taught us proof of God. And the exam questions are twisted enough, that only those who understand it, are the ones who succeed.Recommend

  • Bilal

    Furthermore, our Physics teacher would tell us about Chashma Power Plants when teaching chapter on Nuclear Physics. We should not criticise the O/A levels. Whats worrying is that most of Pakistan isnt fortunate enough to get education even to the standards of Olevel. We need to change the local system.Recommend

  • abc

    I totally agree with you… Me too so fed up with this system because it creates so much burden on the students that they forget the actual purpose of what they are studying and just learn for exams to get good grades which they called “actual success”…Recommend

  • Waseem Chachar

    Hussain, as always, it is refreshing to read your pieces. You are, as I had expected of you when we first met, making a necessary dent in the outdated, but still considered as “practicable”, education system of Pakistan. Keep up the good work my friend. I wish I was able to join you on your mission to bring-forth a necessary change. I wish you luck.

    Waseem Recommend

  • Rameez

    In the poll question, how are we defining success?Recommend

  • Asad Amin

    What an Article. Seriously, what an article! Please write more of such pieacesRecommend

  • 009

    Well everyone cannot be an intellectual just by thinking “creatively”, grades are equally important..! Nonetheless, a proper syllabus must be at the core of building the foundations of knowledge among the students and they must be exposed to alternate sources of knowledge. Students must be allowed to make a choice or strike a balance between scoring grades by learning etc or critically evaluating and studying in-depth, which usually requires a lot more time and resources. Not everyone is able to adopt such a course of study of acquiring in depth knowledge because this is not the norm here generally. But we should not discourage rote learning as such students are often gifted with eidetic memory which must be put to a suitable use and later occupation; this being said i think there is a mis- match & managemet of making the best use of human resources potential.

    history dictates that people who turned out be ‘geniuses’ or intellectuals were those who chose a difficult and different path then the rest and kept on working diligently night and day, least concerned with grades and conventional wisdom, that of course is much much easier to say than to do. Recommend

  • http://pakistani-edu.blogspot.com Usman Shahid

    @Bilal: Standard of O level ?

    UK stands far low in world ranking (PISA tests (OECD Programme for International Study Assessment) ) despite these standardized testing. Whereas finland even without standardized testing is topping again and again.

    Result: martric,/fsc, O/A level etc etc so called standardized tests have no standard.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/apr/09/finish-school-system

    and

    http://pakistani-edu.blogspot.com/2012/01/current-imran-khans-view-and-finland.htmlRecommend

  • http://pakistani-edu.blogspot.com Usman Shahid

    According to Mehdi Hassan in his blog:

    Exams are means, not ends; they do not, of themselves, raise standards or produce better-educated children. Nor do they truly measure the qualities necessary for a well-rounded education – from independent reasoning to creative thinking. Instead, in the words of the US educational psychologist Joseph Renzulli, we have created a new version of the Three Rs: “ram, remember, regurgitate”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/16/schools-exam-system-not-fitRecommend

  • Khabeer Ul Tanwir

    Great very well written….. Absolutely correct and we do need a changes in our educational structure and in our thinking approach as well !!

    I wish I had a teacher like you :)Recommend

  • firestarter

    Funny that I am going through the same phase in my life, I am questioning everything, would love to be a student of your class.Recommend

  • Mr. Baba

    Elite schools in Pakistan have absolutely no interest in providing the best education, only the best qualification that money can provide. The detriment of the O and A Level systems is that teachers are not inculcating students with information and knowledge, rather preparing them for taking the respective examinations. Such a system has no place for active and dynamic learning, so it is hardly surprising that rote memorization is the preferred method of teaching and learning. Teachers have no incentive nor prerogative to teach in dynamic or inventive ways, thus they stick to the most rigid format of dispensing with the same old curriculum that leads to that coveted “A” grade.

    Unfortunately, as is the case of most other sectors of Pakistani society, all the vital avenues of building and maintaining a healthy and productive society have either been severely neglected into complete ruin or monopolized by the select few so that the services can only be afforded by the elite in Pakistan. Not until the government steps in and reforms the system, destroying the concept of government and private schools and enforcing the same educational standards across the country, will we see any change. Private schools are minting money as it is so they have no reason to change the status quo.Recommend

  • DJ Xeidy

    Agreed with most part of it..Recommend

  • Areej Ateeq

    I appreciate your efforts and sincerely wish you all the best. Those questions are downright blasphemous in our pakistani society. We need more people like you in our education system. 100% agree with the article.Recommend

  • CB Guy

    I read half of it and seemed to be a reasonable piece that suggests we need deep thinking. However, i still fail to understand how the hell the writer fixed Ahmadis into this writing. i have nothing against ahmadis or any minority but the way ET is suggesting them to be butter waiting for a hot knife to cut through them is shameless and divorced from reality at best. Simply coz ET puts the bad happenings to 95% or so majority population as everyday event and any event (as everyday as it might be) to a minority as a scandal that will rock the world. Sad events to anyone are wrong and should not take place but overly focusing on minorities and sensationalizing of such issues is really shameless. Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/waqasghayyur waqaas

    well the changing of the system was a good idea but the the teacher shoulnt have asked the questions which he asked from the students in the paper cause they r not ready to anwser cause they dont know who they are.the young generation should have a contact with ulamaa and muftis for islam.Recommend

  • Ayesha

    What we produce, through our educational system, are pseudo intellectuals, who, as I observed in my classrooms, have read the Holy Quran in Arabic but do not understand the meaning as they don’t understand Arabic; they believe Islam to be the only righteous religion but can’t justify it; they have degrees from elite institutions but still take Ahmadis to be kafirs (non-Muslims).

    This paragraph is so out of context. I know people who have gotten secular education from best universities in Pakistan and world and can understand Quran in Arabic (because they got the Islamic classical schorlary education as well) and belive in Islam in the manner it is meant to believe (know the true essense of Iman) and can justify why Ahmadis are kafirs.

    Yes we need to build a generation of creative thinkers and practiciners who are proud of their Islamic and Pakistani roots and not rote learing A graders micmicking the outlook of people going to hell in the long run. Recommend

  • Wajahat

    I agree with the writer that there is urgency of innovation in the country, especially at university level. Also, student must also think out of the box.

    There is also a need of specialised approach. For eg, a pupose of an engineer is to define and structure the mechanics of how things work. In pakistan, however, their is much focus on entrepreneurship, even for engineers, leaving fundamentals of engineering neglected. Reason? Because managers earn more!

    I disagree on the point that O/A level students are involved in race to achieve maximum number of As. That is not even an issue. I didn’t give many A level subjects. Those who give and score high doesn’t mean they want to show off. Securing high will get their admission in one of the most prestigious universities outside pakistan and from those universities they have a chance to achieve big for themselves and humanity. Why not prefer local universities? They are not worth it. Who wants to isolate his thinking and spend his career among bunch of ignorants who suppress the thoughts of their students?
    When i was in A level i never rote learned. Never had to because our exam is based on complete understanding. One simply cannot learn the note and score A in Alevel. Clear idea of note is vital.

    I dont think removal of GPA, etc. will do us any good. How will you judge who is better with just pass and fail? A solution is to improve our curriculum and make thought based exams.

    The greatest hindrance to success of our society is corruption and illiteracy, at every level.
    Every thing starts small. First steps could be to remove corrupt politicians. They are gone and the rest will automatically take their course. Recommend

  • Sana Ansari

    @Umair:
    I totally get the sarcastic undertone!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Good stuff. Makes a lot of sense. Converting this type of thinking to a national or even provincial level is the challange.Recommend

  • Zohaib

    Over all good article. Though I don’t think that the A’s and GPA are the problem. A good student deserves to feel rewarded. The problem is the lack of spirit; for learning in students, and for teaching in teachers. This I believe has deep roots in the psychology that this nation has developed due to the impact of our social environmental on the upbringing of the future young generations. The education system (of O/A levels and good universities) is actually designed to develop real intellectuals (it is working successfully in other countries), but we ourselves have found ways to bypass and distort the system…and we are all comfortable with it. We really do need to step out of the comfort zone, whether its education or religion.Recommend

  • maryam

    master piece, i hope one day people realize that we are just struggling for a piece of paper dat is so called degree, strive fr knowledge Recommend

  • http://khush-bakht.blogspot.com Khush Bakht

    It is very important that teachers test the intellect, and the ability of students to form beliefs. Students need to be able to develop insight. Education these days is merely learning, cramming and solving. I am in no way trying to imply that learning is of secondary importance, it is essential that students learn facts, read others’ research and ponder over the great minds’ beliefs, but it is equally important that they deduce their own lessons, beliefs and ideas from it. As important is it is to study history, for example, it is equally important to have personal views on it: a practice that is never carried out. Same goes for other subjects.
    As a student of E&Me college, NUST, I have teachers here who are willing and ready to impart us with all the knowledge they have, which is, informally speaking, lovely on their part, but I would find it romantic, so to speak, if they also tested things that would help them see the difference in every student.
    That is rare, and too much to hope for.
    P.S. I would be so lucky to have you teach at E&Me too!Recommend

  • fatima Zahra

    Interesting post and I agree with you as far as you share your opinion about the “A’s” rat race.Unfortunately this attitude is encouraged in schools and universities too because yo get admitted to a better university on the basis of your grades and not according to your personality or who you are.which again is unfortunate because neither success nor intelligence can be determined by your grades,I have seen people in different situations myself.Having said this,I completely disagree with the article where it points out that students do not realise that Ahmadis or more appropriately Qadiyanis are. Non Muslims.Yes we learn the Quran in Arabic and do not know the meaning,that research should be done.Bit I suggest that you do your share of research when it comes to categorizing Ahmadis because my research on this matter is complete and it proves to me that indeed they are non Muslims.If you want I can compile a paper for you with the proper citations and Islamic and historical refrencesRecommend

  • fatima Zahra

    However in defense of the O level system and as an O level teacher I’d like to say that the course is becoming more analysis based and does force the students to contemplate…in my classes too,I raise questions and controversial issues so yes teaching methodology is importantRecommend

  • anonymous

    and how do you feel when your students label you as kaafir or ask you whether you are a muslim or not!!!!!Recommend

  • Hamza Iqbal

    I somewhat agree with the opinion expressed , however the overenthusiastic response from the readers that lead 80% to vote that grades are not correlated to success just deeply saddens me,fine the system in unfair at times, and we’ve all been victims of it, but in terms of practicality, there has to be a yard stick with which you gauge students’ determination and interest,not to mention that the numerical grading system adds to healthy competition.
    Taking tuitions is actually a healthy practice, there are always going to be two sides to everything but the comparative benefits are just greater.
    Dont get me wrong, all the suggestions sound great on paper, but all in all they are somewhat analogous to someone telling you that you dont need money to live a happy life.
    If we have a pass fail system, im sorry but that would push this country and its people towards mediocrity, learning comes in all forms, tuitions help students learn more than the syllabi too for an example.Recommend

  • http://mominamela.wordpress.com Momina

    Good perspective, but I’m sure this article itself is a by-product of competing in the A’s rat race yourself. That’s a nice ‘to-do’ list, but are you pursuing the educational system of Pakistan through the eyes of a common Pakistani man or from that of a worldly scholar? There’s no doubt that GPAs and A plus’s do not determine a person’s intellect, but a failure to realize the social circumstances of your own country does strain one’s own iq. We should encourage creativity, yes, but by trying to pull down the ideologies that people have clung on to, you will only aggravate your students further. Plus there are some innovative teachers in Pakistan, but they will not share their teaching as it is their own intellectual and creative property for a minimum wage, so its not right to bash on people who ask for higher wages..they are usually the ones who deserve it the most.Recommend

  • Ghassan Khan

    Good write Sir. But by simply passing or failing a student you can not gauge his caliber. This system needs a step by step thought process to be discovered and would take generations to be implemented. Still, hope for the best !Recommend

  • Muhammad Abdullah

    My teacher in school said one thing. ‘WHY’…Its all you need to intrigue, understand and learn

    I agree with author on that

    I would love to have an instructor like that. . . . . . ..

    BUT

    ” they have degrees from elite institutions but still take Ahmadis to be kafirs (non-Muslims). “”

    What does degree has to do with this… this was really out of article and unnecessary thing.Recommend

  • The weird one

    To start it off I’m currently 16 years old and I earn 15k a week from just one company that I work for it’s based in UK. I work for 2 more companies, for one I’m an online operations manager the other I’m a database manager. I started my own business back when I was 15 years old earned around £1000 from it in just one month. Currently I’m working on an online social networking system which I’d rather not talk about here. Now let’s have a look at my education side I failed in Pakistan Studies and Sindhi back in 9th. I nearly failed in 10th with Urdu and now in 1st year I failed in Urdu. Now is success and education co-related? Nope I don’t think so I’ve outsmart a lot of guys both my age and bigger than me most of them are studying engineering which nearly 80% of students in Pakistan are studying. Now I’m not saying those who study don’t succeed but what I’m saying is you don’t really have to be a topper or an engineer to be successful in life. I don’t look forward to even graduating now. But that’s just my opinion so don’t hate me for it. Have a nice day! Allah Hafiz.Recommend

  • Nausherwan Aziz

    This is very good article but there are many technical difficulties which may arise from such a method of teaching…
    1) Asking questions such as ”who are you”,come into the domain of philosophy now philosophy in itself is a subject which has theoretical application at best so practical education would be limited.
    2) If this system of teaching would be adopted you would indeed have more intellectual minds being produced but very few people can afford to grow intellect over learning in a practical manner as the job market is almost dead and the prices are rocketing so it would be impractical in manner.
    3)To ask questions which are about a delicate religious issue is something which i feel as a whole the country is not ready for because people here have firm rigid beliefs and some arent modern enough especially some children are narrow minded so they wouldnt feel comfortable answering questions of such a nature we have to first modernize ourselves to a point where any question can be tolerable to anyone regardless of background tribe
    or religious school of thought.

    One thing which can be done is the introduction of dual degrees into our universities which have one theoretical subject and one practical subject combined for example Oxford has a philosophy+computer science program, such degrees would produce intellectual people who are also skilled at a practical tool so they would get jobs easily and be polished personalities.Recommend

  • Ayesha Wadood

    Really nicely written :) Id say that it doesn’t have to be an ‘either’ or ‘or’ thing. People who get awesome grades or GPA’s are not all pseudo intellectuals, ‘lost in the pursuit of numbers’. Some of them may be pursuing knowledge, or respect, and knowledge may be positively corelated with a higher GPA or better grades. In fact, I think that GPA and IQ is positively correlated. The relationship may even be causal, with high IQ individuals usually getting higher GPA’s. I’m not denying that some of the very high GPA people might have a considerably lower IQ score than some of the people with a really low GPA. Of course, It depends on how different kinds of individuals prioritize and what they value most. Just claiming that ceteris paribus, it is more ‘probable’ that a higher GPA individual has a higher IQ than a lower GPA one (on average cors) Recommend

  • Khadija

    i don’t agree with you sir.
    because you teach the class of student who don’t even have any basis and they are too lazy to find out true answer they just follow you and get confused.
    its good to make them think but its your responsibility to clear the confusions you creat. Recommend

  • A.K

    My goal in a classroom setting has been simple; make students as uncomfortable as possible with the content of the lecture. Once they get uncomfortable with the ideas that I float, they despise me, and to prove me wrong they go back home and do research.

    - Does this approach work for everyone or are you catering to those with a natural bent towards philosophy? There’s a reason why vocational training institutes exist all around the world, because philosophy (more broadly, liberal arts colleges) is not for everyone. You might be alienating a part of your class with your approach. There should certainly be a balance, because your decision to philosophize each subject is political since it resonates with your vision of what education should be. So, in that pursuit, you may be favoring a certain kind of student over the other. While I personally agree that critical thinking and analytical abilities are important, we shouldn’t expect students to conform to this new method overnight. Change must be gradual, otherwise it will again discriminate against a certain kind of student.

    I have observed three outcomes of such a situation:
    1) Students do some research and agree with my views.
    2) Students curse me and reject my views outright.
    3) Students get confused and realise that the world is complex and requires much more in-depth study.
    I aim for students to end up in the third slot.

    - How many actually end up there?

    What we produce, through our educational system, are pseudo intellectuals, who, as I observed in my classrooms, have read the Holy Quran in Arabic but do not understand the meaning as they don’t understand Arabic; they believe Islam to be the only righteous religion but can’t justify it; they have degrees from elite institutions but still take Ahmadis to be kafirs (non-Muslims).

    - I disagree with some of your examples here. I agree that a person who hasn’t read the Quran’s meaning can be considered a pseudo-intellectual. However, when you argue that only a pseudointellectual cannot justify why they think their religion is the only righteous religion, I think you digress. I won’t go into detail here, but Kant, Al-Ghazzali and Iqbal’s philosophy on religion, and Sufism shows the difficulty of communicating the “validity” of a religion or religious experience through rationale and reason alone. Each of them had different reasons and arguments, but all reached a similar conclusion. So, calling someone a pseudointellectual on that account is uncalled for. Also, you’re arguing that anyone who has a degree from an elite institution but claims that Ahmadis are Kafirs are pseudointellectuals. I don’t see how the logic follows here. My views on the issue probably do resonate with yours (Mohsin is one of my good friends, I don’t believe in judging other’s faith and the meaning of the term “kaafir” itself has evolved over time), but I’m not talking about my views here; I’m talking about the specific assertion you are making here. You are assuming a priori that anyone who asserts that Ahmedis are kaafirs is a pseudointellectual. So if anyone gets education from an elite institute but still claims that Ahmedis are kaafirs didn’t learn from his/her her education. I think if people have one controversial view, we shouldn’t judge the value of their education or intellect from that.

    Students end up getting degrees but no education.
    The burden of blame also rests on the students. At the end of my first week of teaching, in two of the leading universities of Pakistan, I was branded an atheist, Freemason and Hitler all because I forced them out of their comfort zones.

    **- Which universities were you teaching at? How many students labeled you as an atheist, freemason and Hitler? What percentage of students did that? Were the two classes that you took representative of the student body in Pakistan? If not, then you are generalizing from a very limited sample, and pushing an unfair burden on all Pakistani students.

    Instead of the number of As scored, I believe that evaluation should be based on the amount of learning in the classroom through psychological testing techniques that gauge true intellect and make test taking an activity that becomes fun and not stressful.**

    - What psychological testing techniques? Can you be more specific on that because most psychological testing techniques are highly subjective and not generalizable? The goal of having “GPAs” and “A’s” is to maintain some degree of objectivity in the grading. There is a template that ALL graders have to follow. And – What is true intellect? How did you define true intellect here and how is it better or preferable to other definitions of true intellect? Why should test taking be a fun activity? Most tests in life are not fun. Life itself is not necessarily fun. If you don’t prepare people to perform in stressful situations, how will people perform in much more stressful situations in real life?

    For instance, in my Islamic Political Philosophy course, there was only one question in the final exam:
    Is God Just?

    - Did the students know what kind of question to expect in the final exam? If not, it would be a little unfair to students who might be preparing for the exam based on their prior experience with courses.

    In another one of my courses, Political Science, the midterm question was:
    Justify murder
    And in my Pakistan Studies course, I gave the students a very simple question, one that would challenge even the most intellectual people. It was:
    Who are you?

    - I agree that this question is challenging but only because it’s so broad. With such a broad question, it does become difficult to prioritize what information to reveal, and I wonder how well it tests one’s knowledge of the content as it seems to measuring the ability to write well. As I mentioned earlier, there needs to be a balance between testing people’s reasoning ability and testing people’s objective knowledge of content. Having good reasoning ability is great, but if that isn’t combined with good, objective knowledge of content, then I’m not too sure how useful that is. To use an example – For an economist to make good economic policies, the economist must have a very good critical thinking and analytical ability. How does the economist develop that? Through the kind of questions that you propose. But, the economist must also have a very good retention ability, so that he can keep the facts and figures from around the world in his head. How does he develop that? Through questions on exams that test memorization of certain kinds of knowledge (we all know how handy those mathematical tables that we rote-learned are). Finally, in addition to the retention ability, the economist must also have a very good understanding and knowledge of facts from history and the current world. The economist can only develop that through questions on exams that test the memorization/retention of these facts/figures. So I think you shouldn’t go too hard on rote memorization.

    In all the answers I received for these questions, there was a common inability of understanding the rationale behind our beliefs. For the ‘who are you’ question, majority of the class talked about the creation of Pakistan, corruption, suffering, load shedding, manipulation of the elite, and Islamic identity.

    The irony here is that the socio-economic class that these students belonged to is least affected by the crisis in Pakistan.

    - By definition, the question “Who you are” cannot have any right or wrong answer. It’ll vary from person to person but when people talk about creation of Pakistan, corruption, suffering etc, you say “there is an inability to understand the rationale behind our beliefs.” Are you implicitly suggesting that the students were giving the “wrong answer?” It’s questionable how you can judge the socio-economic background of these students merely from interacting with them in class, but still assuming that for the sake of discussion, it’s not improbable that people in this socio-economic class had their identities defined by these problems (even if they were “least affected by the crisis in Pakistan”). There’s nothing “wrong” about that answer in itself, as long as it’s reasoned well.

    Also, such intellectually challenging questions proved to be torturous for rote-learners. Appropriate teaching and evaluating methods will not only instil intellectualism among students, and provide them with the necessary think-tank tools to question stereotypes and prejudices, but will negate the culture of cheating in our classrooms, and society in general.
    Pakistan’s education policy, like the mindset of a majority of the people here, is ‘number-oriented’ and not based on quality. Whether it is the obsession with achieving the first position in class, bagging a bunch of ‘A’s’ in O’ and A’ levels, attaining a 4.00 GPA in university or the concern to start off with a salary package of Rs100,000 after graduation – the depth and purpose seems to have gotten lost in thepursuit of numbers.

    - Why do you think the majority of people in Pakistan are “number oriented?” Is this an assertion or do you have data to back that up? I think you’ll find similar trends if you head down to the U.S. or other countries. I don’t Pakistan is the only country “at fault” here. It’s how things work globally.

    If you are serious about this, I encourage you to send this article to the CIE/British Council who administers the O/A level examination and I’m sure you’ll find a very interesting response from them about the value of the O/A levels examinations, and what it fundamentally tests. It tests our reasoning abilities (although I will admit some people game the system by doing a lot of past papers and rote learning).

    What Pakistan needs is not just an upgrade in the educational curriculum but a revamp of the teaching method used. Innovation and evaluation should be encouraged amongst teachers and students, so the system can ensure that they are producing intellectuals and not just numbers.

    - Propose a road-map. Deconstruction is much easier than “construction.”

    The O’ and A’ level system is only producing a generation of youthembroiled in a rat race to secure the maximum number of A’s. Their study then revolves around achieving this objective. Studying past papers, rote learning prepared answers or indulging in strenuous out-of-class tutoring all have become an indicator of what is now defined as ‘intelligent’.

    Evaluation is equally absurd at the university level where a relative grading system puts students in competition with each other. Thisdrive for grades not only kills the learning component of education but also forces students to cheat on exams – one of the major problems I have noticed at the universities at which I teach.

    - In most colleges abroad, the relative grading system is of course based on a curve but that is to help the students, not hurt them. There is a grading spectrum defined whereby if a student achieves a certain number of points, he/she will get the grade identified by those points. If all students get 100s, they will all get A’s/A+’s. So you are not “curved down.” But on the other hand, you are curved up. If all the students get 60’s, according to the absolute grading system, they will get D’s or E’s but because of the curve, they all end up with A’s/B’s or at worst C’s. Their scores are “curved up.” So collaboration is NOT penalized or discouraged. Collaboration is in fact encouraged in many liberal arts colleges abroad. Asides from the relative grading system, there are not many alternatives available. The absolute grading system could in fact end up hurting students more than helping them.

    This could all be changed if we were to bring innovation into thecurrent model of teaching and evaluation that is practised in Pakistan. Innovation in teaching could be ushered in by philosophising subjects – by making students question the reasoning for certain events and by training them to think analytically and critically.

    - You’re essentially talking about introducing a liberal arts education system in Pakistan. Liberal arts colleges exist around the world, and their fundamental goals are the same. The same concept should be applied and adapted in the Pakistani society. We should not re-invent the wheel. Let us learn and adapt from the liberal arts education system according to our needs.

    In order to achieve this we must, first, change the nature of the student-teacher relationship in Pakistan. Having a laid back, friendly student-teacher relationship will make students comfortable enough to ask bold questions without the fear of being labelled as ‘stupid’. I have observed from this approach that more students are interested in attending classes and coming to teachers’s office casually for an intellectual talk. This not only makes room to spark a healthy debate, but also gives students the confidence to challenge my ideas and those of their peers.

    In terms of evaluation, instead of the GPA system, a pass or fail system should exist. This will help to ease the rigidity of the ‘number’ based approach with a fresh ‘learning’ approach – something desperately needed in Pakistan.

    - I don’t think the “number” based approach necessarily clashes with the “learning” approach. Also, in most cases, SAT scores/GMAT scores have been as a good predictor of success in College or Business School. That is precisely why many schools have continued to use both the SAT and GMAT as part of the application process for admission to colleges and business schools. You’ll need to provide evidence that the people currently getting 4.0 GPAs at top schools are not intellectual or smart. And for that you’ll need to use data from students around the world to do an econometric analysis. Without that, you can’t make broad generalizations about people attaining 4.0 GPAs. If you look at the economics/sociology literature, the GPA is a good predictor of success in professional life.

    You go a little too far when you argue to abolish the grading system, replacing it with pass/fail. I won’t go into the arguments for keeping the grading system (within a liberal arts education system though) but you’re trying to take on educators from around the world who have reached a consensus on the value of the grading system in the absence of any other alternative. The pass/fail system is hardly an alternative. While you mentioned in the article that you like your students to realize the complicated nature of most areas that requires much more research, you seem to be ignoring that lesson by proposing a naive alternative, in my opinion, to the problem that the grading system is solving. It’s a complex problem. Let’s not simplify it. Join the discussion!

    To sum it up, there is a need of to break off from the older system; change the philosophy of learning and education by accepting creativity and originality in teaching and evaluation. Such a change will make the class room and learning experience something students look forward to. It will train future intellectuals to seize the tools needed to become successful. The students will learn to strive to be the best in their own individual capacity and this will generate the kind of people who we would want leading our country in the times to come.Recommend

  • Noumaan Shamsi

    Justify Murder? Wow. I would absolutely love to be in your class. Wonderful post, from undoubtably a wonderful teacher!Recommend

  • Not a student

    To sum it up, there is a need to break off from the older system; change the philosophy of learning and education by accepting creativity and originality in teaching and evaluation

    Evalution system is already changed for some college girl students.Grading is done in bedrooms.

    http://borderlessnewsandviews.com/2012/02/sexual-exploitation-in-pakistani-universities-students-perspective/

    Changing GPA system to pass or fail, is no progress. Changing evaluation system means no uniformity, different teachers will grade same students differently. More problems for female student.Recommend

  • Lame

    I have a question, how do you grade such broad answers and then justify these grades? If you grade “facts” then its grading memorisation and if you grade “arguments” then some students may be good at baseless arguments? So tell me. I really want to know.Recommend

  • Javaria Hina

    Marvelous….! A very well written blog with a solid point…We got degrees but not education.A dilemma indeed!Recommend

  • Ayimen Saleh

    “Excellent . Stretched my understanding. Appreciated your groundedness—no spacey channeling—real stuff!! Thanks.Recommend

  • R A

    The situation of education in Pakistan is in chaos. Higher Education is provided to a very limited sect of the population. In that kind of environment where people are worried about getting a descent job after completing their degree, you cannot imagine to make them think in that philosophical way. People start to ‘think’ when they are free from all the problems we face today in Pakistan. What the writer is suggesting is something that may be practiced in the West where it is easy to get to the universities. Where they have no worries about finances and job security.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/abeer.mohammad.754 Abeer Mohammad

    Very well written article. But i only ask one question. with regards to the society and culture of Pakistan, the expectations of parents from their children of scoring the best marks and achieving some sort of measurable results that justify the money they spend into the education of their children. how do you defeat this ritual of a sort where children from the age of primary education are kept in fear of not getting good grades. How do they answer their parents who in majority believe that the only way to pay back the money spent for their childrens education is by achieving a high score. The idea of Pass and Fail methodology for education is something i would agree with, but would the parents be satisfied that their children have just attained a pass considering their spent thousands and thousands of dollars and Rupees for university and higher education. after all, it is the parents who introduce children to education, and pay for the most part of it. Would earning their trust with such a system for education not be something that demands attention too?

    P.S – Im not a parent. I’m not even married yet.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/ublomniofficial Tariq

    i wish i had a teacher like you when i was studying. Recommend

  • QAudian

    Probably I’ll take your class next semester:) Recommend

  • Refreshed

    I agree with your points but I believe I have often, if not always, been taught by the best of teachers in my school and college as well as in my university. I have grown up under the patronage of such inspiring teachers whose purpose was not to finish the semester course but to deliver true knowledge. And not only that, each of them taught me how LIVE. Our educational system, I believe, is already on its way towards change for the better.Recommend

  • Zee

    This was a very refreshing article.You are absolutely right. I wish I was your studentRecommend

  • umz

    well well written sir and justifiedRecommend

  • Silas

    You sir are a genius. I want you as my instructorRecommend

  • http://affanjaved.tumblr.com Affan Javed

    I agree with your article 100%. I am sad that you didn’t teach when I was a student. However, I was lucky to have a teacher just like you, who helped us challenge are comfort zones.

    It helped me a lot in my life and allowed me to understand who I am and why I believe what I believe. Recommend