Pakistan Needs To Emancipate Its Teachers

Pakistan Needs To Emancipate Its Teachers
Educational psychologists claim that the process of learning continues throughout our lifespan. I have spent 22 years of my life as a student and the last five years as a teacher in the academic institutional setup. While pursuing my teaching career, I tried to learn and explore certain themes, like how do exceptional teachers inculcate long-lasting values and knowledge in their students? What are the roles and responsibilities of teachers in reforming society and creating critical consciousness among their students? What makes a teacher successful? I would like to sum-up my learnings in this article, briefly.

At the start of my teaching career, I did not realise the power that comes with teaching. Few youngsters gather every week with a hope to learn something valuable from you. Every week, a teacher gets the opportunity to inspire and make an impact on their students’ lives. The most critical aspect of teaching is the content that is being taught in the classroom. Educators, policymakers, academics and intelligentsia of Pakistan need to reflect on a basic question: is the current knowledge, that is being taught to the young minds, actually helping us to become a great nation?

We are breathing in the capitalist world with the sole objective to multiply our wealth, following utilitarian philosophy. Our curricula are mainly designed either to serve or aspire to build the gigantic corporates resulting in wealth inequalities. A person who is trying to live a peaceful life without running after material pursuits, is considered a dunce. In such a socio-economic setup where ethical values can easily be superseded by the pragmatics of materialism, we need teachers and curricula that can enable our students to find the ultimate purpose and meaning in their lives; help them define happiness; renew their belief in the concepts of justice, equality and kindness; help them raise their voice against oppression; and inspire them to live a value-laden life.

In all the technical courses, the ethical implications of a particular course should also be taught if we want our students to live ethically even in situations where such boundaries are blurred


If teachers have to inspire their students, they cannot maintain their neutrality in the face of oppression or moral degeneration in society. As Paulo Freire, an educational philosopher, believed, it’s the duty of an educationist to remain non-neutral. For him, the classroom is the space where social change begins and role of the teacher is instrumental to lead such revolutionary movements. During the leadership of Dr Tariq Banuri, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan presented an undergraduate education policy, giving more weightage to the courses related to humanities, social sciences and liberal arts. However, I still feel that more courses in humanities should be mandatorily added in the curricula such as gender studies, history, philosophy, ethics, psychology.

These courses enable students to think critically, deeply and rationally in their personal and professional life. Furthermore, in all the technical courses, the ethical implications of a particular course should also be taught if we want our students to live ethically even in situations where ethical boundaries are blurred.

Coming back to our topic on the role of teacher, I believe an outstanding teacher, just like a theatre artist can entrance the students with their performance while sharing the nuggets of intellect and wisdom. A brilliant artist takes his audience to the state where they actually forget the place they are sitting, what is happening in the outside world or how much time has already passed. However, developing such a deeper connection with the students is a tough row to hoe. Creating an engaging classroom environment requires huge efforts in lecture preparation through different teaching strategies, utilizing the most effective teaching aids. Construction and creation of structured knowledge demand consistent hard work.

On the other hand, it is undoubtedly an enjoyable, in fact a therapeutic, experience for a teacher to share a unique emotional and intellectual connection with each student. As, Dr Sabeih Anwar, Dean SBASSE, LUMS defined his teaching experience as cathartic that gives him a rush of positive energy even on the most tiring days. 

Becoming a better version of ourselves as teachers is akin to the search for the holy grail, that should never end and be never taken for granted


I recently had the opportunity to talk to Dr Akmal Hussain, distinguished professor and renowned economist of Pakistan. In a very brief conversation, he beautifully deconstructed the role of a teacher to me. He explained that a teacher should be capable and open to learning from their students. Teaching is not a one-way road rather it’s a mutual progression where a teacher also carefully listens and understands what a student is trying to tell. Again, I would quote Paulo Frere here, who similarly argued that a teacher is no longer merely the one who teaches, but the one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn, while being taught, also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which they all grow. The second advice from Dr Akmal was that a teacher will only be successful if their students surpass him with their intellect and knowledge. Seeing one’s students succeed in their professional and personal life is not only a source of eternal gratification and bliss for a teacher but also signifies one’s triumph.

And finally, a teacher cannot educate and develop the intellect of their students if they do not love their students. He reiterated, Iqra, love is different from liking. You have to love your students if you want them to learn from you. Intellectual exchanges require a deeper bond based on trust, mutual-respect, care and love. Students who are being humiliated, embarrassed, and laughed off can never open up their hearts to learning. His advice is invaluable for people like me who are at the start of their teaching career. Producing publications after publications might earn us a few ranks, promotions and higher salaries but being able to share your experiences, knowledge and wisdom with young minds is a privilege and an honour. Becoming a better version of ourselves as teachers is akin to the search for the holy grail, that should never end and be never taken for granted. 

I will conclude this article highlighting the role of educational institutions in providing an intellectually stimulating environment to the teachers so they could reform the societies with their ideas. Universities cannot be run like corporations and teachers cannot be managed like office clerks.

John Dewey, an educational reformer in the early 20th century sensed the problem in the administration of higher education institutions and mentioned in his book that: “I saw how inconsistent it was to expect this greater amount of creative, independent work from the student when the teachers are still unemancipated; when the teachers are still shackled by too many rules and prescriptions and too much of a desire for uniformity of method and subject matter.” Dewey viewed teachers as creative artists like musicians and painters who create their own art as per their vision. However, their vision is shattered when others provide them with the scripts for execution. Hence, educational institutions who actually aim to produce the greatest minds are obligated to respect their teachers by providing them the environment where they can exercise their academic freedom.