Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Students in a university

In my experiences of teaching in Pakistan, one major problem with students I have noticed is their lack of interest in class. If given a choice most would just spend the day in loitering in the university, in chat chat or simply doing nothing. For them, university is a place which will give them the paper, aka degree, which will help them get ahead in life, regardless of the actual skills and information they learnt. There is, however, a small proportion of this lot who are actually interested in the subject matter and you can see their faces light up when you explain something new to them.

I used to believe that it is due to the incompetence of the teacher that the students' mind wander rather than the readily available internet (with Facebook etc.) in their hands, the rules of university where students are not penalized for using gadgets in the class or arriving and leaving at whim. I used to think that a "good" teacher has the capacity to arouse curiosity and interest about any subject/topic in any student, no matter how dull or disinterested. There are loads of scholarly work on this subject which shows the "best" methods to teach.

But after around two years of intensive exposure to this, I have a new thought to explain this. In my view, university education is not meant for everybody. There are many who go to universities just because they want the degree which is needed for the modern society that is based on "credentials". Without the piece of paper known as degree, no respectable job is possible, these days. Even if one want to start their own business or just stay home and do nothing productive (as many female students in Pakistan plan) one needs the degree for "social" prestige. Hence, we have the universities full of students who need to coerced and/or coaxed to learn something. Reminds me of my first day in school when more than half of the children were mortified because of being in an alien environment, far from their homes and the molly coddling of their family. Only a few were actually excited at the prospect of learning something new. Using their minds and satiating their curiosities.

I want to argue that we need more community and technical degrees granting colleges which would just teach skills that would be directly relevant to the job market.