“The belief that one’s own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.”

- Paul Watzlawick

The title, I assume, wouldn’t go down well with many; hence, please consume it at your own peril. Those who like to cling on to older beliefs are requested not to read any further. It’s not for the faint-hearted. If you abhor creativity, then you’ll be better off engaging in something better than giving these lines a read. If you’re still with me, then here we go, anyway!

As per the latest figures, Pakistan’s literacy rate has increased to 60% from 58% previously. Something to cheer for? Maybe yes. Something to vouch for in the international arena? Certainly not. The total number of institutes in Pakistan as per the latest financial year stands at 253,000. The total number of teachers comes out to be 1,590,000. A bit of math and you get the number of teachers per every institute in Pakistan.

Every educational institute in Pakistan, on average, has six teachers on board. A great feat indeed. These results are inevitable considering the fact that Pakistan spends a whopping 2.2% of its GDP on education. Pakistan’s GDP hovers at around $278 billion. Get your thinking caps on and calculate the total amount spent on education annually. You’ll surely be setting yourself up for a treat. 

If you thought such spending (rather lack of it) were to be the only dismal state of affairs you’d be coming across today, then I’m sorry to have more in store for you. It’s not just about pouring the money in, having an idea of how to get the job done is equally important. (No, I’m not referring to CPEC and the lack of educated and creative people we’ve on board to make the project sustainable).

A teacher has to be a role model. S/he needs to inculcate the art of creative thinking among the pupil. However, teachers in Pakistan are so dismissive that asking questions during the class isn’t encouraged, if not discarded completely. Look where we stand today among the comity of nations. It’s our inability to think what to think that has cost us intemperately. We’re pretty good at jingoism, but is it going to be of any use? Think about it.

Many of you would be witness to the fact that we, as a society, aren't willing to transform. If it weren’t for a kaleidoscopic thought process and the ability to evolve constantly, Einstein and Minkowski wouldn’t have been able to rattle the great Newtonian laws. And taking it further, Einstein’s laws of Quantum Physics have now been upset by modern physicists. The age of teleportation seems to be upon us. In short, it’s just the ability to think, question and construct new ideas that can take us to heights never experienced before. A questioning mind serves as a vestibule of finding eternal truth. We’ve been gripped by this lakeer ka faqeer (stereotypical mindset) mentality so much that we’re unable to break the shackles.

Fight militancy-education. Eliminate extremism-education. Rout out corruption-education. Name one malefic factor that can be cured without education and rational thinking. If you find one, then please don’t resist letting me know. Consider Panamagate, for instance. Prime Minister should be held accountable for the alleged corruption charges, but aren’t we missing a link here? If the majority of the people were educated enough, and if they were able to think critically and rationally, the things would’ve been different altogether.

Owing to our esteemed ‘intellectual capabilities’, the political scenario in Pakistan shapes up as if ‘it were the clouds before the wind’. The upside to it is that you’re always on the edge, excitable news in the offing all the time.

We, in general, and teachers in particular, need to know the fact that evolution is what a society is based upon. Citizens devoid of analytical abilities can contribute nothing. We’re so distressed that physical rather than mental abilities appeal to us the most. It is as if we were to maintain a ‘clean slate’ in terms of using our brains. Or perhaps, we’re too busy to do that, anyway.

Consider President Obama’s space exploration program. ‘Mars’ seems to be the beginning of a new era. At the time of writing, reports confirm that a ‘European space lander’ has successfully landed on Mars. Sublime. Exalted. Empyrean. Now let’s consider what’s happening at home. Space-exploration can be a distant dream, but we all find solace and comfort discussing whether a 13-year-old girl can be married off or not. When are we going to learn? And, if I might say it, when are those responsible to make us learn, learn.

Going through the motions, and delivering a lecture may be all that is required of a teacher. Snubbing a question has become ‘the new normal’, and debunking outside of the box thinking is considered as the traditional way of going about it. Please, I request, don’t do it. For all the teachers out there: Indulge, practice and preach. We’re decaying at the rate of knots. Only unfermented ideas can reinvigorate and infuse a new life into us all.

Mental evolution. Individual evolution. Societal evolution. This is how it works. This is how nations evolve. We need to get to grips with it sooner rather than later. We aren’t willing to change. We aren’t willing to learn. And, in order for us to learn, we must first know how to learn.

As Thomas L. Friedman has put it, “The ability to learn how to learn will be the only security you have”.