The Voice of Teachers, a study conducted by the Society for the Advancement of Education (SAHE) in partnership with Alif Ailaan, offers useful insights on the subject of education, with a special focus on school teachers employed in government and private institutions. The study serves to reaffirm the view that there is plenty to be done on the education front. The sense of emergency, that ought to be seen in a country with rampant illiteracy and unemployment, is not visible. While teaching, as a profession, commands considerable respect in most communities within Pakistan, not much is done for the development and improvement of teachers. Lack of training and facilities, and the burden of non-teaching duties, prevents them from meeting reasonable standards. The government shouldn’t be looking inside classrooms to carry out such duties. Surely, it can recruit from elsewhere. This is especially true for primary school teachers, who interact with students during the early years of schooling, which makes it all the more troublesome. How children are introduced to an educational environment has quite a role to play in their subsequent approach towards studies.

The issue of absenteeism appears to be linked with the induction of teachers on the basis of their connections with political parties or officials in the education department. Such ‘teachers’ are only interested in collecting their salaries. Being a minority, not only do they bring a bad name to the majority of teachers who are employed on merit, but also add to their work load. There is some improvement in Punjab on this front, but the situation remains unsatisfactory in other provinces. Primary school teachers also struggle with teaching English to students of grade 1. They neither have the qualification nor receive necessary training before being assigned an impossible task. The study rightly indicates that it would be wiser to stick to student’s first language during early years, and introduce English later as part of a curriculum especially designed to facilitate the transition.

Another worrying aspect is the high percentage of teachers – more than 70% in both government and private schools – who find corporal punishment useful to educate students. Causing physical pain to teach someone a lesson is perhaps the most primitive approach towards education. This practice, however, is a part of Pakistani culture. We often find successful individuals thanking their teachers for those beatings, which they believe compelled them to achieve their potential. Child-beating is glorified around here, and preached as a tool for education and enforcing discipline. Parents too do not hesitate from slapping their children around for they believe it is for their own good. After all, their parents did the same for them. A method which works only because it causes immediate pain and fear ought to be unacceptable. Whips compel lions to pose on tiny chairs. Children shouldn't be trained the same way. Who will teach the teachers?