By: Raja Amin
24th January was the ‘International Day of Education’, as resolved and declared by the United Nations General Assembly on 3 December 2018. But is this ‘observance’ for a day within a whole year enough for such a lifeblood constituent of human development?
While ‘observing’ this day, let us imagine what miracles could be brought about by imparting education to all the children across the board. Even today the global literacy statistics depict that 750 million adults are illiterate. And we know very well what ‘literacy’ means in our part of the developing world where a ‘literate’ cannot even write his or her name or draft a few sentences. So, if these figures are further filtered down to the level of ‘quality education’, we will find only a few in millions having access to quality education. Still with this modicum quantity of people having access to quality education, the results have been so splendid. Today many missions are on their way to Mars, fusion reactions are being planned to overcome energy shortages, the human genome has been completely codified and now the deadly COVID is being combated successfully.
But still there are hundreds of catastrophes’ hanging like swords of Damocles over our heads. The mankind is straying in dangerous labyrinths surrounded by thick forests of climate change, energy and food shortage, poverty and hunger, inflation and stagflation, terrorism and extremism and so on. Every time you step out of your house, a fear of insecurity encompasses you. Under such dreary circumstances, a provision for quality education to all can prove an important panacea for these catastrophic ailments and hence it deserves the allocation of top priorities both on individual and institutional levels.
Let’s not digress and move a step further on our trajectory of imaginations and contemplate where the world could have been had ‘quality education’ been imparted to all the children on an equitable and all-inclusive basis. How could this have shaped the future of humanity and the universe. Had mars and hundreds of other planets not been conquered? Had poverty, food shortage and environmental crisis not been tackled? Had epidemics and endemics not been circumvented? Today how many scientists are working on COVID vaccines? May be in the thousands. What impact would have been if they were in millions, have we not eradicated it in its early phase and saved the lives of millions? And what about the existence of non-performing governments in the presence of such aware and enlightened people! Were these able to exist?
Imagine when Thomas Edison was dropped out of school due to alleged poor learning skills, what if his mother would not have taught him at home. Probably today we would not be enjoying many things as he had invented more than 1000 items, a number that will frustrate you if you were made to simply count it; imagine the genius of the scientist gifting 1000 entirely new items to humanity, and hundreds and thousands of other products that are derivatives of these inventions. This shows how a single God gifted child could bring wonders to the entire mankind. And only God knows better how many such other ‘Edisons’ have been missed due to lack of education and resources. Famous scientist Albert Einstein was also dropped out of school at the age of 15, but tried again and passed his university entrance test on his second attempt, a scientist whose contribution in the field of physics are so immense that he was titled as “Man of the Century” by Times Magazine and awarded with Nobel Prize in Physics 1921. So was the case with many other distinguished school / colleges dropouts including Charles Dickens, Elton John, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who do not stop their education simply because of an idiotic and superficial education setup looking for crammers. Today, due to poor education setup, thousands of students are dropped out each year and are simply left for good. No one cares or focuses on these assets.
And unfortunately, we are still pursuing an education system that was developed about a century ago by British colonialists to produce ‘sycophants and robots’ suited to run their affairs smoothly (as recommended by Lord Macaulay and later by Charles Wood in his report ‘Wood’s Despatch”). There have been many ‘nominals’ changes in our educational policy since then, but the crux still remains the same, for we are still producing clerks, mechanics and sterile robots to perform routine tasks but nowhere innovators, philosophers and critical thinkers are seen. As a result, there are chaos in every field; political echelons lack quality thinkers, sciences have become arts, there are no technology innovations and no inventions; and from this it can be inferred that a high correlation exists between issues we are facing today and the extreme lack of education in our country (according to a UNICEF report, Pakistan has the World’s second highest number of out of school children).
When it comes to quality education in Pakistan, the situation is even worse, for according to World University Rankings, only one Pakistani university made its way among top 500 top universities of the world. Just two Nobel laureates were produced in the country in the last 74 years. The lack of quality is not limited only to sciences which may require sophisticated tools and equipment for research, it is the same case everywhere whether they are arts or social and behavioral sciences. This indicates serious flaws in the education system prevailing in the country.
From all innovations and explorations human hands have carved so far, one can conclude that miracles are not programmed in heavens; instead nature has blessed humans with all types of tools that can be ignited to do wonders. Only thing is the need to capitalize on these resources by educating all our children, both by individual and collective efforts. Let’s join hands for such a noble cause, and above all, if we want Covid and other pandemics conquered, poverty banished, and extremism eliminated.