Discovering Ourselves

Just a few days ago I saw a video posted on a friend’s face book profile. It was a TEDx video on our system of education. Sir Ken Robinson was trying to explain how the education system we have kills creativity. He was referring to the education system in general but I found his description to be a very appropriate match for the education system we have in Pakistan.

I believe the greatest resource a nation has is its people. Pakistan has a population of over 170 million. We are the 6th most populous country in the world. Yet how many of us have gone out to achieve world recognition. Not many! For instance take the example of the recently held Common Wealth games in New Delhi. Pakistan came back with 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals.  Singapore, with a population of only 5 million, came back with 31 medals in total. One would ask why out of a population of 170 million only 5 people could achieve this great mark? Why has only one Pakistani been awarded the Nobel Prize so far? Why have we always done so poorly in the Olympics? Why haven’t we made any discoveries and scientific breakthroughs? Why don’t we hear names of great Pakistani painters, photographers, dancers or fashion designers? Why haven’t we been able to come up with a decent film industry when our neighbor has one of the biggest film industries in the world?

The reason to me sounds very simple. We don’t provide our people with the opportunities and the platform to come out and express themselves. From those who are fortunate enough to get educated, only a few are able to achieve excellence in what they do. I believe the explanation for this lies in our education system.  It lies in the way we bring up our children, in what we tell them and what we think of them.

Our system of education is flawed, to say the least. Education, as it has come to be understood in our society, is not going to take us anywhere. Education is not just instilling concepts of mathematics, equations of physics and plays of English literature into our children. Its purpose should be to help individuals discover themselves.

Most of us live our whole lives without exploring the special talents we have. In some cases we do not even know if we posses a given talent or ability. It is the purpose of education to help us discover ourselves. To help us understand ourselves in a better way and help us use our abilities to exceed in what we are passionate about.  All of us have special abilities, abilities, which if explored can help us achieve excellence.  But we have been told not to question and just listen. We have been told to follow not ourselves but the examples of successful people. We have been forced to kill our creativity and our distinct abilities to pursue some other person’s example. We have been told not to take risks. With this attitude and this mindset, we will never be able to produce anything new. We will never be able to innovate anything or produce great people. We will remain the way we are.

Many a times we have heard stories of successful people who have been school or university dropouts. What was the reason behind their success? The only reason was the discovery of their hidden talent. They found something they were passionate about and pursued it till the end. They realized their potential and cashed on it.

I believe schools and universities don’t realize our potential. They discourage us from following our passions and pursuing our talents.  Math’s, physics and Business are the subjects that are focused on. Drama, arts and dance are not given much importance. In fact some schools don’t even have drama classes. Very rarely schools have photography lessons. Our marks in schools and universities have come to define us. Marks are just numbers. They cannot measure our potential.  In this capitalistic world all we have come to care about is if our education will guarantee us a good job. Our parents tell us to pursue those subjects for which there is a hot job market.  Our teachers fail to see the diversity in us. They fail to help us explore our hidden qualities.  There is a constant fear of making mistakes.

But we cannot forget that until we make mistakes, we won’t learn. We won’t discover anything new.  We won’t be able to come up with new ideas, discoveries and much more. To help us achieve our potential we have to revolutionize our system of education. We have to change the mindset of our parents that finding out who you are and doing what you want is better than being stuck at a job which pays you well but where you dread every single minute spent. We have to encourage our students to take up what they are passionate about and help them pursue their own qualities. We have to stop focusing on the materialistic aspect of our education and instead focus on exploring our talents. We have to let our children be what they want to be. We have to be tolerant of the mistakes our children make and finally we should be willing to help them achieve what they want. This is how we will move forward.


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