Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

In the context of Pakistan teachers and head-teachers are complacent enough to learn from each other’s experiences or on an individual basis while reading and reflecting on their classroom practices. Our schools provide a very poor reading and writing culture. Our teaching makes students dependent. Teachers don’t make lesson plans or develop activities to bring excitement to the teaching and learning process. They sit on the chair and recite few pages from the textbook or gave some lectures. They have stopped their learning and this belief has restricted children from becoming life-long learners. Only students are considered learners, and most learning is by rote, with little or no understanding. Knowledge is taken for granted. It is not questioned, analyzed, or negotiated. There is no opportunity for students to generate their meaning and knowledge while reflecting upon their personal experiences. The textbook is treated as a heavenly written book, and they believe that the only teacher is the ultimate source to teach the textbook.  This knowledge is tested through a traditional assessment process. The major focus of the assessment process is to check the memory of the child. These rigid approaches of teaching and assessment processes have bound the child in the cage of time and the boundaries of the classroom. Ronald Barth (1991) contends, ‘are teachers and administrators willing to accept the fact that they are part of the problem?–God did not create self-contained classrooms, fifty-minute periods, and subjects taught in isolation. We did because we find working alone safer than and preferable to working together. (P.126-127). This quotation reveals that teachers and headteachers follow the autocratic style of teaching to stop the voice of children and make their tasks easier. There is a lack of shared vision and collaboration among stakeholders of schools. One-man show culture is dominated.

It is important to evaluate to what extent schools in Pakistan provide an “education for each child that is directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the child’s parents, cultural identity, language and values, and the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society in the spirit of understanding, peace and tolerance, equality of sexes and friendship among all peoples….”  as set out in article 29 of the CRC (1989). Personal experience of visiting schools across the various systems suggests that most schools either seem to be unaware of the possibility of such a nature of education or to be struggling to understand how this might be achieved.

Dean’s (2005) paper on the state of citizenship education in Pakistani schools describes the findings of documentary analysis and school-based research, which confirms the extent of these problems. The findings very clearly show how the poor relationship between teacher and students impacts the teaching methods and learning process of the students. Dean describes how “the teacher is the sole authority in the class and this position is reinforced by maintaining strict discipline in the class. Students are expected to immediately and completely follow the instructions of the teacher… Many teachers use a reward and punishment strategy to maintain classroom discipline. Students who behave well or excel academically are made monitors or called on to perform tasks for the teacher….. Students who do not are scolded, deprived of rewards and occasionally ears are pulled or students are even beaten (p15).” She continues: “There is very little interaction between teacher and students and little is permitted among the students themselves…. Such classrooms are not conducive to the development of the skills, values, and dispositions required of citizens” (p15).

Furthermore, in his rather disturbing book “Schooling as Violence. How Schools Harm Pupils and Societies” Harber (2004, p10) quotes a study of schools in nine countries including Pakistan. The study concluded that “while many people put their faith in schools to offer children a better chance in life, for some the local schools are of such poor quality that it is developmentally healthier for children not to be in them. The school systems are run by inflexible bureaucracies – if children face difficulties in attending because of the constraints of their lives, that is their problem, not one for the school system to sort out. What is taught in school is often incomprehensible (in a language children have never heard) and unrelated to their lives. Teachers are harsh, unmotivated, and un-motivating. Children drop out, having learned little. (Molteno et al., 2000). It is important to realize that Pakistani schools are not unique in their problems, but that they encounter these problems to a relatively great extent. Both Harber (2004, see above) and Ross and Watkinson (1996) argue that this ‘systemic violence’ is seen in schools throughout the world. Ross defines systemic violence as “any institutionalized practice or procedure that adversely impacts on individuals or groups by burdening them psychologically, mentally, culturally, spiritually, economically or physically. Educational systemic violence includes any practice or procedure that prevents students from learning, thus harming them” (1996, p1). She goes on to say that “when students are not capable enough or compliant enough, the failure is not shouldered by the school as a failure to provide a meaningful educational experience: the blame is shifted to the student for lack of industry or ability – or the parent for lack of positive environment or for failing to support school initiatives. The students most damaged by systemic violence are removed from school, or remove themselves, and suffer the lasting disadvantages of an incomplete education (p1). Ross concludes that this kind of schooling has profound consequences for children and their future role in society: “The dehumanization of the bureaucratic school manifests itself in a poisoned environment that is not only lacking in concern for the individual but also fosters alienation and harassment…..Dehumanization is also found in the separation of cognitive development from affective development and in bureaucratic structures to keep students ‘in their places. Teachers are encouraged to treat students as faceless, voiceless entities whose individual differences and difficulties make no difference to the implementation of norms and rules. Individuals lose their importance and, in the process, the importance of people is denied” (p17). Now the time has come to shift this paradigm from a teacher-centered approach to a child-centered one.


Barth, R. (1991). Restructuring schools: Some questions for teachers and principals. Phi Delta Kappan, 73(2), 123–128.

Harber, Clive & Ebooks Corporation (2004). Schooling as violence: how schools harm pupils and societies. RoutledgeFalmer, London; New York, NY

Molteno, M., Ogadhoh, E.C., Cain, E., Crumpton, B. (2000). Towards responsive schools: Supporting better schooling for disadvantaged children (DFID Educational Paper No. 38.) London: DFID.

Ross Epp, J, and Watkinson, AM (eds) (1996). Systemic Violence. How Schools Hurt Children. London: The Falmer Press. Unicef (2004). The State of the World’s Children. Unicef.

The United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Treaty Series1577, 3.

Dean, B. L. (2005). Citizenship education in Pakistani schools: Problems and possibilities. International Journal of Citizenship and Teacher Education, 1(2), 35-55.

By Ali Ahmed Jan

Ali Ahmed Jan is a versatile educationist, team player, trainer having a professional background in advisor education, consultant education, program manager, manager education (emergency education), teacher educator, Master trainer, assistant professor, and science teacher.

  1. Well explained the dark side of our current education system. You touchdown to our hearts and need judicious efforts to create awareness among students and parents first. Stay blessed for the brilliant insight on an urgent and extremely important topic

  2. Teaching is an art of delivering or handing over to the taught and learning is the process of enjoying to receive what is being transferred. Techniques of teaching experience must be changed accordingly to make it more interesting and novel.

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