Every now and then a question arises in every educated person’s mind: what is the purpose of education? Most of us think it as a way to get job or learn some skills. To some extent, it is true that through education we learn skills to get a job or do some work. But, is it the sole purpose of acquiring education? Is our education system only made for producing workers or are there some others purposes of it as well? Let’s find the answers.
There are many schools of thought in the world having different opinions on this subject; however, we may divide them into two broad categories: traditional and modern, on the basis of their approaches to the education system. The traditional approach signifies education only as an instrument to learn social norms and values so that a member of a society may comfortably perform the roles assigned to him. It’s a kind of indoctrination to put the child in a framework so that he does not challenge the existing structure and knowledge. Their purpose is to stop people from questioning the already framed things and established knowledge. The modern approach, however, is broader in its perspective. It asserts that the purpose of education is to train minds to think, question and solve the problems that a person may face in his life. Noam Chomsky elaborated it as “the Enlightenment – highest goal in life to enquire and create, search the riches of the past and try to internalize … and carry the quest” for understanding further in one’s own way.
Putting this in Pakistan’s perspective, we find that we are still pursuing the traditional approach wherein past is glorified and considered complete. Raising a question in our society is no less than a cardinal sin. Barring a few, almost all educational institutions – from primary to university level – are following the same approach. And, those who do not, are private sector, elite institutions which charge so exuberant fees that a person from poor and middle class can hardly even think to afford.
Every Pakistani wants to have peace, development and tranquility in the society but that is not possible unless our education system is reformed. In general, people are unaware of the problems of the system and approach. The system of education the British introduced in the Indian subcontinent served only the particular purposes they had in mind. They only wanted to get skilled labour and submissive masses so that Colonial raj would not be bothered by them. After the partition, similar approach was used by different rulers to cultivate an environment that suited their mindset and cultivated a particular way of thinking among the ordinary people.
During the rule of General (R) Pervez Musharraf, the importance of education was acknowledged and huge money was pumped into the higher education system. This policy is still being followed and country is producing numerous PhDs in the field of Arts, Social Sciences and Physical Sciences. But, still it is a fact that producing more and more PhDs doesn’t mean that we are producing the thinking minds.
It is high time we shifted our approach towards the purpose of education from the traditional to modern so that the nation may become able to produce the citizens whose minds have the traits of critical thinking, rationality and independence.
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