Classrooms of the future

Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, asserts that humanity needs three things today: “spiritual emancipation of man, a spiritual interpretation of the universe and the establishment of social life on spiritual grounds.”

What an utterly extraordinary world will it be if we can pay heed to Iqbal’s words and try to bring out meaningful change both within and around us, in Pakistan and specifically within the institute of education within the country? Unfortunately, education is the only sector of our society that is not owned either by its government, civil administration or those who are in charge of it; the litany of administrators, principals and teachers.

Its future policies are left to rot on the drawing board, while its schools and colleges remain without due resources and investments in human and material capital. Its many children run amok, rending their hearts out, waiting for someone to hear out their troubles. A cacophony of imbecile politicos and equally incompetent administrators, mentally crippled to even think about bringing about meaningful change in the lives of students, run the show. Its madrassas spew out hate against other sects, while its secular institutions of higher learning are breeding grounds for political and ethnic violence. So, shall the agents within the education sector of the country, the breath and colour of this veritable pillar of society, the fabric of its soul, the many teachers and students and principals, with their aspirations and dreams to turn things around, give up on it too?

No! Education in Pakistan was, is and will be the forum for initiating progress in the country. In this regard, Pakistan must follow the examples of the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China and build on its vast human resource. Education will transform that human resource into a dynamic workforce of the future, but more importantly, it is only education and that too, instruction within the social sciences specifically, which will make our students critical agents of change in the Pakistani society.

In that regard, technology can really help us. With concepts such as flipped classroom, distant learning, video learning, digital media exposure, and huge boardrooms of students connected on virtual forums of learning (such as Edupedia, The Google Classroom, Wiziq), Pakistani education can literally reinvigorate itself. Costs of instruction are bound to go down in this framework of educational change and our lack of teaching resources and material shortages can be overcome. This model has been implemented in countries around the world including Turkey, Sri Lanka and India and a simple internet search will help us see how successful it has been in not only enrolling more students into education but also enhancing their qualitative experience of it. And contrary to many commonsensical assumptions, technology in education will not make it impersonal. Rather, if channelled properly, it will make it more humanistic, reducing the impediments of class, race and gender which continue to mar the educational attainment of children from disprivileged social context.

And to bring about this immense leap of imagination and action, a specific group will have to be the most diligent in carrying out its duties: the Pakistani teachers. While being readily available and creative, the teachers will have to come forward and rescue it from the impending abyss.

Through forums, and social media initiatives, public advocacy and mass campaigns, the teachers will be Pakistani education’s rescue call. And with technology at hand and a real sense of commitment to changing things around, they can indeed lead towards a more prosperous future for education in the country.

Iqbal’s spiritual emancipation of humankind can be near realisation then, at least for the region he belonged to.

Taimur Arbab

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