Aao Parhao – Why I chose teaching over a ‘dream job’
Teaching students at the college and high school levels has been a constant in my life since I graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2011. Apart from working as a sub-editor at The Express Tribune in the year 2011-12, I was also teaching Sociology as a part-time faculty member. I have chosen to continue with the latter occupation for a variety of reasons.
I went into teaching because I was inspired by John Dewey and his work on the education system in Turkey, whereby he completely reformulated the country’s education system according to the demands of the modern world. Not only that, the changes he introduced to the Turkish educational system have been resilient to the challenges of modernism to this day and that is why, the Turkish school system is an excellent model for educationists in Pakistan to emulate. However, this must be done within the context of the Pakistani society, since Pakistan has its own mix of religious, ethnic and gender variants which add up to the diversity in the classrooms within the country’s schools.
I remember the first time I introduced my students to the discipline of Sociology and then asked them about who is considered to be the father of the social sciences by a significant majority of the world’s academics. Unable to answer, my students came up with replies as poles apart as Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. Ibn-e-Khaldun sounded like a name from ancient history to them.
Clearly, my students had some catching up to do with the rich philosophical and cultural traditions of their own intellectual heritage.
Secondly, I had always wanted to do something which had not been attempted by any of my relatives for whom the calling had either been the corporate sector or the government institutions. Both journalism and teaching had been areas where none of my near ones had ever ventured to. Hence, both involved a thrill of ‘discovering the unexplored’ for me.
Apart from that, very few of the educated individuals in our country take high school teaching to be their preferred occupation. Teaching is a 24/7 job and requires one to be ever-available to the struggling student, who might call you up at 12 in the night to inquire about Emile Durkheim’s concept of ‘collective conscience’ or Karl Marx’s ‘dialectical materialism’. Being a fluid and constantly changing industry, teaching market is also a highly competitive one. With risks of unemployment high and income returns very low, especially in the first few years, not many Pakistanis are keen to sail in untested waters.
As compared to a high-paying job in the corporate sector, especially a multinational one, or a ‘secure’ one in any of the various government organisations, teaching requires neck-breaking hard work in the earlier stages of one’s career, in order to earn and preserve a reputation in the market. Only then are high income returns possible. At the same time, this market is much skewed in the O/A level sector. One mistake and you are out of the big league. Here, there are no second takers and unfortunately, your reputation is built by the number of A’s you produce every year and if you are ever lucky, the particular distinction that comes your way once in a lifetime.
But on a personal note, my motivation to join the teaching sector was also related to the abysmal situation of the institution of education in Pakistan. With 6.5 million children of school-going age out of schools in Pakistan and this is a very conservative estimate, with the literacy rate for girls in the interior of Sindh standing at only 23% and with only half of Pakistanis being able to read and write, where else should the concerned literati of the country be focused on?
That has been my sole inspiration to teach for three years now and I hope that this motivation stays with me throughout my academic career.
Is it monetarily feasible? Yes, especially if you enter the lucrative Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) market and build a name for yourself. But then, you will have to remember that this avenue of education is not where the majority of students in Pakistan are placed in. A very significant majority of Pakistani students are still enrolled in the government schools and read out-dated texts, prefer rote-learning rather than understanding concepts and their papers are checked by examiners who have the ingrained yardstick in their minds of how ‘long’ a perfect answer should be for it to procure ‘good’ marks.
Am I satisfied with my job? Yes, teaching has rewarded me with satisfaction both of the mind and the soul. I take pride in the fact that at least, I am doing some service to Pakistan by contributing to the mental makeup of its future students. I am introducing them to one of the foundational social sciences at such an instructive stage of their lives that they will remember concepts related to Sociology in the years to come in their academic journey. Teaching for me is the one thing that defines my life and I am a proud teacher of students coming in from a variety of class, ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds.
And, for all prospective teachers, it has not left me any worse off in monetary terms as compared to my fellow university batch mates in either the corporate or the government sector.
So, finally, why teach in a society like Pakistan’s?
Because the very fabric of our society is threatened by obscurantist elements who, with the might of their arms, want to extinguish the light of education itself. One can say a lot about how so many things are wrong in the Pakistan of today but it is a completely different ball game when it comes to resorting to practical initiatives to change the mind-sets of Pakistani people. If that endeavour is taken by teachers who are rooted in the country’s culture and who can listen to the problems of present-day Pakistani students with a sympathetic ear, the impact on society as well as the state is multiplied.
This should be the goal of Pakistani teachers; be the change that you want to see in the Pakistani society around you. If you are unwilling to be that change, then you have no right to complain about the ‘incessant’ and intolerably long list of the country’s wrongs.
Hence, if you are an inspiring teacher, Aao Parhao as a campaign with various personal stories of the teachers themselves should be a definitive calling to a lustrous and fruitful career in the academic world. It will require honest hard work first but eventually, you will sail through and that too, with the satisfaction that you are contributing to the social fabric of Pakistan on the one end and building bridges with the world of knowledge on the other.
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.