Schools Need to Produce Innovators, Not Machines - Laraib Laiq

Maria was in first grade when the class was told to make sentences. The word was ‘cup’ and she wrote, ‘This is a broken cup.’ The teacher told her to remove the word ‘broken’ from the sentence since adjectives were to be studied in the second grade. In fourth grade, she was reprimanded for drawing a parrot with red wings and a yellow bodice instead of just plain green, in art class. There were so many things she wanted to do, but she would find out they were wrong for one reason or another. She wanted bangs because they made her feel better about her forehead, but having your hair cover your face was against the school rules. So she would have to pin up her bangs, feeling conscious and insecure the whole time. She learned that it was best to simply do what she was told to and just follow the rules.

There’s no denying that schools provide children with an opportunity to step out of the comfort of their houses and step into an environment where they get to meet other kids from backgrounds different than their own. It gives them a chance to interact with their peers and helps to develop their social skills, exposes them to new perspectives and ideas, and gives them a little taste of independence when they step into a place without their parents. But the question is whether schools are as advantageous for kids as they can be?

© Awantha Artigala

Now, we are talking about the schools an average Pakistani child gets to go to. We are not discussing the handful of progressive institutions that may be present in some major cities of Pakistan. Schools normally come with a rigid set of rules and a strict curriculum that must be completed within a school year. Starting small, a few examples of the strict rules are that elementary school kids are told that they have to write the date on the left side of the pages in their notebooks, or that they have to draw a margin line exactly one inch in width. These things sound insignificant, but it needs to be understood what small things, such as the ones mentioned, imply.

Children are not given the freedom to simply do as they please in such small matters. They seek their teachers’ approval in every little thing that they do. It divides their focus. Instead of just focusing on learning and understanding, kids are worried about their work being in the correct orientation. Another example is that kids are always taught to run after good grades and good marks, so they always aim to do what can help them achieve these things. They lose interest in trying out new things. For instance, kids will avoid the use of words if they aren’t sure of the spelling because they do not want to risk losing marks. They always want to play it safe. Schools have conditioned children to work hard towards somehow getting good grades, they have lost sense of what the actual purpose of going to school is— learning.

People argue that rules are meant to discipline children. It makes them lawful citizens, but that is only true to some extent. Some rules have no contribution to making kids a productive part of society because the purpose of those regulations is not clear to the students. And that’s just because they do not have an advantageous purpose. For example, one can make a child understand why it is wrong and immoral to steal something or abuse someone, and the reasoning would make sense to the child. However, when one tries to teach a little boy his hair must not be more than 2 inches long at all times, it simply stops making sense. When a child is told that they have to always write in the nelson writing script, the child will never understand why. They’ll follow the rules only until they are policed into following them and not a minute later. And they are not to blame.