Why are our children brain washed to become “followers” instead of “thinkers”?

Published: February 8, 2017

Students displaying skills of thinking beyond the level of teachers or the periphery of a curriculum are often branded as trouble makers or non-conformists. PHOTO: RESCUEORG

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” 

― Charles William Eliot

In the wake of the critical crisis that literacy and education suffers in Pakistan, it is imperative to understand that education and the enlightenment of the mind cannot necessarily be instilled within the caged walls of a classroom. Although degrees and grades can produce suited versions of empty minds vying for jobs in an already saturated market but they can hardly broaden the vistas of learning or enrich young brains with insight and real education.

In the rapidly advancing world, countries which produce the most brilliant minds lead the graph of development, whereas those who shun intellect lag behind. Moreover, considering the volatile situation this world faces due to intolerance, it is vital that the vicious nexus of intolerance and ignorance threatening our society be overcome by education.

However, the stark reality is that Pakistan currently faces a myriad of problems and providing quality education to its citizens is one of them. The lack of pragmatic leadership and allocation of resources along with many other plagues have made our education a mockery. Clearly the ambition to educate Pakistan does not run high on any politician’s bucket list.

Given the fact that the state falls short of addressing the dire needs of the youth of Pakistan and their fundamental right to be educated, the crux of responsibility inevitably shifts to the people of Pakistan. Often the most challenging obstacle can be overcome if only tackled with wit. Rather than following the beaten path of imparting knowledge through the medium of curriculum and examination, the solution lies in looking beyond the usual mode of instructive education in Pakistan.

The current narrative of pedagogy in our country is limited to churning out out-dated versions of educated minds from an assembly line that has not gone through any re-hauling. The result is an end product that is faulty and lacks the ambition and acumen to propel the country towards real progression.

One of the prime culprits for this debacle is our eternal fascination of enslaving education within the chains of rote learning and grade achievement. Starting from early childhood, our children are brain washed to become “followers” instead of “thinkers”, a trait that becomes a lifelong recipe for regression. Students displaying skills of thinking beyond the level of teachers or the periphery of a curriculum are often branded as trouble makers or non-conformists. Any sparks of curiosity which lays foundation for research is curbed from the start.­­­

Another weakness of our system is that its rigidity ostracises creativity. In an era of technological boom, education should be presented in engaging and modern ways in order to appeal to the younger generation. A mind that perceives knowledge as a burden can only be expected to yield mediocrity.

The most basic form of knowledge comes from the ability to read, an interest that is fast declining in today’s gadget filled world. A child who reads develops an innate quality of thinking and a positive attitude towards learning from an early age. A relationship with books helps in expanding knowledge base and cultivating the mind with exposure to diverse ideas. Through forging a bond with books our children can break the invisible chains that hinder their thoughts and roam freely in the realms of imagination. The ability to probe and question the boundaries that exist also stems from the habit of reading. In a country where a lack of educational reforms resulted in a quagmire of huge proportions, instilling a love of books can also bridge the gap between our out-dated curriculum and contemporary learning.

Nowadays, children perceive books as an encumbrance instead of doors to freedom and bliss. One of the prime reasons for the decline in habit of reading is that today’s youth is inundated with screen distractions in various forms. The trinity of curriculum-memorisation-examination is also a culprit of the indifference displayed by the children towards reading and books. Therefore, in order to develop a penchant for reading, ways should be devised to make it pleasurable for young minds.

The most effective way of making reading enjoyable for children is to read to them. Parents’ responsibility extends beyond enrolling children in posh private schools and hiring tutors for their success. By investing their time in the simple task of reading to our children, parents can develop it as an important part of their upbringing. Sharing the joys of a book with your child will not only be helpful in strengthening our own weakening ties with books but will also serve as enforcing the importance of reading in our young. This small activity can serve as the foundation for a lifelong passion of reading and love of books in them.

Joseph Brodsky, a Nobel laureate in literature once said,

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

A well-read and educated youth contributes further to the prosperity and progress of the nation. It is high time we realised the gravity of our quandary and make amends, Pakistan’s future lies in its youth and a youth that thrives in reading will grow into intelligent custodians of our values, culture and heritage.

Saba Ansari

Saba Ansari

The author resides in Canada and is passionate about writing.

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