Our teachers are loyal to money only, not students
“You’re no better than a prostitute.”
These weren’t the words I was expecting to hear when I started teaching at Pakistan’s most prominent university. But here a retired admiral and at the time serving pro-rector was telling me that I am no better than a w****e.
As anyone would, I took immediate offence to these words and asked for an explanation. His analogy was simple to understand.
“Prostitutes aren’t loyal and they go wherever they get paid the most.”
And as it was explained to me, a new faculty member,
“That is what most educators in Pakistan do.”
Although the words stung at first, as the year passed I made a similar observation, it became apparent that education is a business in this country. And like many other businesses in Pakistan the customer service sucks. This wasn’t just limited to the university I was teaching at but extended to all levels of education throughout Pakistan.
When I first arrived, I tried comparing the philosophy of education to what I grew up with in the United States. But the culture within the system here is so different that I couldn’t find any similarities.
On my daily drive, I began taking notice of banners and posters pasted on billboards and traffic lights, advertising after school academies and tuition centres. It made me think about what the retired admiral said to me.
Was education being pimped out in Pakistan?
It sure looked that way.
Since I have never attended school here, I asked a few of my students to share their experiences with me. Their complaint with educators was in sync with what I had been told.
“The teachers don’t teach you anything in school and ask you to join their academy so they can earn more money.”
I heard the same line from more than a few dozen students.
Call me naïve but I couldn’t believe this to be true.
At my own university, I started getting complaints about my colleagues not being good educators. The students accused them of not being committed to their jobs because they were teaching at multiple places.
“She comes in to lecture and then leaves,” said one of the students filing a complaint.
“She has office hours posted but is never on campus.”
It sounded like a one-night stand you would have with a prostitute. The thought of it made my skin crawl.
I realised that if students weren’t able to understand anything in the classroom they would have to seek help outside by going to a tuition centre. Soon other complaints came in from more students about Sir A not being available, about Madam B giving out grades without checking the assignments and so on and so forth.
It became too much for me and I went marching into my supervisor’s office, demanding these instructors be fired immediately.
My supervisor could not grasp my frustration with the situation. He said,
“There aren’t enough qualified teachers in Pakistan, you have to work with what you have.”
I was floored and could not believe a single word.
“I wish there were more like you but that’s just wishful thinking.”
He continued talking and I phased out. In the background I could hear him telling me that if students have complaints they should bring it to him.
This was a wake-up call for me. I thought to myself what happened to the kind of teachers I had growing up.
Where did they go?
I can clearly recall my third-grade teacher, Miss Romano at P S 148. She knew I was having trouble with English and she contacted my mother to talk about how they could help me improve myself.
Miss Romano asked my mother to let me stay after school with her so she could get me caught up with the rest of the class. She did this out of her passion for teaching and didn’t ask for any kind of financial compensation.
I got into teaching because of teachers like her. Who do it for the sake of teaching and not because they couldn’t find any other job. And I think that is the biggest issue in Pakistan.
To become a teacher in the US you have to go through a rigorous training and certification process. That is the missing element in this country. Here we lack appropriate certification for schools, universities and their faculty.
It’s not an issue of wages. Even if teachers here were being paid millions they would still opt for setting up private academies to earn a little extra because most of them don’t teach for the sake of teaching. Like I said earlier, in this country education is driven by the bottom line.
Follow Umar on Twitter @umarwrites
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