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The Deceptive Facade of Private Schools in Pakistan

Disclaimer: The following piece focuses ONLY on the per-elementary and elementary levels of education in Pakistan. The focus is on private institutions and is no way linked to government institutions.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alas, the standards of education in Pakistani Society do not live up to these words. One sees many activists promoting education for girls and for the underprivileged but is there anyone out there who is keeping a check on the large private schools with 1001 branches among the major cities of Pakistan?

Why do 90% of the parents belonging to upper class of the society prefer sending their children to these schools? Is it the brand name? Or the deceptive façade which makes them feel that they have chosen the ‘best’ for their offspring? Let me burst your optimistic bubble: these schools are nothing but vast, money-making organizations that are ever ready to rip you off any chance they will get. What is my point, you ask? Following is the reason why I urge people out there to break this monopolizing trend of massive private schools:

It has been a little over three years since I chose teaching as a full-time career. The number of people who questioned my choice is rather dismaying. Friends, family, well-wishers, everyone wanted to know why I was ‘limiting’ my growth by choosing to become a teacher, and that too, a preschool teacher. Being a kindergarten teacher has been the most gratifying job I could have ever asked for. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, I was compelled to look around for more options since the salary of a preschool teacher became far from sufficient.

An opportunity (read: misfortune) to join one of the large private schools in Islamabad as an English teacher for the Primary Level stumbled into my lap. I was quite overwhelmed because one, it happened to be the institute I attended during my O and A Levels and two, they had offered me a handsome salary package.

Little did I know about the horrors that I would face in the upcoming years. The list is long and I honestly have no clue where to start from.

Stated above are just a FEW of the horrors that I could relate to. I can’t begin to narrate my anxiety levels when I was asked to go with these unethical changes. That is when I decided to quit; for I am passionate about my teaching and I could not put up with a revenue stream that was far from ethical in my eyes. I could not stand there and lie to parents about their child’s performance. I could not let the children move on to higher classes without having any sense of responsibility or performing satisfactorily. Every time I showed my apprehensions, I was either given extra duties or just humiliated for being an inadequate teacher. If refusing to do the wrong thing makes me a bad teacher, then yes, I am a VERY bad teacher. But I COULD not sell my soul in exchange for a handsome salary package.

I had made my decision (I am quite strong-headed, probably too much for my own good). But when I looked around, I saw a room full of teachers who were needy and could not take the same step. They were forced to choose the unethical path in order to safeguard their livelihood. They were forced to neglect the true essence of their profession and be slaves to this corporate culture that is now embedded in these private schools.

I returned to the school where I had begun my career. It may not have a brand name (yet) but it has the quality that the brands lack. Every day that I go back to work, I realize the difference in this school and the previous one. It’s truly heart breaking that the school I received my education from has now become such a disappointing factory. The students in my current school are actually the fortunate individuals who are given separate attention. They have the manners and etiquette that my ex-students lacked. They started reading at the age of 5, while the students in the larger private schools face difficulty reading even in Grade 5.

As a teacher, my honest opinion to all parents out there is to STOP falling for the fake progress of these schools—the pictures, advertisements and events are nothing but a marketing tool. If you really want your child to build his intelligence along with character and excel in all paths of life, choose a smaller setup where he will be given individual attention as opposed to being one of the 300 students of his batch!

Reviewed by Sundas Sajid, Junior Editor – Youth Correspondent Magazine