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.

  • Gohar Salin

    Bravo! claps

    I totally agree with this article! What’s the point of all this (quality) education, when at the end of the day you’re still as backward as everyone else was 50 years ago!?Recommend

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

    Every one who is in favour of A grades and High GPA, kindly listen to the talk of Ken Robinson


  • rubab21

    Great piece! Wish more professors thought like you back home. The only time that I really intellectually challenged myself or pursued more than just good grades was sadly when I came to do my Bacholer studies abroad. The obsession with getting a bajillion A’s however, was something I abhored since highschool though.

    Keep teaching the way you do and don’t succomb to administration pressure, Paksitan badly needs acamedics like you.Recommend

  • http://counseling4career.wordpress.com/ Sajjad Hussain

    Dear Mr. Hussain, AOA

    I am impressed by your thoughts and like to share my experience which is similar to yours. After having gone through that expereince I also came up with my three blogs based on the same dilemma, which you have been through.


    You can view, read and share my blogs at the given link.

    Sajjad HussainRecommend

  • littlegiant

    @donku: if you indeed are a genius on the account of getting A’s, then surely you can show it through achieving great laurels in your profession? Perhaps something great? perhaps rising to the top of your profession? I would love to know what those achievements are of yourself and of the thousands of others who get A’s year in and year out within Pakistan.

  • Muhammad Arsalan Ullah Khan

    ‘they have degrees from elite institutions but still take Ahmadis to be kafirs (non-Muslims).’
    This was not needed. Seriously. The rest of the piece was thought provoking. Quite a few people have suggested such ideas but they are yet to be implemented, aren’t they.?What’s needed, is a violent nudge by the masses, a shove hard enough to have multiple kinds of impact on this twisted labyrinth of dishevelled education system.Recommend

  • Muhammad Aanish Raees

    Very interesting read! Its something that’s present around us and still we don’t seem to be doing anything about it. I think the change needs to come from the students, or at least a large part of it. What I might suggest though is instead of having the poll at the end of this article, advertise it somewhere else. People will read this article and then answer vote keeping your view in mind. If you want an unbiased opinion, I think it’d be best if the poll is independent of the article. But thats just my view. Recommend

  • Ahmed Abdur Rehman

    Well justified article…. I hope the people especially the students get the essence of this well scripted thought instead of creating an illusion of Un-Islamic philosophy and atheism in their developing minds… Always think for yourself. I would also add a query to whomever pleases to answer …… Why is our nation completely and blindly acting at the stance of our religious leaders (MULLAHS), although we are all well aware of the set up they ware brought up in…. I am not judging them but my point is; why not study yourself in finding the truth, the right and as Muslims we all know which book to consider.Recommend

  • Gladmaverick

    Omg! Please be my teacher.Pretty plz plZ,,,,Recommend

  • http://owaisscribbles.blogspot.com Owais Moeen

    Can’t argue with the truth! I got a straight F when I gave my strategic management teacher suggestions to improve class participation. I started off my MBA with 3.7 gpa and ended up with 3.1. The reason, I challenged my teachers based on my corporate experience to spark the discussion. a lot of them didn’t even care what students were taking away from them. the just cared about pay-checks and completing hours that’s all. The day I’ll start teaching, my focus would be to get my students concerned on the learning objectives of the course and not their GRADES! I have seen Gold medalists of Renowned institutes messing up projects at my organisation. Recommend

  • http://www.accidentallyhuman.com Sanya Shiraz

    Does Aitchison have the Cambridge system? Because I’ve studied in the Cambridge system (just gave my A level exam the other day) and history at the O level might be a little bit like that but it’s very different in A levels. You are made to question EVERYTHING. It’s probably like that in O levels as well, it’s just that we have horrible teachers who have nothing else to teach except Quaid and how he was just simply awesome and how Gandhi was the bad guy. Although the Cambridge system does have its flaws I wouldn’t say it’s JUST rote learning, because I have three theoretical subjects (Socio, Law and WHS) and we have to critically analyse and assess stuff.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Muhammad Arsalan Ullah Khan: “‘they have degrees from elite institutions but still take Ahmadis to be kafirs (non-Muslims).This was not needed. Seriously”

    it would be better to say” ….. have degrees from elite institutions but still they have not learned to treat and respect other human beings as equal”. They are still illiterate. Recommend

  • fatima Zahra

    Actually I encourage them to bring forth their religious theory,my beliefs are quite grounded but I do not want to impose anything on anyone rather I reason out religion with them proving how it helps us in more ways than one…so they can barely call me a KaafirRecommend

  • Vikram

    @Owais Moeen: “The day I’ll start teaching, my focus would be to get my students concerned on the learning objectives of the course and not their GRADES! I have seen Gold medalists of Renowned institutes messing up projects at my organisation.”

    You started your comment how you got an F and ended twith “students should not be concerned with grades”. If some Gold medalists mess up projects that does not mean students with GPA 2.0 are doing the best. Goal of education should be to impart skills, knowledge, develop mind to solve problems and think creatively about developing new things or imrpove the existing ones. Recommend

  • F

    While I will appreciate this new approach to education but I don’t think this will make us more intellectual.

    First of all the theory presented here does not apply to all the courses. e.g Numbers courses (Maths, Stats, accounts) don’t permit this. Other courses like Physics, chemistry, eco are all rules based. Only a handful of courses allow debate and thinking out of the box.
    Secondly, by implementing just a “pass” or “fail” system, students will become more laid back.

    Numbers creates a desire in us to achieve something. Moreover, it promotes competition within students.
    The problem is not with the education grading, the problem is with how are achieving the eduction. Our education show be knowledge based and not ratta based. And we can achieve knowledge by learning the fundamental reasoning behind a certain concept/rule.
    and lastly students are not interested in education but it is not their passion. They do it because of the pressure from parents, society or because of the fear they would not get the jobs. Recommend

  • Vikram

    @rubab21: “Great piece! Wish more professors thought like you back home. The only time that I really intellectually challenged myself or pursued more than just good grades was sadly when I came to do my Bacholer studies abroad.”

    You think your grades did not help you get admission to a school abroad.. You decided to intellectually challenge yoursefl and persue more then grades abroad. What made you do that?

    There are students who excel even under the worst circumstances

    A Pakistani teenager aged nine became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional .


    16-Year Old Boy Solves 350 Years Old Puzzles Posed By Sir …Newton


    May 28, 2012 … newton unsolved law german genius solves mathematics theorem einstein equation indian boy solved 16 year old indian to solve Einstein`s …Recommend

  • http://- faizan bin tariq

    i can’t say much about university system of grading but the perception regarding o/a level given in the article is absolutely wrong. it’s not about rote-learning & doing that won’t even help a bit. you have to be a good intellect & push yourself to a certain level to grab an A in this system of education. o-levels is arguably easier but a-levels is a complete game of smart work & of course hard work as well. so grabbing 36 A’s is a big deal & it would only require a genius to do that. & i am pretty sure that no idiot would get a 4.0 GPA, this too requires extraordinary hard work.
    i partly agree with the necessary changes in education system aimed towards it’s improvement but more importantly we need to learn to respect people who have struggled and achieved rightly and justly & their extraordinary acts do earn them the right to be called genius.(this doesn’t include fake degree politicians & other “sifarshi” assholes!) it’s easy to defame such intellects as majority of us know inside that we simply can’t beat them and will not even try to do that.Recommend

  • Haris

    I agree with the point that you are making but do you not feel the questions that you are asking in your exams are unfair as rationalizing a response to such a question on the spot can be a daunting task for even very well-reasoned people. I think there is a greater need to have more take-home exams and a bigger emphasis on writing research and response papers to develop critical thinking. Furthermore, us Pakistani young people are not used to making our own decisions for ourselves and honestly do not have very well developed methods of thinking. Our thought processes are muddled and paternalism is a huge part of our society. Fear of judgement by other people is sometimes a bigger factor behind our decisions than our wishes and needs themselves.Recommend

  • Zain

    i have my own fav quote “Use your brain, or someone else will use you”
    thats it… when we encourage this type of philosphy commonly we will have true intellect peopleRecommend

  • http://scienceislam.com engineering4logic

    I agree that we must research and follow the true way of life. The problem is most dont want to do the research but once you do you would probably come to the conclusion that islam is the true religion and i know that for a fact as that was the conclusion i came to and of so many other professors that i know of from University of Toronto, University of waterloo and many others had reached the same conclusion. It is hence not really a mystery that islam is the fastest growing religion in the world (specifically in north america) The reason people are accepting islam in large numbers is that the statements made in the Qur’an pertaining to the development of fetus, hubble’s law, big bang theory, expansion of universe, mountains having roots are so much scientifically accurate and the most interesting thing is that these discoveries were made only about 50-60 years ago. Hence, Dr. Keith Moore, the famous professor of Univeristy of Toronto, Canada who was the pioneer in the field of embryology was literally amazed to find the exact accurate description of an embryo’s development that he too agreed that this must have been divine. Similarly there are many others like Dr. Maurice from france who was the lead surgeon in the medical team that was the first to examine the body of ramses III (pharaoh of prophet moses (p.b.u.h.) time) and who at a later stage accepted islam.
    The point being, that if someone has accepted islam then we should not make fun of him/her and ridicule them for indeed to the many muslim converts out there and for me and others islam is the truth. So lets continue the research and be more confident about our religion.Recommend

  • Mr A.

    I wish I had one of such teacher in UET :( I have just graduated , and in all my four years of University life i’ve been in search of some one who truly convey knowledge and not just Education. All what teachers do here, is a neural torture through quizes, assignments and grades… Imparting Knowledge in a friendly atmosphere is seldom given importance…

    Give me one question, like “Who You are?” or “Justify Murder” and watch the creativity unleash within me, Give me a Two page Paper comprising Exercise questions and I’ll detest it like anything.. :sRecommend

  • Riaz Rupani

    So totally agreed Mr. Nadim!

    The more a person is comfortable with himself, the more receptive he becomes to conflicting ideas, and the more productive he becomes for himself and the society.Recommend

  • Amal

    Brilliant article, really, but what do you plan on doing about it?Recommend

  • addy

    One of the best articles i have ever read .. i appreciate the writer for introducing a reason based approch towards learning.
    I wish i could attend an open lecture .Recommend

  • Aamir Rashid

    A well illustrated view of the current education system of Pakistan. The Irony however that the writer calls out to the pseudo intellectuals, and people who just “read” the Arabic in The Quran, yet due to his lack of knowledge comments on the very sensitive topic of “Ahmedis”, Oh the Irony. Recommend

  • Hmph

    This article is Ali Moeen Nawazish’s worst nightmare.Recommend

  • sakbar

    while i agree with much of what you say, you cannot totally abandon the competitive examination system in favor of a ‘pass fail’ system, as that system would not discriminate between hard workers and slackers between those who are ‘smart’ (agreed normatively speaking with regards to the system, but any such grading is discriminatory for a reason) and those who are not and even those who learn to ‘beat the system’ and those who dont. yes we do not produce philosoraptors in our current system, but in your alternative model we would tend to over produce ‘lazy college seniors’ (referring to the popular internet memes). Rat races serve a purpose in our developing world, they create competition in order to insure that what the economy seems to need to the most (as depicted via positively measured employment opportunities as opposed to normatively assessed ‘needs for intellectuals’), gets the most. This is not to deny that we do not produce intellectuals who would spur genuine intellectual growth and progress, I shall fully support a mechanism that does that well enough (for example the liberal arts college idea in the USA) without resorting to anti-competitive measures such as the one you propose. indeed if we do need intellectuals, we ought to produce them- but not arm chair intellectuals mass produced by a system that rewards none. Competition even within intellectual fields (philosophy majors in colleges elsewhere do get grades too) is a necessity. Recommend

  • Anab Imam

    Though you are right on point in regard to O and A levels grade myth, Education system has to change because no Tsunami(no offense!) can bring change until you have an intellectual or people with conscience in the main stream.Even though you are an atheist and i m pretty sure you might be among one of those, who would challenge the creation of Pakistan, i would suggest you to go through Islamic history and understand how a handful of people were able to rule a greater part of Asia within next 100 years. Remember, it was in the Islams golden age that most of these discoveries happened i.e. Algebra. Either keep blaming everyone around yourself for not comprehending whats wrong with the world or man up and stop throwing your guilt on country and religion, there is much in history to learn. Besides all those western countries that u named, they have a history of over 1000-300 years in which they were invaded, looted, burned, built, coexist and only then they became a nation and understood how to live in harmony and peace with prosperity. It will take us some time to bring a nation, Allah has gifted you a great mind, use it in the right direction and come out of this "burger" school of thought, look on the problems of the rest of the 98% population of Pakistan, who are better human beings than i and u will ever be; Because they dont complain or throw blame on country and religion like you, me and most of us “educated” ones do. Recommend

  • Vikram

    Author “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.”

    You can’t ask Muslims “Is God just”? By asking that type of question you are putting doubts in their mind about God. This Goes against the thinking “Islam is a perfect religion”. Do you expect a Muslim to say “God is not just”?

    Education and mind development starts at home. First 5-6 years of learning determine hwo you will react to challenges, or how creative you will be.

    Peace in home and your enivronment is very important for students to concentrate on learmimg.

    It is important for people to respect each other. How can students from minorities groups succeed and use their full potential if they constantly live under fear.Recommend

  • Vikram

    Like your one question testing, i used a cover letter with 2 words “I CAN” and I got interviews and a job.Recommend

  • Amjad A

    What you are doing is crazy good stuff. Few more people like you in our education system, and i can already see a ‘change’ coming. This is the sort of bottom-up change we need, not the sort that Imran Khan proposes which is highly radical and only good in rhetoric. Recommend

  • amna

    agree with the most of the people here that it must start from the grass root level. Grown up in this present system, the shift may pinches the students at the early stage at least . Like I always thought to change my understanding for the views taught at graduate level, i got so much deviated, in short i lose focus & in result me standing no where up till now. wish me luck!Recommend

  • Amjad A

    One needs guts of steel to teach something like this in Pakistan. Inspiring. Recommend

  • Mohsin Bukhari

    article good but why express tribune support Ahmadis too much?Recommend

  • Talha Rehman Khan

    Would you please justify…
    How Ahmadies are Muslims?Recommend

  • AHK

    What does studying from elite institutions & considering Ahmedi’s muslims have anything to do with each other?Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Its a nation where asking y is absolutely forbidden rather punishable
    We believe what we hear without investigating which is a lie as per Hadith Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    even though i agree with writer for not evaluating students on the basis of Grades, but still i would like to give A+ for the above piece!! :) Top NOTCH!!!!Recommend

  • Tariq Shamim Khwaja


    Just to set the record straight …

    Is God Just?
    Yes. By justice I mean:
    1. Gives at least what we deserve
    2. Does not punish us more than we deserve

    He is, in fact, Gracious and Merciful which is over and above simply being just. Being just is the minimum.

    Justify murder
    Unjust murder justifies capital punishment. If there is an agreed upon process by the majority of the people (such as a Justice system with courts, etc.) then that process can be used to kill someone who has killed unjustly.

    Who are you?
    Servant of Allah.

    These questions are not too tough.Recommend

  • http://khaqanshati.blogspot.com Razm

    Problem is our current education system which is based on or supports -rattafication- otherwise in international universities students’ evaluation is devise in a way that one who tops the class is the one who really holds the knowledge of the subject. I am a PhD student at POSTECH, Korea and I can assure you that if we change the students’ evaluation method we will have no problem like grades vs. success.

    But author should not have brought his own thinking about Ahmadis to this topic; as it appeared irrelevant and kind of imposition.

    By the way I would love to read the answers (from author) of the sample questions author shared. Its the easiest job to pose trickiest questions in the paper to show one’s intellectual level. But required is how good you train/teach students to tackle such questions; if you have not trained students on such lines where they feel able to answer such questions then such questions are just a show off of personal intellect as done in this article. Recommend

  • Shahrukh kazmi

    Be a great student or a failure but when it comes to practical life its a whole different scenario and then you realize that all those lectures which sounded so logical in those highly paid universities are useless, so welcome now you are in professional world it is bitter, but real and this is where you learn real lesson.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Tariq Shamim Khwaja

    Just to set the record straight …

    Is God Just?
    Yes. By justice I mean:
    1. Gives at least what we deserve
    2. Does not punish us more than we deserve

    So whatever corruprt politicians are getting, God is giving them because they deserve it.

    All the Muslims being kin killed in Pakistan by other Muslims “deserve” that. You are genius in your own way.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Mohsin Bukhari:
    I think you can write about Madrassah education and how good jobs talibans are doing to make people FOLLOW Islam.

    Author just mentioned Ahmadis once to indicate how educated people don’t know how to respect other human beings created by the same God as equal.

    Try to understand the purpose of a religion.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @fatima Zahra:
    “so they can barely call me a Kaafir”

    So you are going to let others detrmines what you are. If one person calls you Kaafir, you will becomeRecommend

  • shahryar

    i my opinion students should aim for A and 4 gpa because the main thing is how perfect you are in attempting any thing in life wether a job or studies or any other profession.never i heard of any one who excelled showed mediocrity of any kind ,so instead of cursing the system and whole education pattern we should seriously revisit our strategy and aim for excellence.

    P.S; i have suffered personally ,so iam in a better position to tell what future might be for you sissysRecommend

  • Hunaid


  • http://none.com bp


    You and your students share something: you both have holes in your knowlege! A man who translates kafir as non-Muslim has no respect from me. That word has been so frequently explained that we have no excuse left to call our non-Muslim bretheren kuffaar.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Tariq Shamim Khwaja:

    How does God punish humans? How do you know it is God who is punishing you? Recommend

  • Question for the author

    Do you think Punishment of Muslims starts in the grave? Can you prove it or disapprove it?Recommend

  • laraib

    great article sir……. how can i contact u…… i really need a teacher like you:}Recommend

  • Sami saayer

    Excellent read. I had a 2.6 GPA and that has never stopped me at any stage of my 9 years career. In fact, nobody has ever asked me about it. I have recently started teaching too and try applying similar technique as yours (not that radical yet though) but this is what tests the kids. They need to come out of their cmfort zones.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/MariyumIftikhar Mariyum Iftikhar

    An exceptionally incredible piece of writing that I read in a while. We need people like you as teachers and policy makers. I wish I was your student!Recommend

  • mahjabeen

    Going through the hardest time of my life,flunked in 4 of my courses(for me that’s not justified)and i can totally relate to this article its just about numbers,nobody appreciates being intellectual in this society. I am being tagged as a bad student’,but deep inside i know myself that i am not.Its about learning and yes i learned something from this process as well.Thankyou for posting articles like these,it keeps you goingRecommend

  • http://www.myasinmasood.blogspot.com Muhammad Yasin

    I hope the writer comes up with a follow up … on the How to do so part… for those who want to change their waysRecommend

  • Vikram

    Author” “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?”

    What is the correct answer to these questions? How do you judge people based on their answers if there correct answer is not known?

    To first question Is God Just?
    answer could be simple yes or no
    question does not ask for an explaination for the answer.

    It will be easier for a madrassah studenst to answer these question, because some of them learn about Jihad and how to kill, they could easily justify murder.Recommend

  • Mobien

    Contrary is also true, its not always that going against the system makes you intelligent or genius. The problem with pseudo-intellects is that they’ll go upside down on each-n-every ideology that prevails and consider this as some sort of “intellectual” achievement. Ahmedi issue is pure technical! Reaction of the masses is a separate issue, so lets keep it out of discussion. Rest I agree with, the purpose of education should be to evolve our ability to learn using correct definitions, to reason based on defined rules and either to converge to a conclusion or diverge to a disagreement. Recommend

  • Rizwan Qamar

    Indeed its a good idea, but I slightly disagree because grades exist every where in the world, and with out grades how we can evaluate any student, even for pass or fail you need a criteria. I am in full agreement that Grades are not important, the important is one’s intellect and it emerge with reading and discussion, but what about those who daily come university or college but only for attendance and never bother for the studies. They just came to pass their time and create fun. May be they are fed up with typical educational system of Pakistan. I believe that at University level its all about teacher, how he drive the class!! Recommend

  • DD

    [email protected]:

    I would like to contradict with you on both the points. Firstly, I cant down your statement about classrooms not being a learning ground. That’s what we have made them but that’s really not how its SUPPOSED to be. Classrooms build the capacity and the acumen for further “on-job” training. They basically set a fertile ground, a firm base- extremely essential for one’s “DEVELOPMENT”. Further training and experiential learning help plough the already fertile ground.

    The second point that you made is actually what the writer’s trying to say here. That’s the point you see. If you want to EARN handsomely, the current educational approaches are absolutely spot on. Earning hefty packages have nothing to do with the “intellectual development”.Recommend

  • Blind folded

    i’m an alevels student. You said its a rat race, and alevel students are only obsessed with getting As. To some extent i totaly agree with you, we need to get good grades to get into good paki or foreign unis. Dude we spend about rs.550,000 on our alevels, so getting into good unis is TOP on our priority list.
    But i gotta gotta tell you, most of these alevels-offering colleges (and later on universities locally and abroad) highly encourage us students to study what we like and what we’re good at.In my college, their is a proper orientation event organized every year for this purpose where you can talk to our career counselers and teachers. Unis even have an aptitude test. Its just our pakistani parents who force us and manipulate us to study WHAT THEY WANT! Its only so they can brag about their children infront of the society. I’ve been studying sociology for almost 1 year now, and what i’ve discovered according to my analysis and research is that PAKISTANI SOCIETY IS EXTREMELY MANIPULATIVE. Most of the conservative class try to maliciously manipulate individuals, mostly in the name of religion, for their own f** gain.
    Okthanksbye :)Recommend

  • littlegiant

    @A.K: a good analysis overall though you perhaps maybe too inclined with the grading system’s effectiveness. You don’t really need an econometric analysis to know that the rat-race that has been going on in Pakistani schools over the past few decades and the boastings of Pakistani schools like KGS Roots etc in the top placement of their students in the world’s universities should therefore lead to many exceptional successes.

    However, that does not appear to be the case. Grades are, at best, a rough indicator and nothing more. Even the top grad, at the end of the day, would have to start at an entry level in an employment setting and I believe there too be little evidence or correlation of grades vs. success. In fact, the recent literature reveals that emotional intelligence, perhaps more than any other factor, may be the differentiating factor in those who succeed. There are too many gems like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Elison or Michael Dell who achieved great things without any remarkable academic feat. You will find them to be more the norm among the successes today, not the exceptions. So I feel that the author’s questioning of the system is right on though his approach needs to be further refined.Recommend

  • Asad

    Apart from this structure, there needs to be a focus on other forms of education. Most people don’t fit well in the schooling system, hence institutions need to be established which teach informal, hands-on education. Recommend

  • http://mylandandme.wordpress.com MyLandAndMe

    You are very right and it’s sad though! But with an education system like ours, there is so much to be done to get things right!!Recommend

  • Taimoor Ali

    Oh please… I am a student, and let me tell you, many of us want to learn, in the real sense of the word. It’s just that some are more practical and focus more on numbers or grades and less on learning. Why? Do you think when we go out to look for jobs, they look for how much we know, how good we know, or how much intelligent or creative we are? No. They look at the name of the university, and the GPA.Recommend

  • Taimoor Ali

    So, Ahmedis are not non-Muslims? Yeah, Right.Recommend

  • Haseeb

    @Usman Shahid:
    I’d have to disagree with you here. This single mind is impressing a number of others and challenging them to change, hence achieving his goal. I envy those fortunate enough to be his students.Recommend

  • H Ali

    With teachers like you, there might be some hope that a few kids actually end up learning something rather than passing classes. Recommend

  • ahmad

    ‎”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).” Click on Ahmadis in the article and another article will open.Read that.Recommend

  • Muhib Mirza

    I can not say I agree with you at any level.

    Firstly, your exam questions are all questions in a basic philosophy exam. What should have happened, though an important question, is not a replacement for what and why did something happen.

    Secondly, I myself can at least vouch for the method used in a-level science courses. Studying abroad the only obstacle I faced was a lack of lab work and some (very few) pieces outdated data. My thought process however was on par with any other educational system all over the world.

    Thirdly, the fact of the matter is that it is indeed a rat race out there. Grades though may not always accurately reflect your talent, do reflect the amount of hard work you are willing to do. With the imbalance between the number of ambitions and opportunities the gpa and grade system is the only realistic answer. To accommodate for a simple pass fail system would require changing the whole world to a pass fail system otherwise your great thinkers would not be provided a realistic opportunity to think.

    In conclusion your approach is incredibly idealistic and fails to consider that it is equally important for us to know what is inside the box as it is to think outside it. My own personal suggestion would be to teach us examples of how our predecessors made their discoveries and learn about their thought processesRecommend

  • Parwez Bughio

    Thank you very much for writing this. As a teacher, I completely agree with your views. This is what I have observed in my teaching at University level. We must force students to come out of their comfort zones. Nicely described.Recommend

  • jaberwocky

    good article but completely random comment about Ahmadis. it is a more technical issue and is best left to juristsRecommend

  • Anber J

    I couldnt help but state this is one of the worst I have come across at ET. Not because I dont agree with the writer, but purely from a literary point of view.
    Time & again he points out the flaws in the education system itself, the teaching methods, the evaluation criteria, the ‘questions’ that should be posed ….It is not the ‘answers’ or the performance of the students that is in question here – which is a BIG contradiction to the title of the post.

    Time & again he talks of the same old flawed education system itself, which has nothing to do with the Title.

    I lost it when he wrote:

    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’.

    I think the writer happens to be yet another Matric-bitten victim who wrote the exact opposite of what is actually in place.Everybody knows why Cambridge examination system is the best in the WORLD. And those who achieve high , achieve far more than a couple of A’s. I am a witness to that !

    ‎3. The GPA system/Grading system exists worldwide. Labelling someone with something as stupid as “PASS” or “FAIL” spoke volumes about the intellectual depth of the argument here.

    Let us not forget that 36 A’s & 4.0 GPA doesnt make you a genius, but neither does a 2.0 GPA . At least it improves your chances of becoming one !Recommend

  • AQ

    Being a student in the west, I tottaly agree with your views on changing the educational system.

    Educating the youth is the base structure that will mold the societal prespectives in the future. If our system is only focused on achieving the As and getting that 4.0 gpa at all costs, it manipulates our meantality and forces us to acheive those scores even if it is at the cost stepping on our brothers to get there!

    That is the mentality of the youth of Pakistan today. When I go back home, I am so overwhelmed to see that people will cheat you at every corner to get what they want.

    We need to have an open minded thinking system and that starts with our education. When you encourage your students to think outside the box, you ecourage them to explore new alternatives and seek new posibilities in dealing with everyday affairs.

    I have had some amazing professors who have challenged me to the point where I would like to throw my shoe at their heads!! However, when I look back, I have learnt much more than I anticipated in the heated moment of hating my Hitler professor.

    Now i can see beyond the obvious, I understand there are two sides to each story, and that intellect is not achieved by the scoring those high numbers, it is acheived by critical reasoning and we have professors like you to thank. :)


  • Ahsan Latif Abbasi

    That’s a great bit of speech! I agree to it 100%. But, I don’t think that it would ever be applicable in any institution around the world. I don’t like this competition, though, I do get good marks! You tell me that if I don’t get good grades in my academics in college then who would give me a job in the future and a good salary for me and my family. And looking for a high salary is not bad, everyone needs it. Tell me someone who would hire someone who does not have good grades!Recommend

  • Yamina Nsir

    I really appreciate your thoughts about changing the system yet i still don’t understand that is it only the A/O levels to ridicule in Pakistan.i didn’t get your mission behind spotting A’levels right after the universities.I don’t really get this.Can’t the people here get out of their resentfulness and coast beyond this fight of trying to pinpoint and highlight O/A levels all the time.If someone needs to bring a change he shall first ponder over it.Secondly,don’t you think you are too late for it,i mean one fine morning a person from somewhere we aren’t aware of comes and tries to shake the system of education well knowing that students after twelve years of their studies, where everything has been so minutely embedded in their brains, can’t change themselves even if they want to.Well,it was nice to read but quite unrealistic to follow in Pakistan where actually people are judged by how much they score.Recommend

  • Rafia

    Great article Hussain! keep up the good work !:)Recommend

  • Mohammad Hassan

    I wish I had teachers like this during my undergrad program. Even though I studied at one of the highest ranking business schools in Karachi, most of the teachers required long, memorized answers or points in order to get a decent grade. And those from our local education system who were polished in ‘ratta’ got the best grades, even though i bet they couldnt sell soap if they were required to in the professional world.Recommend

  • Fahad Mumtaz

    This is great … The truth of Pakistani education system summarized beautifully in this article … I wish I could take one of your classes !!!Recommend

  • http://awaisaftab.blogspot.com F.

    I LOVE the article but I’d just like to point out, the question at the end is phrased incorrectly.
    The article talks about the relationship b/w grades and intellect whereas the question asks about the relationship b/w grades and success.

    While there is no relationship b/w the first two especially in our education system, there IS a relationship between success (if broadly defined as attaining a certain financial & social status) and grades. There will be, so long as the nation swoons overs 36 A’s, 4.0 GPA’s, degrees from ‘prestigious’ institutions, and offers of Rs.100000-paying starting jobs.

    Those who’ve answered ‘No’ to that question have likely done exactly what this article talks about: regurgitated the ‘correct’ or teacher-pleasing answer without actually critically thinking about the question. /:)Recommend

  • Syeda Zunaira Zubair

    36 A’s or 4.0 CGPA cannot be achieved by a dumb sir! Such kids really have something in them, something that makes them extraordinary. I have seen kids who score well when it comes to grades and then earn well in their career as well. The system you are talking about will give equal credit to all, ‘The pass or Fail System’. Are there enough vacancies in this country to accommodate all who graduate??? At least we have enough competition out there that makes students to strive for more. I have gained 3.94 GPA in my previous semester with higher level courses of Economics, but I enjoyed my life at the same time.
    Even Ranchor Das Chanchar from 3 Idiots talked about knowledge in the entire movie but ended up as a topper ;)Recommend

  • Shahid khan

    I feel that the writer has studied and observed the conventional educational system(pakistani based) otherwise systems like O and A levels differ from the views writer has presented.Education has certain stages when you have to penetrate the basic abilities e.g writing skills,basic computer usage,the existing theories in the field of science.I feel that u dont realise that every subject has its own methodology.Producing creative and critical minds varies from subject to subject.yes i agree that our assessment criteria needs to be amended and modified.Educational system also depends on the market the students have to step into for jobs.in a society where people do not have the remotest idea of the importance of education how can you expect them to be critical and analytical?By the way can you offer some ways to teach importance of education and some innovative ways to teach moralities to the students???i would like to clarify that i am not at all against being innovative,critical and analytical but u have presented your ideas wrapping them only in philosophy.well good luck for your innovative methodology of teaching. Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Sami saayer:

    You don’t need any GPA if you teach in a Madrassah. Luck also plays a part in life. It also depends who do you teach and who do you teach.Recommend

  • Sidra Ahmed

    Very true. I generally find even the most educated Pakistanis are very rigid about their beliefs; if someone even seems to move the conversation in a direction that would suggest disagreement they start raising their voices and getting very upset!! In fact, in the US, at least, it seems that the main fights in the masjid are started by Pakistanis. Second place would go to Palestinians. They do not know how to handle the fact that someone disagrees with their belief. Although I don’t think it’s very mature of them to act like this, some of the blame also goes to our society. If a child grows up thinking that disagreeing/leaving a religion is grounds for KILLING him/her…it would be indeed be very terrifying to even express a dissenting thought. Therefore, I think asking a question like, “Is God Just”, puts students in a very uncomfortable position as they may fear a negative consequence either way (from teacher if writing one answer, from society if writing another.)Recommend

  • siddra

    me too think what you said is absolutely true there is a lack of resources utilization . its not that, k we do not have the resources we have abundant of it but we are not making the most efficient use out of it… we need to broaden our knowledge base…. for this i think we should visit this site, abundant of useful resources to get out of this literacy

  • Faraz

    Intellectual and creative development are alien concepts for Pakistanis. A radical but gradual change in educational policy as well as mindset is essential for a prosperous future.Recommend

  • Raza

    @A.K: Yours is the longest comment on the blog but is the best one!Recommend

  • yasmin

    i really agree with you but unfortunately i think it has become a mind set-up of every student in our country..and secondly about the grades …as a student what i saw and what i felt is that the nerdy students are the one who tag students as intelligent, dumb and they are the one who call themselves as so-called-intelligent and degrade others..if you just advise them what is correct then they either ignore it or defend themselves…
    it is also the fault of parents who pressurize their children to be a top-notcher and unfortunately I am one of them..Recommend

  • MZJ

    Excellent article, however, this ‘rat-race’ mindset is something for which the parents should take a part of the blame too. They compare their children with others’ and this only restricts a child’s ability to establish himself as an extraordinary individual rather than being just another ‘rat’.

    Many may not agree with me but my comments (obviously) stem from some of my own personal experiences. I was thrust into accountancy just because ‘salary achi milegi’. I had a passion for aviation which will now never materialize into a profession for me.

    The point is, the parents must stop drilling this into a child’s head that grades are the only measure of success. If a child gets bad grades but is highly intellectual, the parents will say ‘grades toh achay nahii aye na beta’. Recommend

  • huq-seeker

    Just the first couple lines of your article have drawn me to comment on this blog and I must say – excellent job! I am so glad to learn that while there is plenty of non-sense lingering around in PK, there are some sensible souls out there trying to do their part in changing the society for betterment.

    Though I don’t reside in PK anymore but I did finish off my grade ten back there at a time when Federal Board changed their exam pattern for the first time in history. Instead of picking up questions from the end of a chapter and just sticking it onto the exam, they went for a little bolder step by making their own little questions. The problem however was that we never learnt how to deal with questions like that in the classroom. In fact to be quite honest, I believe teachers need to undergo intense training sessions because I remember some teachers quite resisted to change their teaching style. So you’re absolutely right that the teaching method has to change but at the same time this should be done through law enforcement. Teachers need to challenge their students and make them push their boundaries.

    I do ache for all my friends who are confined into thinking according to certain stereotypes and therefore not ever being able to come out of their shell. You’re doing a great job bursting the bubble! keep it up and God bless! Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/shawn321 Muhammad Sibtain Farooq

    Very healthy written sir’
    I Seriously envy those people who had the opportunity of being your students’
    This is Life changing’Recommend

  • faizan

    great post its really become the disease in our society that the people is capable because he scored good grades but i think talent of person is not depend on grades God made every person useful and i think we need to modify every educational system if we wanted to get some intellectual people out of our instution not bunch of robotsRecommend

  • Umer

    Qadiyanis are non muslim according to constitution of PAKISTAN so dont confuse our nation ….Recommend

  • husna

    sir i agree wid you bt how can we bring change. still charming is another issues. yuth didnt concrn abt politics.people feel odd to talk wid any issues, so much stereotypical :( Recommend

  • Ali

    I will show this to my parents so they realize that putting all the burden on me to attain maximum A’s should be removed.Seriously,You nailed it!Recommend

  • Nabeel Alvi

    This is so true but remember the heads of institutions will have to be taught about this before it is applied to the teachers. Numbers mean money and that is why learning is not happening!!Recommend

  • http://mozilla jahanara

    i love this article……ive seeen many of my relatives getting As,getting admissions in really awesome universities but dont end up with their ideal job …while ppl getting average grades…getting int average universities have ended up with a superb life and a fabulous and a highly paid job??? i dont understand this…maybe this is called luck or maybe the average person is sometimes more genius and more capable than the GENIUs one….. Recommend

  • Khitab Khan

    Mr. Nadeem,
    Thank you for writing a very lucid argument targeting the core flaw of our education system.
    I would suggest Ser Ken Robinson’s TED talk as a further reaffirmation of the ideas you put forward. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtYRecommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

    so somebody who thinks ahmadis are known-muslims are ignorant for you? well that’s a poorer gauging technique than gradesRecommend