Aao Parhao – My experience in a Pakistani school

Published: January 4, 2015
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Broken furniture lay everywhere, the “library” was just a cupboard of books which had been locked up due to constant theft, the infrastructure was dilapidated due to the 2005 earthquake and there were no working toilet facilities in place. PHOTO: FILE

I have been privileged to attend some of the best schools across the globe. My primary schooling was initiated at an American international school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After eight years at this school, I then moved to Pakistan with my family where I attended an all-girls school in Islamabad, Pakistan. 

This was a prestigious establishment and I attended at the same time as Bakhtawar Bhutto, even though she was always flanked with guards and extra security. However, making the transition from an American school to a Pakistani one wasn’t easy.

All of a sudden, I had to deal with a lot more subjects, formal uniform requirements, incredibly heavy bags and a lot of homework load. As a result, I wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies because I found it very difficult to keep up with the amount of work expected from me and the intense pressure that was placed on the students to meet higher grades. There was no emphasis made on extra-curricular activities, reading or the use of visual aid.

While in the American school, we were met with bright colours in the classroom, in the Pakistani school, the walls were drab and devoid of any colour. The only thing that I found somewhat attractive in this school was my teachers. This experience lasted for three years.

In 1997, my family moved to England, where I studied at a private girls-only school in the leafy suburbs of West Sussex. This school was a far cry from the education I had received in Pakistan, and I was put back a year because my entrance exam results were poor and I had a lot of catching up to do. However, I left the school with glowing A-level results and chose to study Law at King’s College.

Such was my educational roller-coaster ride. But while I enjoyed going through all these diverse education systems, I also came to realise how the Pakistani teaching style is unique to other systems.  For example, I came across teachers who believed in maintaining an emotional connection with their students. There were teachers out there who inspired me to work hard and achieve my goals. I particularly remember a young teacher who would speak to us all like we were adults and make us laugh. However, when we were miscreants, she would also discipline us without using excessive force. When she was about to get married, the whole class was in tears and she hugged each individual student before she left. While such use of emotion is definitely not seen (or worse still, allowed) in England, it was a very humbling experience and one that I noted often in Pakistan. Individuals respond best to warmth and motivating words rather than criticism and harshness.

We often think that teachers from abroad might be better qualified or more capable than local teachers in Pakistan but I do not agree with this point. I feel that Pakistani teachers are more adept in understanding the eccentricities of being desi. For example, I had to take some time off from school in England to attend my uncle’s wedding in Pakistan – which my English Physics teacher did not agree with.  She was confused about me giving so much emphasis to a wedding instead of concentrating on my studies but a teacher in Pakistan would completely understand, pending completion of homework of course. While in certain circumstances they will not shy away from showing their disappointment, they will try their best to respect and understand the cultural background from which the child comes.

And most importantly, I feel that Pakistani teachers work extremely hard to alleviate issues in the classroom by being more personable. Teachers in the West really do not show any concern for an individual’s wellbeing whereas a teacher in Pakistan is very much approachable and personable.

However, I also realised that teachers in Pakistan definitely require greater finesse and polishing which can only come from extensive teachers’ training – especially with regards to dealing with disruptive pupils. With an active youth, we have the potential to produce great teachers. What we need is the will to convince the government that these resources and this investment are required to change the face of education in Pakistan.

If we put our minds together, we can come up with measures to be put into place to incentivise the profession, provide a back-to-work bonus for those teachers who return to work after marriage/pregnancy and implement other such steps. Oftentimes I would form a close relationship with a teacher only for it to be brutally ended because the teacher decided to leave in order to get married. This should not happen. The government and the school’s administration should work towards making it possible for the teacher to return.

Teaching, as a profession, should be taken seriously in Pakistan, rather than seen as a stop-gap between careers or a way of alleviating the boredom associated with housewifely duties. At the end of the day, a teacher can be responsible for shaping the outcome of a child’s life, so it is imperative that the profession is given the due respect and importance by professionals instead of abusing it and jeopardising our future generations.

Teachers in Pakistan face a lot of flak already from disgruntled parents who feel their children are being let down by the education system but, truthfully, these teachers are quite helpless. Many of them work hard, but since the government is unwilling to help, they often find themselves at a deadlock.

To conclude, I would like to add that there is extensive work that needs to be done to repair the ailing health of the education system in Pakistan. While there are individuals, teachers and organisations out there who are dedicating their lives to the betterment of Pakistan, greater efforts need to be placed by us to join the profession and implement cutting-edge teaching techniques in our syllabi.

Gone are the days of memorising and regurgitating, let us now look forward to a period of change and excellence. Let us become a part of this change because only we can make it happen! While teaching is an exceedingly taxing job, it is also the most rewarding. Thorough research, a love of learning and an enjoyable education we can reshape our future and that of the generations to come. Teaching is a wonderfully fulfilling profession and some of the teachers we have are phenomenal – let’s not take them for granted, let’s give them the helping hand they need. Maybe that helping hand is yours?

So to all Pakistanis reading this, I encourage you,

Aao Parhao Pakistan ko!

This blog is part of an interactive campaign called Aao Parhao – Jo Seekha Hai Wo Sekhao (Come Teach – Teach All That You Have Learnt); a Call-to-Action to help change the future of Pakistani children, launched by the Express Media Group in collaboration with Ilm Ideas.

So join us, by reading, watching and telling us what you think. To be part of the Aao Parhao movement, please visit our website, like our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter at to get regular updates about all our activities, learn about teaching opportunities and share the stories of inspirational teachers.

Faiza Iqbal

Faiza Iqbal

A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.

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