Stories about students

Educational emergency: Losing ‘Sim Sim Hamara’

Much to our disappointment, just a few weeks ago Pakistan lost the Urdu version of Sesame Street, commonly referred to as “Sim Sim Hamara”. Sadly, Sim Sim is no longer hamara. The USAID had invested over $65 million in “Sesame Street” undertakings in more than one dozen countries for over a decade. In Pakistan alone, the investment was around $20 million and was supposed to span over four years. Out of this $6.7 million has already been spent. It is a shame that the US has reason to believe that funds were mishandled much to the embarrassment of every Pakistani who has ...

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Why rote learning (unfortunately) works for Pakistan

According to Charles Darwin, collaboration is the key to progress. He once said: It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. Inspired by Dr Ashraf Iqbal, Sugata Mitra and Ken Robinson, I went on to implement various forms of collaborative learning in my own classes to check if this model would be productive in our rigid educational system. I believe that just saying that we need to move away from rote learning is one thing, but actually attempting to do so is an entirely different thing. Having given it a shot, I was quite disappointed in ...

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The curse of being a South Asian student

When an eighteen-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after suffering silently from months of cyber-bullying, journalist Josh Goodman at the The Huffington Post demanded that not only his bullies but the whole of society be put on trial for its role in the suicide. As virtually every media outlet, numerous celebrities, and even President Obama, spoke out about the tragedy, the question remained: Why would a young man just starting college, seemingly on the first page of a new chapter, change course and set sail in the direction of death instead? It is true that ...

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36 A’s or a 4.0 GPA won’t make you a genius

My goal in a classroom setting has been simple; make students as uncomfortable as possible with the content of the lecture. Once they get uncomfortable with the ideas that I float, they despise me, and to prove me wrong they go back home and do research. I have observed three outcomes of such a situation: 1) Students do some research and agree with my views. 2) Students curse me and reject my views outright. 3) Students get confused and realise that the world is complex and requires much more in-depth study. I aim for students to end up in the third slot. What we produce, ...

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Of teens and charity : ‘Like OMG, I work for an NGO’

Areeba, not her real name, is a bright, conscientious 18-year-old off to college this September. She works on and off rebuilding a girls school in rural Sindh in an effort guided by her school. “I know all the girls names, they teach me Sindhi and mark my progress, I distribute sweets,” she says, her enthusiasm apparent. But then comes this observation: It’s something I’m really into, not like, I don’t know, wannabe hipsters who’re just in it for the certificate and the photo ops. Wannabe hipsters in it for the photo ops? I told my father what she said and his first ...

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Refund policy: The end of university looting

Largely unreported, Pakistani students earned a well-deserved victory in the Islamabad High Court last week. The High Court ruled the current policy adopted by several public and private universities to demand non-refundable deposits at the time of offering admission ‘illegal’. This is a problem that many students are familiar with. When the admission season starts, they apply to a range of institutions and even start hearing back from a lot of them. However, they are still in waiting for their first choice to respond. In the meantime, unsure whether they will get into their most preferred university or not, they start making deposits ...

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Are public schools not good enough for you?

It was surprising to hear that a senior official of the Capital Administration and Development Division had his three children enrolled in a private school. But what was even more shocking was that over 95 per cent of bureaucrats, politicians, business tycoons and corporate employees send their children to private elite schools rather than to government institutions. I asked the official why he preferred to enroll his children in a private school since he himself is looking into the government education system in the Islamabad Capital Territory. His answer was indirect but simple: If you have the choice to buy an ...

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Mubashir Luqman, why can’t you appreciate something good?

Last week, Mubashir Luqman conducted a show in which he revealed the corruption of the PML-N’s laptop distribution scheme. The videos of the show went viral on YouTube. People admire Mubashir Luqman because of his thorough research, but I’ll be straight here – I actually like his show because it is in favour of the PTI. In the past, when Luqman spoke about the MQM, nobody liked him. But since he is now against the PML-N and his allegations are in great favour of the PTI, he has turned into a national hero. Let’s come to the ...

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When college ends and real life begins

I know you guys have already read a couple of blogs about graduation; the ones that elaborated in 10 points how, after passing out, the realisation dawns that the world out there is very evil and that college was pure bliss. While these writings surely had their utility, what they failed to encapsulate was the experience itself; the four years of loathing that magically turn into a bitter sweet feeling as the end approaches. I still remember an incident from freshman year when I complained to a teacher about the excessive workload and she said, with a smile reminiscent of days gone by, When you are ...

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Cheating on exams: I blame the system

A recent news report in The Express Tribune titled “Rs100 is all your dad needs to have pharras delivered to you during the exam” began with the question; “Is there a point to sitting examinations at all?”  The article was about the recent case in Sukkur where invigilators and school staff were found helping students cheat, as eager parents outside paid them off. Let’s start by considering the question posed –  is there a point to taking exams at all? Across the globe, educational systems have implemented testing as a means by which to discriminate academic performance between students. However, this is a hangover ...

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