Miss! Important sawalon par tick lagwa dein!
(Teacher, please tell us which of the questions are important ones).
If you were raised in Pakistan and studied in a Pakistani school – whether private or public – you will be more than familiar with the above statement.
Just before exams, it is customary for students to ask teachers which questions are likely to be in the exam, and the teachers narrow down a few topics from a pool, declaring them as the ‘important’ ones.
This 'saves' the students from the time and effort otherwise required to plough through every topic in order to salvage a passing grade.
Read on:Report sounds alarm bells over education crisis, calls for reform
I was raised in Pakistan and studied in both public and private schools. Just like other children, I wished the teachers would select easy topics for the exam. The teachers were not uncomfortable in laying out a list of 'important for exam' topics either. Hardly was there a teacher who would refuse to do this out of principle.
The trend continued in my board exams (I completed my SSC and HSC from Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education). Throughout high school (grades IX, X, XI, and XII), we used past papers to guess the possible questions in the exams. These past papers contained the 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year old exams of all the subjects.
It seems as if BISE too has its own pool of important topics, from which it selects a few topics and prints the examination paper. You can tally this by going through just a few of the most recent past papers together. The same questions get repeated over and over, and there is a fair chance that you are guaranteed to guess at least a few questions correctly, if you have prepared keeping the past papers in mind.
We passed the exams and secured A grades. So, what, you might ask, is the problem here?
Take a look:Textbook tinkering
Well, the problem becomes apparent when one realises that all the scraping and scrambling for important questions, and the rummaging through 'guess papers' and past papers; came at the expense of what is the entire point of getting an education – the growth of one's intellectual, critical-thinking and problem-solving faculties.
All of primary and secondary education in Pakistan, save the Cambridge system, encourages a cramming of the syllabus.
Students know beforehand that the exams will ask for a lengthy excerpt from a certain book or the definition of a certain term; and there is simply no need to ponder the topic or understand even the basics, let alone move into the nuances of the matter at hand. All that is asked of your brain is to copy and paste.
The problem is not limited to secondary education. The same case is prevalent in most universities. Barring a few, all our higher education institutions promote the ‘cram to pass’ model.
I have seen the exam papers of several public sector universities of Sindh; the exam pattern is almost the same as that used by the BISE. Vague phrases like 'define in detail' and 'explain in detail' encourage students to memorise more and more material rather than writing an answer based on reason and rationale, even if shorter in length.
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But let me rephrase my statement. The problem is not limited to secondary education, and not even to the university level.
The highest exam of Pakistan – the CSS exam – endorses the same ratta-culture, and seems committed to the practice of repeating questions.
I retrieved a few past papers from the official source of CSS exams, the website of the Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan, and here are a few examples.
The question on ijtehad in Islamiat appeared in 2009 in the following words:
And then again in 2011:
Let’s move on to another subject. This question appeared in General Knowledge-I (Everyday Science) 2010 in the following words:
And then again in 2013:
Same is the case with other subjects of the CSS. This is just a sample of three years, 2009, 2011, and 2013, collected from the official website of FPSC. Websites other than the FPSC have compiled huge lists of questions which repeat over and over again, leaving the students with a pool of questions to study and prepare from.
So much for the highest examination of Pakistan, which appoints the successful candidates at key positions of the country.
Read about:Plagiarism detected in CSS paper
Another characteristic feature of our rotten exam system is the long range of marks for each question and the arbitrary manners in which the examiner awards marks. Again, this is prevalent as much in FPSC as in board exams.
Ideally, the student must have at least a rough idea beforehand of what will get him 15.5 marks instead of 15. No such framework is made available. Instead, examiners mark according to whim and often according to how beautiful your handwriting is!
By extension, your fate lies with the varying perceptions that different examiners hold; what may be a substantial and pretty response to a question for one examiner may be a lacklustre and ugly response for another.
Obviously this can, will, and does affect the positions which students secure.
All of these factors snowball into a big cluster bomb that is dropped, year after year, on the worthy cause of critical thought and the just, objective and transparent system which helps to sustain it.
Examination systems need a major overhaul, to say the least. Instead of asking the candidate to 'define in detail', the exam should ask him/her for detailing the reasons behind his/her response.
Until that happens, we cannot blame our school and college students for reproducing the complex equations of Physics and Math, while being clueless about the logic or reasoning behind them, or unable to give a single real life example of what they are saying.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF POPULATION IN A SOCIETY
Ignoring population question is a deplorable symptom of lack of honesty in sociology. Obviously in the absence of natural checks, state alone can check the growth of population. As an increase in population affects the standard of living, the sensible rich will practise birth-control whereas the foolish and immoral poor continue increasing burden on natural resources. The politicians, the army and the revolutionists are against population-control as they want more and more rural votes, fighters and rebels respectively to serve their interests. Against population-control, they use a semi-religious bias that unchecked procreation is man’s natural right. In this regard the socialists have a mistaken view as it is not hopelessness but a revolutionary fervour which is the force behind revolutions. 
Question. 3 (Question & Answer)
Q.1 What is the difference between human being’s fear of death and children’s fear of darkness.?
Ans : Human beings fear of death increases when they hear or read stories which tell of the pain that a man feels when he is on the point of death . Children’s fear of darkness increases when they hear stories involving supernatural beings or criminals.
Q.2 What is a religious and sacred view of death?
Ans. Religious-minded persons believe in divine retribution. They think that death is a kind of punishment for the sins they have committed. They also consider death as a means to enter the hereafter. This is the religious and sacred view of death.
Q.3 What are the painful experiences described by the Monks in their books?
Ans: According to a religious belief, inflicting pain on oneself is a means of self-purification. Monks have described in books, those horrible ways in which they have been torturing themselves. The description of these painful, self-inflicted experiences create in the readers a dread for death.
Q.4 What are the views of Seneca about death?
Ans: According to Seneca, a Roman philosopher, the circumstances which cause death, and various customs and rites observed with regard to the dead man, are so frightening that they create a fear of death in the minds of the on-lookers.
Q:5 What are the facts that make death appear more horrible than it may really be?
Ans: The groans of a dying man, convulsions of his body, his pale and hopeless face, mourning clothes of the relatives and friends of the deceased person, the sombre rituals, all these facts make death appear much more horrible than it really is.
Q.(4) Cut your Coat according to your Cloth
A wise man lives within his means. He makes use of available resources or prevailing conditions to the best of his ability. It is only the shallow and pretentious people who live beyond their means. They put on airs to create a public image. Such people make themselves objects of ridicule. People laugh behind their back. Nobody is easily fooled by such false postures. Besides, if one lives beyond one’s means, one never has anything to fall back upon on a rainy day. It is only during such adverse circumstances that one realizes the folly of showing off for effect. On the contrary, a man with some common sense never tries to create false impressions. He makes the best use of available means and also takes care to provide for any unforeseen event. True wisdom lies in living within one’s means. He who cuts his coat according to his cloth, is certainly a practical man. This proverbial saying has a great truth in it. It teaches us a lesson. Basically ours is a class society. There are a number of meaningless customs and false values which we have adopted from the Hindus. To act on these customs, one needs a lot of money. The poor people of our society can’t afford to spend money on them. But they borrow money or sell their land or other property. This further plunges them in poverty. As a result, their life is ruined. Hence the adage: ‘cut your coat according to your cloth’ is a practical piece of advice.
Question. 5 (Idioms)
Wool-gathering: absent-minded dreaming.
Usage:-Be practical and give up your habit of wool-gathering.
Under the harrow: In a difficult situation because of one’s own blunder.
Usage:-I asked him not to resign and now he is under the harrow.
A gold digger: A woman who treats a man chiefly as a source of
Usage:– His new lady-secretary is a gold-digger.
On the thin ice: To be in a delicate, difficult or potentially
Usage:– He finds himself on the thin ice because of his careless attitude.
Cold comfort: Little if any comfort
Usage:– His small pension is just a cold comfort.
A queer fish: A person of odd habits.
Usage: My father-in-law is a queer fish.
At an unearthly hour: At a very odd time.
Usage: It is midnight; what brings you here at an unearthly hour?
Question. 6 (a) (Correction of errors)
1. A ten-foot long snake made people run here and there.
2. We are going to the concert and so are they.
3. Enclosed with this letter were a signed affidavit and a carbon copy of his request to our main office.
4. Fear God.
5. Pakistan has supported and will support the Kashmiris.
6. He came yesterday.
7. Arshad’s downfall was because of nothing else other than pride.
8. Do not avoid consulting a doctor.
Question. 6 (b) (Direct & Indirect)
1. He told us that we could not do that problem alone.
2. The beggar said to the rich lady, Will you not pity the sufferings of an old and miserable man and help him with a rupee or two?
3. The Commander ordered the soldiers to march on.
4. He said to his master, Please, pardon me as it is my first fault.’
5. I asked the stranger whether he really came from America and how he felt in Pakistan.
6. The officer said to the peon, Come in time otherwise you will be turned out.
7. People said, ‘Would that the Quaid-e-Azam were alive these days to see our fate!
8. They applauded Imran exclaiming that it was a great shot.
Prof Muzaffar Bokhari