Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Who is educated! - Iqbal's View

Iqbal on Education [1909]

I unhesitatingly declare that I have greater respect for an illiterate shopkeeper, who earns his honest bread and has sufficient force in his arms to defend his wife and children in times of trouble than the brainy graduate of high culture, whose low timid voice betokens the dearth of soul in his body, who takes pride in his submissiveness, eats sparingly, complains of sleepless nights and produces unhealthy children for his community, if he does produce any at all. 

There is no absolute truth in education, as there is none in philosophy or science. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a maxim of fools. Do we ever find a person rolling in his mind the undulatory theory of light simply because it is a fact of science? Education, like other things, ought to be determined by the needs of the learner. A form of education which has no direct bearing on the particular type of character which you want to develop is absolutely worthless. I grant that the present system of education in India gives us bread and butter. We manufacture a number of graduates and then we have to send titled mendicants to Government to beg appointments for them. Well, if we succeed in securing a few appointments in the higher branches of service, what then? It is the masses who constitute the backbone of the nation; they ought to be better fed, better housed and properly educated. 

Life is not bread and butter alone; it is something more; it is a healthy character reflecting the national ideal in all its aspects. And for a truly national character, you ought to have a truly national education. Can you expect free Muslim character in a young boy who is brought up in an aided school and in complete ignorance of his social and historical tradition? 

You administer to him doses of Cromwell’s history; it is idle to expect that he will turn out a truly Muslim character. The knowledge of Cromwell’s history will certainly create in him a great deal of admiration for the Puritan revolutionary; but it cannot create that healthy pride in his soul which is the very lifeblood of a truly national character. Our educated young man knows all about Wellington and Gladstone, Voltaire and Luther. He will tell you that Lord Roberts worked in the South African War like a common soldier at the age of eighty; but how many of us know that Muhammad II conquered Constantinople at the age of twenty-two? How many of us have even the faintest notion of the influence of our Muslim civilization over the civilization of modern Europe? How many of us are familiar with the wonderful historical productions of Ibn Khaldun or the extraordinarily noble character of the great Mir Abdul Qadir of Algeria? A living nation is living because it never forgets its dead. I venture to say that the present system of education in this country is not at all suited to us as a people. It is not true to our genius as a nation, it tends to produce an un-Muslim type of character, it is not determined by our national requirements, it breaks entirely with our past and appears to proceed on the false assumption that the idea of education is the training of human intellect rather than human will.

We spend an immense amount of money every year on the education of our children. Well, thanks to the King-Emperor, India is a free country; everybody is free to entertain any opinion he likes—I look upon it as a waste. In order to be truly ourselves, we ought to have our own schools, our own colleges, and our own universities, keeping alive our social and historical tradition, making us good and peaceful citizens and creating in us that free but law-abiding spirit which evolves out of itself the noblest types of political virtue. I am quite sensible of the difficulties that lie in our way. All that I can say is that if we cannot get over our difficulties, the world will soon get rid of us.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Can Grades and Degrees Measure the Success of Students?

Can Grades and Degrees Measure the Success of Students?

We see schools in Pakistan proudly displaying their biggest achievement as the number of A grades secured or the number of positions obtained in board examinations. There seems to be a mad rush to secure a large number of A's with the benchmark recently set at some 22+ A grades. The schools as well as students define their success in terms of high grades. Why? Because high grades would get them in to good universities and the graduates of good universities get good jobs. High grades are a ticket for economically weak students to secure admission in public universities where there is high competition because of the low fees. Such high grades for economically strong students studying at premier institutions provide literally a ticket for enjoying the university life in liberal western countries, obtaining scholarships and credit exemptions. Even high achievers  studying in public universities in Pakistan plan to go abroad and construct a lucrative life there. The quest of grades boils down simply to earn a better living through a good paying career job.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How Maths is made difficult

How Maths is made difficult

Children should use tools
Maths becomes difficult when the natural progression of how children learn maths is not followed.

This progression is often designated by ELPS:
  1. E for Experience 
  2. L for Language 
  3. P for Pictures 
  4. S for Symbols
Typically the maths books start from the Picture (P) stage and, then immediately move to the Symbol stage (S).

Without proper exposure of Experience stage (E) and development of the necessary Language stage (L), we naively expect that a student would directly comprehend from pictures (#3) and would effortlessly graduate to the symbols stage (#4).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Myth of Mushrooming of Universities in Pakistan

I think we were and are being sold this myth of "Mushrooming of Universities in Pakistan" because there are forces that do not want 20,000 universities coming up in Pakistan and would like to cap the number of universities and HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) to a small manageable and controllable number. In 2006, in India there were over 22,000 engineering colleges, institutes and universities of all hues and shades in public and private sector. Of courses, not all of them had the stature of IITs, but there were plenty providing a useful service.