Do you qualify? The imperialistic exclusivity of the Karachi Grammar School

Published: April 13, 2016

People nod impressively if you tell them you went to KGS, and in a city obsessed with class and nepotism, the doors of KGS mean opportunity and exclusivity. PHOTO:

Like many Karachiites who get very good results in their ‘O’ levels, I decided that my grades were my ticket to the prestigious Karachi Grammar School (KGS). KGS, you see, practises a vague semblance of meritocracy (and maintains its college admission rate records) by allowing a handful of high-achievers into their hallowed gates at the A-level stage. People nod impressively if you tell them you went to KGS, and in a city obsessed with class and nepotism, the doors of KGS mean opportunity and exclusivity. In short, the school represented to me an elusive and exclusive glamour that I wanted to experience, first hand.

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in a middle-class school in Karachi; my friends were children of businessmen and dentists, but also drivers and office clerks. My best friend worked in a shop on weekends and the vast majority of us had not been outside Pakistan. It wasn’t a great school – some of the teachers were lax and the discipline severe – but I had a firm group of friends with whom I grew up, sharing the usual secrets and fantasies, angst and concerns.

I read constantly, and liked to write stories. I had a special bond with my English teacher and a safe, supportive home environment. Maybe that all contributed to why everyone was proud but nobody particularly surprised that I did well at school.

Somewhat surprisingly, my parents didn’t love the idea of my going to KGS. Or at least my mother didn’t. She thought I would become spoiled and start speaking in that distinctive American-twanged Grammarian accent and that my academic talents would perish. She felt, very strongly, that I should follow my older siblings into a good A-level institution that didn’t reek of elitism and ostentation.

But I fought back tooth and nail until she gave in. She flipped, as many good parents do when they realise that their children’s minds are made up, from fervent opposition to unconditional support and accompanied me when I went to hand in the application form.

Any ‘New G’ (someone who starts at KGS at A-level stage) knows that the OG (old Grammarian)/New G divide is a vast abyss. ‘You’re not the same,’ the OG’s inform you pretty much from day one, in those overt words and also in deed. The New G’s, mired in shame at this rejection, try desperately to fit in. The girls’ uniforms get tighter and shorter until they look like their OG peers’. Accents change subtly and anyone going on a trip abroad is desperately propositioned to bring schoolbags, sweaters and shoes from London or New York.

I was not immune, not even a little bit. I quickly abandoned my old friends, the middle-class, unfashionable girls that I had grown up with. I cautioned my parents to speak in English whenever my new ‘friends’ were around. I scrutinised my whole life differently – why did my mother not wear glamorous clothes and jewellery like my class-mates’ mums? Why did we not have expensive paintings in our house? And why didn’t we ‘holiday’ in Spain or Italy like other people did? I grew shameful of things I had no need to be shameful of, and prided in other things that were pure form over substance. I suppose you could say I lost myself, a little bit.

I remember a school fellow saying to us jokingly on day one,

‘You must be so excited to be here. People bow down, you know, when you tell them you go to KGS.’

It seemed to me a toxic way to conceive of yourself as a child and also, an unwarm welcome that asserts hierarchy. On some level, I had it easier than others – my light skin and slim body conformed to the standards of beauty at my new school, which followed an imperialist, white supremacist aesthetic so strongly that I’m sure, if a time-traveller were to land inside the high-walled campus one day, it wouldn’t take much to convince them that they were still in colonial times.

Value was based, without a doubt, on proximity to westernisation. If you were fair skinned (ideally, with a white or non-desi parent), you were automatically more desirable. An accent that signified frequent visits abroad added further value. The lighter the hair, the less dark the eyes, the more attractive you were considered. Speaking Urdu well was undesirable – this was a language reserved for speaking to servants in. The teachers spoke in clipped anglicised accents and made clear that the epitome of progress would be if one went on to Harvard or Yale, Oxford or Cambridge.

Urdu was taught only as a second language and the admissions process, with the exception of the A-level loophole, involved requests for proof that parents or siblings went there in the past. There were headboys and headgirls, and school houses called things like Napier and Papworth, named after the colonial masters who founded the school – KGS, established in the mid 1800s, was the first school in the city for ‘non-natives’.

It could be argued that the Karachi Grammar School has much to be proud of – its alumni include renowned political figures, Oscar-winning film-makers and some very good journalists. The fact that these people had access to resources (including each other) that made their position possible in the first place probably has more to do with their success than the school’s actual influence, but, like most elite institutions, this access to networks and resources is a large part of where the school’s appeal lies.

KGS went through massive changes in its pre-colonial days including name changes from ‘The Anglo-Indian School’ in 1847 to ‘The Kurrachee European and Indo-European School’ in 1854 to the Karachi Grammar School in 1879. It has remained more or less in this state since, moving from serving the children of European colonisers to their neo-colonial inheritors, retaining the strict class barriers and ridiculously anachronistic and elitist traditions, producing achievements celebrated by Western establishment figures and local elite alike.

However, room for difference or radicalism, innovation and activism, is left closed. Any generosity stems from ego, patronisation and pity, not real empathy or compassion. The output of this school may have polish and confidence, but it is also somewhat cookie-cutter, establishment, conservative, and out-of-touch. The bubble of KGS can stretch only so wide – many of its alumni end up marrying each other, sending their children to KGS, and finding solace in an ethos that is fervently anti-‘fundo’ and pro-capitalist, one that involves lavish parties and frequent travel – this is the KGS ethos to dealing with the chaos that is Karachi. And perhaps there is also great profundity or happiness inside this bubble. The truth is, I wouldn’t know for sure.

But I feel that a massive decolonisation is needed within those gated campuses, one that questions the cliquish imperialist assumptions on which its foundation stands. And more importantly still, a decolonisation must take place within us that allows us to see those imperialistic standards for what they are and that allows us to question the worth of this over-esteemed institution.

Do I wish I had never gone to that school? Saved myself two years of snobbery and condescension, and feelings of low self-worth that can be very harmful when you’re in your teens? That I’d seen my mother as a source of wisdom, not antagonism and old-fashionedness and listened to her more carefully? Not really.

That struggle probably helped me develop the critical skills that allow me to see the world in the way I do now. Still, I believe that snobbery and elitism and the enforcement of strict class difference create wounds that run so deep that we can barely look at them. And that’s why we must.

There was no question of solidarity amongst the New G’s. On the contrary, we tried our hardest to distance ourselves from each other, as this increased the chances of being absorbed into the OG networks. But this also left people on the side-lines, isolated and confused. To acknowledge that the problem was to do with class or background was almost more embarrassing than just believing that there was something in your character that didn’t quite fit. To be confronted with hostility or exclusion, whatever the reason, is always painful. But it is also usually unwarranted. And it is strengthening.

Do you agree or disagree with the author's opinion?

     View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

The author is a reviewer and a writer of short stories, essays, and plays.

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

  • A new G

    This is so wrong ! I am a grammarian and tgar too a new G. Things are not that complicated as portrayed here !!Recommend

  • hamzah

    St Pats is betterRecommend

  • Mo Baba

    KGS is a world renowned institute – it has maintained its top quality given so many negative things that have taken place in our Country! I’m not an OG or New G, but I have know people from KGS to be humble, confident, successful, and have gone on to use their base of the KGS to achieve something great for themselves and others too! They have given back to society and continue to excel in their lives! Every school whether middle class or lower or upper, has an elitist group within- and that level of elitism may be proportional to their relative standards of lifestyles. But it does exist. Today you my friend are in a greater position to reap the benefits of your that decision you made despite many who stopped you! You may chose your destiny… In this world you have to live in, you cannot expect to find every person to be the example you want to set! Recommend

  • Hamza

    this is an excellently written social critique and very brave of you to write. Having grown up in this bubble you describe, I too can relate to how others were made to feel like outsiders. That being said though, each institution fosters its own set of sub-cultures. I wouldn’t blame the institution itself but the shared values and habits of the students/ wider community that creates these form of cliques. I don’t think they are malevolent or exclusionist deliberately but they form naturally due to pre existing ties and comforts- something which is common in most prestigious institutions worldwide. Recommend

  • Abdullah Nasir

    I remember when I was a kid my uncle used to smoke and drink and wasn’t particularly careful about his health. My mom would always tell him that he should stop, or he would regret it; his children, nieces and nephews were all growing up and a part of his life, and he risked missing out on being a part of theirs. I remember my uncle’s face when he realized just how true this was, and after a decade or so of bad habits, he stopped. But it was too late of course, and later on, a tumor took his life. I promised myself I would never start any of those habits, because I didn’t want to go as young as my uncle did. I refrained from any of these bad habits, was very particular about my health even if it meant I would miss out on things I could potentially enjoy. I regret this decision, however, since this article gave me cancer anyway.Recommend

  • GoodFella

    This is more of a rant than anything else.
    A very narrow point of view is presented; from a dejected student’s perspective.
    People are not bad. It’s very easy to feel like an outcast when you’re at a new place.Recommend

  • Anon

    Sorry for your experience. I would like to invite you back to the school you speak of. As a student enrolled there, I disagree with your opinion. We are NOT white skinned supremacists, Urdu is not considered derogatory and our teachers talk in anything but anglicised accents.

  • mehreen

    Dear Ayesha, As one the OG’s that you have such a lot of disdain for I am sorry that your experience at KGS was not a positive one. However, in my opinion it is quite naive of you to paint 1000s of students with the same brush. While we certainly had our fair share of entitled elites but that is not any different from many other private institutes in Karachi or any other large urban centers in Pakistan. The majority of us were middle class citizens just like yourself. I think one difference that was pretty clear to me between the OGs and New Gs was that while I had learnt to ignore and make peace with the elitist crowd among us and become confident in who I was, people like yourself would spend the 2 years of A’level in awe of these folks. You put them on a pedestal and wanted to be ‘cool’ like them. You started dressing like them and acting like them as if they were some kind of gold standard only to then tear them down and complain of the ‘bad culture’. We the normal down-to-earth OG’s were there all along you just chose to not see us, blinded by the elitism. And that is a reflection of our society in general. Also, my parents were never grammarians, a majority of my freind’s parents were never grammarians, and having grammarian parents is NOT a requirement. Please get your facts straight. However, KGS does have one of the best academic standards in Pakistan. So maybe you should have focused a bit more on the what your teachers were teaching rather than their accents. My sincere advice for you would be to work towards gaining some self-confidence and get over the your complex.Recommend

  • Khushal Khan

    I totally agree with what you said. This “Huge” problem also doesn’t deserve a blog tbh. You can sign up at this place called and write unlimited tweets, micro-blogs and express yourself regarding these “huge” problems. These are in high demand by the OG’s there. Cheers!Recommend

  • Logic

    KGS is perfectly set on merit at A levels. Do you have any example of someone getting into kgs in A levels with bad grades for saying “KGS, you see, practises a vague semblance of meritocracy”
    No one boasts about being uber rich.

    However, room for difference or radicalism, innovation and activism, is left closed. Any generosity stems from ego, patronisation and pity, not real empathy or compassion.

    Werent you the same girl who claimed I managed to escape this by being super fair slim and beautiful?

    I would bother dissecting your rant about kgs more but hopefully you get the idea this is nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt to gain a few minutes of fame so people read your work.Recommend

  • Rabia S. Akhtar

    It’s pathetic that you choose to disregard the hard work and dedication of those high achievers by simply assuming their success is ‘probably’ due to the imaginary resources they must have at hand. Also, I’ve taught at a school that disgustingly charged the children fines if they were caught speaking in Urdu because they wanted them to be more ‘refined and polished’, something that is apparently common in many schools and you have an issue with the subjects (based on a British system) at Grammar merely being taught in English! Your embarrassing article reeks of bias, self entitlement and ridiculous stereotyping. Recommend

  • hk

    Well written article by the author, offering tremendous insight into life at KGS. Must really take something to feel the need to convince your parents to speak in english when friends come over!Recommend

  • Aale Mowjee

    I couldn’t agree more Ayesha- your article captures quite accurately what being a ‘Grammarian’ means. I spent a few of my earlier years there and absolutely hated it. I was bullied and didn’t fit in with the ‘cool’ kids. So glad I left….Recommend

  • Bilal Zaidi

    Completely agree with some of what you said. However, that said, the school does have a very large influence. The want to be better at academics just to compete with your peers and to be able to effectively utlize the resources that you speak of is also a very important factor that I never realized before KGS.

    The world isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and that school prepared me for what we are all going to face in all stages of life: discrimination, class disparity etc. I can safely speak for the rest of us too when I say that I couldn’t have grown up to be who I am if I hadn’t spent 4 years there.

    As for elitism, I think the school represents all classes of people. KGS actually charges less than most of the prestigious A Level institutions in Karachi so I don’t think that’s very true.The elite just tend to stand out more for all the wrong reasons in a country like ours where despite representing a small percentage of people, they tend to leave a larger footprint.Recommend

  • EyeGuy

    As an ex-Grammarian, I must disagree with this article. While KGS had it’s group of elitists, it was not defined by it. The fact that you only saw ‘snobbery and condescension” may be more of a reflection of you and your insecurity from being from a self perceived ‘middle class’. Articles like this simply pander to those looking to reinforce a negative stereotype.Recommend

  • X

    I am a Grammarian, an OG, you may say, and I agree very strongly with what you have to say. I look like a foreigner, but I have local parents and I don’t travel abroad very often. I am not part of the larger social circle, and neither do I wish to be. It all feels pretty stupid to me. Pointless, even. I can relate to the low self esteem issues and living as a being totally and eternally apart from the rest, generally. But I find friends elsewhere, in the sidelines, one may say, and it is with such people that I find solace. I’ve been here since I was old enough to be here, and I have never been a big fan of the school.

  • Muhammad-Baber Mirza

    I felt the same when i went to lyceum. Your words and experience resonate a lot with mine. I felt lost and unsupported. Thank you for sharing and don’t stop writing.

  • Read Below

    Pakistani schools/universities have zero-worth outside, so I am not sure what all the fuss is about in the first place.Recommend

  • Parvez

    What you have touched on is something that exists in most all institutions of some standing, be they schools, colleges, universities, professions, private clubs, societal groups etc…….singling out the KGS is a bit harsh.Recommend

  • Hamza Khan

    If this was written by an A-levels student, she is going far!Recommend

  • Nida

    Everything written in this article about KGS just proves how wrong you are.Recommend

  • AK

    I was a new G. I would not have been the person that I am today if I hadn’t gone through those high school experiences (mostly good, some bad).

    I am tired of people telling me that I don’t look or talk like a Grammarian. I am tired of the stereotyping by outsiders. This stereotyping though, by an insider, was worse! High school is that period of life when we realise that life-long friendships are increasingly difficult to form as we age. OGs sometimes are people who have known each other from day 1 of school. As with any existing group, things are difficult for newcomers but it is up to the individual when it comes to responding to such a situation…

    I saw a house captain being kicked out of school because he was found doping inside the premises. I saw names of two students taken off from the list of possible prefects because they were doing something ‘inappropriate’ in the school. Others may have seen brats and snobs whose hormones were going crazy. If one has to write about social issues, write about them as they relate to the society as a whole. Do not malign one single institution please.Recommend

  • seraaph

    I rearly, read the blogger side but this title was too good to pass. I went to Spring Field School ( KDA scheme no 1 ) and at that time 199X it used to be likes of KGS. I used to come on a van and yes I do recall teachers praising rides of other kids and also seeking lifts and so forth. Depravity makes you feel harder but the point that I want to make here is from a even more helicopter view. My father was a navy employee and he used to mention how; when he was in Turkey and USA the non-commissioned and commissioned eat from the same table unlike Pakistan and UK. The Jawan in our forces are not treated as the commissioned officers and for possessing empathy you can be deemed as ” Lacking OLQ ( officer like qualities ) ” which no doubt is coming from former masters. I think the divide that the author mentioned is more of a niche divide, why dont any one write about the fact when you see your urdu medium friends cramming essays in english for english paper and your laughing at them. Don’t you think that moment which comes in each and every one of our life is the moment when the essay running in our minds should be nothing but what the writer points here. Appreciate you sharing this, very well written. A very tranquil vocab or should I must say a product of some excellent schooling.Recommend

  • Muneeb rasheed Siddiqui

    I disagree with this article. Having had friends from KGS and belonging to a good private school myself (FPS), KGS is not like it’s being portrayed. The so called attention seeking OGs are not much in number. They can be avoided by finding normal people as friends. It all comes down finding the right friends which is very much achievable.
    But one thing for sure, if you want the best education KGS is one of the top schools.

  • Muneeb rasheed Siddiqui

    Do you have any stats to back this claim or are you just making up facts to suit your opinion?Recommend

  • khawaja1951

    This article touches the crux of Pakistan’s ( and all ex-colonies of European powers ) socioeconomic problems. When I first moved to the US in 1976, I remarked to a fellow medical resident from India that how ” lucky” we South Asians were to have the ” goras” as our rulers as we impressed our medical teachers with our fluent English whereas the Taiwanese, the Koreans and other East Asians struggled with their rather poor English and their heavy accents. It took me a couple of decades to realize that we were holding the wrong end of the stick. The same South Koreans, Taiwanese and now the Chinese have progressed by leaps and bounds running high tech companies like Samsung, Lenovo, Hyundai and many others while India and Pakistan are still struggling to make it to the upper echelons of the new technologies of a new World. I have found out ( by talking to my peers from these lands ) that all high schools and colleges teach sciences in their native languages in these countries. A tiny percentage of HS graduates in these countries can speak English or other western languages. Chief engineer of Samsung ( who was attending Las Vegas technology show ), made his presentation and answered questions from the audience in Korean!! I could not tell whether he could not speak English or was too proud to speak it. I believe teaching sciences in native languages ( Iran and Turkey, arguably the two most technically advanced Muslim countries teach In Turkish and Farsi )” turns on ” a hidden spark of inspiration and innovation which is not possible in mentally enslaved individuals.
    Next time have a look at the country reps speaking at the annual U.N meeting. The Afro Asian countries whose representative is speaking in English / French are ALWAYS the laggards in the race of human / social / technological development whereas countries whose representative is speaking in the native language is generally doing much better. PM Modi gave his address in ” shudh ” Hindi on last two occasions whereas Mr. Sharif preferred English. I strongly believe that India is on its way to greater glories while we will continue to be ” proud ” of KGS and similar institutions. We need a ” chaiwalla ” also to change the destiny of Pakistan ( not kidding at all).Recommend

  • ovais

    Keeping your roots to yourself .. keeping your self confidence in such an atmosphere its a skill you will value for life . I completely agree with your article ..Recommend

  • Anonymous

    I think this whole conversation needs to be dissected. Clearly it’s from the point of view of an angsty teenager who has held onto whatever injustices happened to her at high school.

    Firstly it’s very common to face such issues the higher you climb in any societal ladder whether it’s in Pakistan or anywhere in the world. Forget about high schools and focus on Pakistani society for a quick minute. People are held in awe if they’re part of elitist clubs like Sind Club which harbors the exact same mentality. You either fit in or you don’t, alternatively you have umpteen amounts of money that allow you to fit in.

    I figure you were bullied quite severely at KGS in order to hold such strong opinions even after you graduated from your unfergraduate studies. Truth be told it was entirely your choice to partake in the frat like culture of KGS. It’s a school that merits hard work and provided you keep your head down and don’t involve yourself in the divide between New G or Old G, you can definitely get into a good university abroad provided that was your goal when you took the conscious decision to study at KGS.

    Since it’s a fact that you studied abroad, clearly you’ve given into the mindset that bred this elitism in the first place.Recommend

  • NAR

    Very well written article, I must say. However , being one of those imperialistic colonial supremacist “OGs”, and being one since the first first class that KGS provides, I must say I vehemently disagree with a lot of the generalisations that have been presented here. I think the first issue should be that very problem – I started with a total kindergarten class of 30 students and ended A Levels with approximately 240. Along the years people have joined from multiple classes – pun intended !
    I’ve had friends from all walks of life, and with some I have “holidayed in London”, played cricket on the street outside their apartments, spent nights at their houses while respecting their house customs, be it speaking in Urdu on the dinner table. My friends came from all walks of life- yes perhaps there weren’t drivers but there were professionals, businessmen, government servants, etc etc and from varying “net worth” segments of society.
    Memory doesn’t serve me very well, but until a certain class in school, a student was not allowed to bring more than a certain amount of “tuck money” to school. On school trips, everyone had to arrive at school first and take the public bus which had been rented by the school. if the shirts, or shoes “from London” were different enough to be noticed , one was immediately warned by teachers or Prefects.
    Of course, a lot of these rules were either relaxed or abandoned when you enter the school at the A Level stage , simply because you are “A Senior” and are either meant to know these rules, or by now have found ways to skirt the rules.
    I have put down only some of my thoughts and could go on and on defending the institution I called home for about fifteen years of my life – it reinforced many values that I was taught at home; values such as integrity, honesty, empathy, and of course a passion to excel.
    Yes, the KGS is an “old boys network”, but every good school around the world is. The author who so vociferously derides the qualities of capitalism and nepotism also got accepted at KGS. I assume this owes to the meritocracy that perhaps KGS does possess some of? After all, I remember that sinking feeling before getting my O Level results – I didn’t have my university applications in my mind. I had re-admission into the school that I had spent all my life in! Yes, us OGs, too, had to meet some minimum requirements, it didn’t take a nod and smile from our parents only.


  • NAR
  • Don’t be fooled

    So, is that why Pakistani graduates work side by side with all other nationalities world wide including many top western companies ?Recommend

  • Milind A

    Good one.. This kind of snobbery and elitism is found in the Indian middle-class as well, after their new encounter with money… It would be unthinkable of children of upward mobile middle-class folks to mingle with kids from ‘lower classes’, something that was the norm in my childhood. A few years back the Govt introduced a 25% quota for kids from deprived backgrounds in semi-private schools and all hell broke loose amongst the privileged crowd..Recommend

  • Desi

    All the ‘Burger’ Schools in Karachi can teach you two things only, how to degrade Urdu speaking class and to live in a delusional fantasy world pretending that this is not Pakistan but actually some European or Western Culture oriented country. The Fact is no matter in which ‘Burger’ School you go to and no matter how expensive it’s educations is, the reality remains the same that schools in Pakistan have absolute zero value abroad or maybe even less than zero i.e; negative. So to all students of ‘Burger’ Schools keep studying with an immense expense over your parents and keep talking in a constipated styled accent of English.

    ET Publish my Comment Please……!!!!Recommend

  • Hassaan

    Wow an insecure non-Pakistani (we all know from where) decides to comment again on a Pakistani website unable to bear the idea of life in Pakistan bearing normalcy just like any other country in the world..Recommend

  • Malveros

    Be concerned with Indian schools / universities that are churning out run-of-the-mill students aka Brainless Zombies. Let us worry about Pakistani Schools / Universities.Recommend

  • Col. Nicholson

    I also come from a middle class background. I did my O Levels from City School Darakhsan in 2001. For A Levels, it was my parents’ wish that I be enrolled in one of Khi’s ‘top’ institutions at the time. So I ran with my father to KGS, St. Pats, Lyceum etc. for admission. I met the minimum requirement for all schools (5 A’s) but ultimately was unable to get in any of them. Disappointed, my parents had no option but to enroll me back in my old school.

    I managed to get straight A’s (by the grace of Allah) then went on to get my Bachelor’s from the (in my opinion) country’s best Engineering University then and now – NUST. I’ve been working in one of the top Engineering firms of the country for almost ten years. My experiences at University and subsequently my job have been both eye-opening and life-changing.

    What I have learnt so far as I near my mid-30s and what I believe is the takeaway from this long story for today’s teens is this – school name doesn’t matter, grades don’t matter (much), even class/financial background doesn’t matter. What matters is your will to succeed and do good; and of course, faith in Allah’s plan (which is greater than any human’s). You don’t need to be in the top school/university/company to succeed.

    Coming to the theme of the blog, divisions/groupings due to class/background/capabilities etc. exist everywhere. It is up to us individually to rise above them and not judge the book by it’s cover, so to speak.Recommend

  • Farahv

    very true, it’s a great school that gives you access to to some great opportunities, but that elitism and class consciousness is something it needs to discardRecommend

  • Hanbal Khan

    This comment is more valuable than the article itself!Recommend

  • Saeed Motiwala

    Good article, raising very valid points. Unfortunately, this ‘gora sahib’ mentality has only entrenched in KGS since when I was a student there (over 4 decades ago). Other similiar ‘elite’ schools are probably no different. In fairness, KGS did have some fantastic teachers who guided us to learn in a rigorous academic curriculum, as well as some duds. Perhaps it is high time that parents re-evaluate what they value in ‘education’.Recommend

  • Saeed Motiwala

    “The road to Truth necessitates travelling light. Shed the excess baggage of prejudices, culture, upbringing and desires. Carry only what is necessary if you want to reach this important destination.” Anonymous.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Ahmed Rehman

    I am a very old Grammarian, when the school was smaller and probably as elitist. So old, that what Ayesha says jogs only certain memories…yes there was a lot of what she said, but then we left school and learned much. Now I put KGS in context, realise its good and its bad and its subliminal influence on me. Add that to other influences, which are many more and deeper and Alhamdulillah one comes to a fairly balanced view of life in KGS and otherwise.Recommend

  • LandofIndus

    As an OG circa 1970’s, I fully understand the message conveyed in this excellent writing, although it wasn’t so bad in my days. Obsessing with being “British” is not just by some students; some teachers also do it. This obsession has now become an academic liability for the school because they insist on using obsolete teaching materials and techniques which they claim as “British syllabus”. I’m sure the British have themselves moved ahead. My message to the author: Keep writing; you are smarter than some of us OG’s.Recommend

  • some one who has a point

    You can’t be serious. One of the best educational standards? No way. going to tuitions and picking up the cream of Krachi doesn’t mean it has high standards. If i had a choice to go to KGS, i wouldn’t simply becuase of the negative vibes it gives off. And I in no case want to spend my entire time in tuitions and come out of them in a state that i can’t survive without them.Recommend

  • SaifUllah Nasar

    It seems that elite schools are producing students with bad reading ability. All the critics (and those who affirm Ayesha’s view) are entirely ignoring colonial legacy in educational institutions and decolonization option in their critical remarks.Recommend

  • Ameer

    Very well said.

    Reading this articles, it seems more of a critique of our society than of KGS in particular.

    Perhaps, the author spent only two years and KGS and based her views on anecdotal evidence, rather than a wealth of experience. I was at KGS from Grade Seven to A-Level, prior to which I was at Foundation Public School and St. Patrick’s. It is for this reason that I always considered myself and those who joined KGS with me, a blend of O.G and New G. Despite this fact, I never felt marginalized. I never felt any pressure to conform with Western ideals, apart from those that relate to enlightenment, etiquette etc., which are the basis for schools existing in the first place.

    On the contrary, I remember that our Headmaster, Joseph Calafato, had prohibited us from asking our drivers to pick our bags while we walk to the car. We were prohibited from wearing branded white shirts to school, so as not to show our wealth off to everyone. I remember the annual Milad and the Helper’s society.

    While I agree that our society is plagued with a Brown sahib’s inferiority complex, I in no way hold one school responsible for this.

    However, I do think that certain aspects of the KGS admissions process need to be scrutinized and fixed. Alongside this, I also feel that KGS has a problem with favoritism where I felt that certain surnames, and children of teachers and board members were given undue advantages and literally had greatness thrust upon them.

    Having said all this, I consider KGS a major part of my life, and a place that opened the doors for me to experience a life I could have never imagined. For this, I will forever be grateful.Recommend

  • LandofIndus

    Please explain that to the KGS graduates who are admitted to the top universities worldwide and are also teaching in those top universities. If you don’t like “Burgers” stick to “Bun Kebabs”.Recommend

  • LandofIndus

    Those Indian universities produce less than 20% graduates who are employable by businesses in India. If you meet their top university graduates, you will be shocked by their low standards.Recommend

  • Zarnab Rashid

    Lol dude. What a pathetic comment.Recommend

  • Zarnab Rashid

    Some people call this a rant. Some call this misleading. Others pointless. I am compelled to put a couple of my words in because we, the privileged, will never understand the hardships of the people of Pakistan. Our self righteousness and ego will always keep us blind from the facts. The problem is not KGS. This is the mentality of our country itself.Recommend

  • of perceptions and self esteem

    utter rubbish and nothing but a projection of her own fears and inhibitions. Recommend

  • Double A

    Yes of course faith in Allahs plan, just sit at home and fart all day and have faith in His plan as whatever happens is His will so why even try…Recommend

  • Desi

    So the students of mediocre schools are also admitted to top universities and teaching in those and even making remarkable innovations and breakthrough in science, medicine and etc. Then what’s the difference between a ‘Burger’ school and Mediocre ones. Why KGS is promoting the culture is which is not Pakistani from any aspect? Why does KGS have more emphasis on the English than Urdu? Please tell me I am awaiting to more enlightened by your oh-so ‘Great Knowledge’ ‘Burger’ !!!!Recommend

  • Nael

    Congratulations you know how to use a lot of big words without understanding what they really mean. Recommend

  • fbhombal

    Govt. College Lahore has produced more leaders in pakistan than KGS, which is the most overrated school in Pakistan.Recommend

  • BoZz

    Education is not confined to textbooks or grades alone. What KGS imparts was rather unique for several decades. That is an all round education with loads of confidence for those that attended this institution. No other school even came close to this. However times have changed and now there are other options available. It is to be noted that Ms. Siddiqi even when writing this critic does admit that she would not change anything even with hindsight and that is saying a lot in favor of KGS.Recommend

  • Danny

    You sir, are a legend.Recommend

  • LandofIndus

    First you claimed that schools in Pakistan have zero value abroad. Now you are claiming that even students of mediocre schools are also admitted to top universities. I’m happy for them too.Recommend

  • CasualObserver

    Well, the ignorance of your comment certainly tells all readers about your nationality. Your insecurity knows no bounds. You stalk Pakistani newspapers, websites, Facebook pages, trawling through material until you find something that criticizes Pakistan, and then hit the like button with a ferocity that stems from insecurity. If you’re unable to find such negative material, then you have to leave an ignorant comment on everyday articles or posts. You’re unable to bear the idea of a normal life in Pakistan; can’t even tolerate a normal article about a school in Karachi. At the very least, present some stats to back your baseless assumption. Please let us worry about our own country and its schools.Recommend

  • Sami

    You stated you look like a foreigner?. Kindly explain….Recommend

  • mfz

    this is a new low.Recommend

  • Umme

    I think it’s problematic to call this post accurate or ‘on point’ because that’s just what it is not. While there is a lot that the author gets right about the conceit and messy post-colonial values of the institution, her analysis is simply banal – confirming what people think they already know about KGS. I think this piece would have been far more effective if the writer had risen above simplistic deductions – they inevitably lead to unoriginal conclusions. The truth is that the so-called OGs are not a monolith, much like the NGs this writer talks about. The faculty, administration, and trustees, are themselves divided and uncertain about the values they want to impart and the culture they want to promote within the institution – and the image they want to project outside. There are so many paradoxes and entrenched issues that the writer could have highlighted and explored to bring attention to the absurd egocentricity of, not just KGS, but Pakistan’s supposed ‘intelligentsia’ in general. It’s just a pity that she stuck to such simplistic binaries.Recommend

  • Zo

    It doesn’t matter if someone speaks with a particular accent or speaks in English or in Urdu; it is a choice that people can be allowed and can make; whether it is because of the colonial times or the ice age or the big bang, it is irrelevant for us to comment on what they wear or the way they speak. As long as they don’t bully you or bother you, you have to respect them as individuals in their own right. Again, the entire argument of NGs or OGs can be broken down to a similar explanations. It seems like you chose to buy a whole load of facts with no evidence and gave into your intuitions more than anything. All I can ask you to do is to respect your individuality, your circumstances more and have some more self confidence.Recommend

  • intothevoid

    KGS does NOT have ‘one of the best academic standards’ in Pakistan. It simply has some of the best students, which it gets to cherry pick because of its elitist standing. There is a reason that 90% of KGS students go to after school tuitions. It’s absolutely LUDICROUS to suggest that KGS has good academic standards.Recommend

  • gp65

    Yeah these people of shocking standards seem to be doing very well globally. Indians are 1% of US population but constitute 12.5% of the professors in US colleges, the surgeon general of US was educated in India as are the CEOs of Pepsi, Google, Microsoft and MasterCard.Recommend

  • LandofIndus

    That just proves a few Indians do well after they leave India. Those success stories are not statistically significant. Remember there are 1.1 billion Indians.

    Look at this:

    It says “the vast majority of graduates – on the order of 75% or more – are not considered employable.”Recommend

  • Teacher by choice.

    I couldn’t agree more. OGs are also of two types. One are those whose generations have studied here and the others are those who got admission from pre primary. The rest remain NG whether they join from class 3, 7, 10 or A levels. OGs have superiority complex. I wonder what makes a school best when its 99% students start going to tuition from junior classes. Most of the teachers are either OGs themselves or related to them. It is impossible for anyone to survive as teacher without reference. The middle class families who want their children to learn better should keep their children away from such schools. No one should be tempted for the repute or name of the institute. The school where 80% students don’t require private tuition is worth joining. However finding such school where tuition mafia is active is impossible.Recommend

  • Daud Khan

    The writer of the article clearly had a tough time in KGS. I am sorry that this happened. In contrast ,I had a great time and carry fond memories and deep friendships formed at School. I don’t consider myself unfriendly or arrogant. If I do behave badly at times I think these are defects in my person and I don’t think its due to my going to KGS.Recommend

  • LandofIndus

    These individual success stories outside India don’t qualify the remaining 1.1 billion Indians.Recommend

  • Kushal

    “on the order of 75% or more – are not considered employable.”
    Could not agree more. Especially if the employment is bomb making or detonating oneself.Recommend

  • no

    Govt. College Lahore has produced more leaders in Pakistan. KGS is the home of the Pakistanis who work and lead all around the World. Not Only Pakistan :) in 2012 only one student got into Oxford University From the whole Sub-continent. and he studied from KGS. and he got in for Medicine.
    Just because you have a hate for the school doesnt mean you have the right to call it Overrated. 3/4 of the people dont take tuitions in KGS until they reach O’Levels. and some people dont even take tutions then as well. you shouldnt believe everything you hear about the school.Recommend

  • AYLT

    Logic • a month ago

    “KGS is perfectly set on merit at A levels. Do you have any example of someone getting into kgs in A levels with bad grades for saying “KGS, you see, practises a vague semblance of meritocracy”

    Bilal Zaidi • a month ago

    “…As for elitism, I think the school represents all classes of people. KGS actually charges less than most of the prestigious A Level institutions in Karachi so I don’t think that’s very true.”


    There is so much in this article that I could argue, but these were my two main points.

    KGS definitely charged hell of a lot less than schools such as L’ecole, for example.


    “I quickly abandoned my old friends, the middle-class, unfashionable girls that I had grown up with.”

    And did one of those awful old grammarians put a gun to your head and tell you you had to do this? A choice of your own which you seem to be blaming kgs culture for. Besides, if you could so easily “abandon” the friends you grew up with, perhaps some higher, karmic force decided that it shouldn’t be equally easy for you to replace them with a new set of friends.
    Karma and spiritual talk aside, you can’t expect to instantly have relationships with new peers that are akin to the relationships you had with childhood friends. You still describe them as “unfashionable”… sounds pretty condescending to me. Shame you didn’t cherish them…

    In essence it seems you are well complexed. And also perhaps you weren’t really at KGS long enough to be the high authority on its dynamics that you make yourself out to be.

    I could very easily carry on critiquing pretty much everything you have written. But why waste my time critiquing a myopic, self-centred rant.

    Oh and before you start thinking that I must just be a defensive OG who was always, and instantly, part of the cool kids;

    I had my fair share of ups and downs at KGS. But come on, it’s school, it’s an awkward time. I am, however, mature and self-aware enough to know that the less than ideal moments had much to do with fact that I hadn’t fully grown into myself, my personality, and my confidence. It’s not just school though, it’s life. It has its ups and downs. A little bit of self-confidence always helps. Baselessly faulting others for your lack of it, however, doesn’t. It’s kind of pathetic.Recommend

  • AYLT

    I thinks it’s cool you bothered to stick up for kgs though you didn’t even go there. Speaks volumes too.Recommend

  • AYLT

    I think the guy referred to a “will to succeed and do good” as the primary factor…. and faith in God’s plan as something to complement it…Recommend

  • AYLT

    Nope, was written by a girl who graduated in 2006. I remember her. Mentioned the article to my mum today. She’s one of those kindly, sweet mums whose not too judgemental. Even she found it lame that the girl hadn’t gotten over it and was ranting about it ten years later.Recommend

  • AYLT

    Lol…. I wondered how and why your long story was relevant to any of this… and then you dropped your funny bomb :PRecommend

  • Hamza Khan

    You sound like an elitist, bro.. Chill out. She presented an experience different from yours. Now you should know what’s behind her inferiority complex. Try to empathize with her. Also, tell your mom to be kinder too.Recommend

  • SKK

    I arrived KGS in 1984 in class 7, but unlike Ayesha I came from an English school where i had been one of the few south Asian students and we all stuck together. If you had my perspective, you would realize how saddening it must have been to see Pakistani kids cluelessly imbibing classist notions of power and authority more at home at Eton or Harrow, instead of being taught to engage with the complicated post-colonial metropolis that Karachi was and remains. Despite its shortcomings (and i could say a lot about that), KGS was good to me and I am grateful for the opportunity. Still i worry about the deeply conflicted identity that such institutions foster. Perhaps that is one reason some parents would rather their children not attend KGS.Recommend

  • Muneeb rasheed Siddiqui

    I always stick up for the right things. The author here specifically has a big bias against KGSRecommend

  • Nincompoop

    If thats how to spell becuase they wouldn’t take you anyways.Recommend

  • Albi

    The chaiwala could end up as a revolutionary. The Chinese, Korean, Russian revolutions were staged by those who were born and lived in poverty and were sick of being pushed around by the elites…Notice how they changed their history. Revolutionaries were out of the box thinkers and hardship does force you to get creative.Recommend

  • Omar Khan

    EyeGuy, May be she is telling the truth, may be you are also the part of that elite who thinks it is perfectly normal to create exclusivity and may be you also believe that OGs act like it, because they believe it is their God given right. May be growing up in KGS has made people so oblivious to the snobbery, that they don’t even notice it. May be as an outsider, it became too obvious to her. I always thought that KGS kids were also bunch of wanna beee. But than again we should respectfully agree to disagree.Recommend