• By Ajay Pinjani
  • Friday, September 18, 2015

Education: A way to set free or imprison?

Witnessing the ever crumbling education system in Pakistan, it is time for us now to echo what our forefathers had once said to us! “Beta education is the real wealth (wisdom), never compromise on it”.

Our generation boastfully replies. “We have earned the wealth (paisa), thanks to our education”.

From Plato to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, umpteen generations have reiterated the impact education has had on individuals and societies alike. It liberates our concealed powers which subsequently wander in quest of unraveling the secrets of life. However, today more than ever, I sense the grave necessity to refer back to the roots and inception of the notion of education.

The term education is derived from a Latin word educere i.e. “bring out”, “bring forth what is within” and ducere, “to lead. This definition is quite simple yet exhaustive at the same time, upholding the core philosophy that suggests: education is a means to reveal our inner talent and help us transform that into action. Additionally, it implies that education is a phenomenon that takes place at all stages of our lives and is not limited to one sphere or one particular time.

Education in our part of the world is commonly perceived as a commodity that is necessary to derive a definite source of income. This perception is flawed. In essence, education is a process that every individual inevitably engages in throughout his/her life, unlike a product that can be measured or ascribed a monetary value. Even if a parent decides not to send their child to school, it does not imply that the child will not be educated, but only it assures that he/she will be educated in a different way. Hence, once we apprehend that education is not a matter of choice then only can we progress up the ladder and decipher the best way to educate our next generation.

An invaluable gift from God, children are the worlds’ most valuable resource and its best hope for the future. This narrative is unequivocally embraced by all parents, yet in today’s materially prosperous world such ethical principles are grotesquely disregarded. Looking at Pakistan alone, over 3.8 million children of 5 to 14 age bracket are actively engaged in child labor. One should ask, what does the future hold for these children who spend their youth in slums, factories and brick kilns.

Product versus Process Curriculum

Twentieth century brought about a fundamental change in our society; notions of industrialization and laissez faire determined an unprecedented need for specialized and skilled labor (technicians). To this effort, a change in educational system was imperative, hence product curriculum was introduced. Often viewed as a technical exercise, this model entails a systematic and uniform cycle: objectives are set, a plan is drawn up and applied, and the resulting outcomes can be clearly measured.

Although superficially productive, this embodiment carries detrimental implications on one’s social development and enlightenment. In most of our (specific goal oriented) contemporary education institutions, students are repetitively prompted upon the necessity of choosing a specialization at an early age, often challenged with questions like, ‘where do you see yourself after five years?’ Such an encounter makes a student weary about his current standing and it forces him/her to secure an aim which can be mechanistically measured rather than learning from the process of education and making it compatible to the world of experimentation.

Adding fuel to fire, children are often inhibited from asking questions in the prevailing system, and they are punished to make sure that such defiant behavior is never repeated.

Curiosity is a natural instinct that stimulates and perturbs the human mind to oppose existing frameworks and engage in innovation as a desire to unravel the ulterior motives of life. This precious gift is eroding away and most of the modern education structures carry with themselves, preconceived notions of what is right and wrong, and concurrently discourage students from engaging in critical thinking and questioning what they study. The urge to learn and question needs to be cultivated thoroughly in order to embark upon progress and to readdress the pedagogic standing of education.

Many of the adversaries of product model have argued in favor of the process curriculum model. By analyzing the term ‘process’, it can be inferred that this model weighs a substantial amount of emphasis regarding the ways in which education is carried out or transmitted from one body to another. Lawrence Stenhouse (1975) is one of the most prominent advocates of this model and suggests that,
Curriculum is rather like a recipe in cookery. A curriculum, like the recipe for a dish, is first imagined as a possibility, then the subject of experiment. The recipe offered publicly is in a sense a report on the experiment. Similarly, a curriculum should be grounded in practice. It is an attempt to describe the work observed in classrooms. Finally, within limits, a recipe can be varied according to taste, so can a curriculum.

Aforementioned example outlines the fundamental feature of process curriculum: it is open to scrutiny and further experimentation. Additionally, it demonstrates the power of learning and knowledge transmition where students’ daily life experience is of essential value.

Teacher Student Relationship

Another important concern in relation to education is that of talent; it is necessary to assert that every child encompasses a unique persona and passion. This recognition draws a major component for the relationship existing between a teacher and a student. Student personal development is a central challenge for any education policy. Hence, a change in the role of teacher is of utmost priority; teachers in the process model of curriculum are no more seen as merely the transmitter of information. Instead, it moves from the traditional lecture-based teaching to a new paradigm based on comprehension and non-rote learning that respects different students learning paces, and nurtures distinct talent.

Process Curriculum in Practice

Although seemingly Platonic, this emancipatory exhibition of knowledge is practiced in our very globe. In Colombia like elsewhere, rural education is a challenge that has been ignored by their forefathers. To overcome this quandary a new approach was advocated by the ministry of education named, Escuela Nueva (The New School). One of the many instrumental ideas behind this education system was to build a secure bonding between the students and the community. An interesting example of this development can be noticed by highlighting a sequence of some simple activities embodied into the Escuela Nueva curriculum; as part of the first workshop the teacher receives guidelines to prepare with students – a Community Map that tags family names of each of the students. As a result of this process students become an expert in map design and meaning. At the same time parents feel involved once they find their names on the community maps posted around the school.

Such invigorating exercises and powerful methods of teaching are lost in the contemporary education model, featuring stressed out students who are busy racing against time and experts at thinking globally but unable to relate to what is in their neighborhood.

It is extremely depressing to see our country struggling in almost all state of affairs. Educational reform I believe is a desperate need and can certainly become a defining element for our next generation to solidify their identity and build a lasting hope for a prosperous society.

If you imprison a monkey in a small cage, it will desperately try to unleash itself. But if you place a monkey in a barred piece of land and then very gradually bring close the barred edges while keeping the monkey busy with swings and bananas, the monkey will remain incognizant about the materializing danger.

RETO’s Intervention

The above metaphor very well explains how student minds are imprisoned in Pakistan by inculcating rigid and non-creative thought process.

The case worsens when we speak about the rural Pakistan – its’ youth suffers politically, infrastructurally and socially. RETO Foundation intends to confront this situation by using the medium of technology; by inculcating the process of curriculum; and by following Escuela Nueva’s creative strategies to make community a partner in education development.

Article’s previous version first appeared in trconline.org on 21st March, 2011.


Herrmann, B. L. (2010) Emerging Transformation

Mednick, F. (2006) Curriculum Theories

Smith, M. K. (1996, 2000) Curriculum theory and practice the encyclopaedia of informal education