Putting 28 O level As into perspective

Published: September 7, 2011
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Syed Zohaib Asad a young Pakistani boy who recently passed 28 O Level subjects with As.

Pakistani youth are unfortunately stuck in a conundrum. Call it a rat race for grades and/or pseudo-intellectual ideals.

I posted a link on facebook about Syed Zohaib Asad a young Pakistani boy who recently passed 28 O Level subjects with As. To be honest, I didn’t read the article just then. I was just so happy to see that a young boy from Wah Cantt managed an amazing world record that I wanted to share the news with my friends from Pakistan, US, UK, Sri Lanka and India. I did read the article later in the day and was very disturbed to see the comments under it.

So it was a 19-year-old who had passed the O Level exams over 3 years and had got A grades and not a 16 year old. The added enlightenment did not change the fact for me that he’s a Pakistani who showed determination. Bravo to this aspiring young man who deserves to be applauded.

Yet, some of the comments that came under the article merit closer examination. If we can sift the emotions out of the comments, some points of national educational debate do seem prominent and eminent to discuss.

The most important lesson a teacher can impart is the worth of hard work, persistence and to be creative in thought and action.  One must learn to challenge the norm if any new and creative avenues are to be tried.

Our best youth is unfortunately given only one direction to think: get the grades and go study abroad (and preferably don’t come back.). Yes we do need world records in education rather than in terrorism and students like Syed Zohaib Asad  are a breath of fresh air for the international image of Pakistan. Such incidents can very easily be used to teach young people the importance of making their parents and country proud, rather than scrutinize it from an angle where the emphasis is just on the worth, value or utility of attaining 28 As in O Levels.

Students must however be encouraged to undergo community service alongside the pursuit of top grades not for the sake of improving their profiles for admissions in Ivy League Schools but so that the notions of team spirit, sharing, kindness and patience take the place of cut throat competition, emotional and impatient behaviour and blatant disregard for the values of a civilized life.

Recently I attended two Infant Annual Sports Days, one in an elite school in Lahore and the other in a County school in the UK. I was surprised to see that the priorities are just poles apart.

In the UK the sports day meant that there would be no winners or losers, parents came dressed in sports gear or comfortable clothing themselves and stood throughout the one hour long sports hour because they had to go round the huge field to wherever their kids went (for various sports activities).

In the Lahore school, the best kids were already handpicked before the sports day to compete on the day (so everyone didn’t get a fair chance), the parents looked like they had come to a fashion shoot themselves because everyone was dressed up, parents were served drinks and light snacks and made to sit and clap. It was simply non structured raw creativity versus strictly structured made up display of creativity.

And then we wonder why our nation does not prosper!

I believe that a nation is not dead when it stops to ‘do’. A nation dies when it stops to ‘think’. It is imperative that we teach our youth to think beyond grades but it is equally important that the State and educational institutions create ample opportunities to harness the suppressed creativities. After all we owe this much to our next generation if we ever hope to move towards a positive change inPakistan.

Creativity might ( ‘might’) kill the chances of a world distinction but it will certainly take our youth miles ahead of this first milestone in the long run and prepare them for the greater challenge called ‘life’.

Correction: In an earlier version of this post ‘Ivy’ League was misspelled. The spelling has been corrected.

Ammara.Malik

Ammara Farooq Malik

A High Court Lawyer with an LL.M from the University of London and a Masters in Political Science, Ammara is a socio-legal analyst, writer, and Founder of the SEPLAA Foundation. She blogs at ammarafarooqmalik.wordpress.com

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