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Teachers and academic norms.

Byline: Sarosh Ahmed

Since the dawn of mankind we have been trying to subdue nature, initially we relied on the genius of individuals, who lead the way and were revered parallel to gods. Some 3000 years ago, I believe human beings collectively entered the domain of wisdom and for the very first time realized that it was only the observation of nature, which can now be regarded as knowledge that distinguished the laities from the reverend gods.

An earnest desire to enjoy the exalted status gave birth to the concept of equality, which demanded the same knowledge as was possessed by intellectuals back then, thus started the campaign of intentional flattery, focused to make them elicit or share their knowledge with common man. In this way the process of imparting knowledge started, though not willingly but out of pomp they gave out their secrets.

This process is now called education, where we pay the learned men to share their learning and experience with the young generation. But I am compelled by the observation of my ambient environment to say that something went wrong in the past few years, as instead of evolving into human beings and developing a better understanding of life and acknowledging the importance of knowledge for collective survival, we are becoming more and more materialistic. The chunk of paper that we invented with different faces on it has become more important than the tact that can help us co-exist and save our lives.

Therefore with great regret I venture to pen down my thoughts on the plight of teachers and the functions expected of them. I feel dejected, as I myself am a teacher by vocation who can feel not only the shift of focus of teachers from imparting knowledge to earning money, but also have literally fallen a prey to this despicable trend.

The dreadful trend is not some foreign conspiracy but an outcome of poor educational policies and coldness of governing institutions towards the plight of teachers.

We regard teachers as the engineers of the future, because they train our young generation who have to serve at the key posts in the time ahead, but unfortunately these engineers of future are waging a battle of survival and struggling for their own future.

Governing bodies in education sector, especially HEC is paying no heed to the deteriorating plight of teachers, apparently there are policies for the induction of teachers, admission criteria for students, even changes can be seen being made in curriculum to achieve the desired increase in the literacy rate, in other words it seems that we are determined to leave no stone untouched in our pursuit of higher educational standards, while unfortunately on the other hand no one seems to care about the issues that teachers face, it's not that we have forgotten that after all, these teachers are supposed to teach the curriculum to the students, rather it appears that we have literally taken them for granted, to us perhaps their role is not that vital, or it can be that we have considered them just an ordinary employee who gets paid for his 8 hours duty, not realizing the fact that these teachers hold the key position in the formation of any nation.

In Pakistan a large number of teachers today are practically unable to make both ends meet in the modest amount they are offered as remuneration for the services they render. Consequently they go for various substitutes i.e. academies and tuition centers to tackle with their monetary concerns, which in fact is one of the major reasons behind the drastic decline of educational standard in Pakistan, it's not only that they get overburdened and start overlooking their responsibilities at both the institutions i.e. school/college/university where they serve in the morning and the tuition center etc, but it also affects the quality of education, as the teachers start to consider themselves some sort of commodity, they only focus on their physical presence at the institution where they serve and gradually get indifferent to the basic function of their vocation which is to disseminate the knowledge.

What adds to the pathetic condition of teachers is our expectations of them.We want teachers to be impartial, we expect from them to give their best in their endeavors to instill critical reasoning in their pupils, we want them to be role models for our children, we want them to co-operate, rather voluntarily serve during elections, census and other sociocultural events, but the predicament arises when we don't want to give them their due right (i.e. a remuneration sufficient to maintain a healthy life style). We want teachers to perform all of these functions without asking for any sort of aid. On a lighter note I think that we have taken the quote 'teaching is a prophetic vocation' a bit seriously and now we expect from them that they should bare all the oppressive conditions with a firm belief in salvation and should even offer the ultimate sacrifice with a calm smile on their faces.

Under the present circumstances, where Pakistan is dealing with religious extremism, where terrorists, as observed in recent past, not only threaten or kill educated people, rather literally blow up the entire educational institute so as to ensure that there could be no educated people at all. The government should realize that it is only education that can empower the nation to fight these brutes, as it enables one to explore, assess or critically analyze the prevailing norms, which usually provide them with the sort of stuff to come up with an excuse for their deeds.

Since our future is on stake and I don't think there is any need to impress upon the idea of counter measures as we are very much alive to the fact that without revising pay scales, promotion policies and regulating the private sector where almost in every third institute documented and actual wages greatly differ, it is nearly impossible to encourage and revive the conscience of the teachers who could resurrect the morale in our nation through education to beat terrorism. So we must not negate/ overlook the importance of a teacher, who can spread awareness and wisdom, and who is the only ray of hope that can pierce through the opaque and dingy cloud of ignorance.

After all, the stronger the foundation the longer the structure lasts.

Long live Pakistan!
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Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Jul 30, 2019
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