By Minahil Amin
The thought of teaching English at Rabtt Summer Camp 2015 was really exciting for me, since I think that being able to convey your thoughts in writing is also an art, just like painting or music. In one of the beginning classes, I asked the students to write a paragraph about any holiday they would really want to go to. I thought, then, that the assignment was pretty simple. But I was horribly wrong. When I checked the assignments, I noticed that several students had written about going to Newquay, and their paragraphs were also strikingly similar. To be honest, I had not heard about Newquay before. I was opening another course pack to check the next assignment when somehow the page that opened had a comprehension passage about Newquay. The aforementioned students had copied this comprehension passage, and given it to me as an assignment. I called these girls and asked them to pronounce the name of the holiday destination they had written about. They could not even pronounce Newquay correctly, let alone know anything about the place itself.
This little incident disturbed me considerably, even though it should probably haven’t since I have been brought up in a country where acts such as plagiarism and stealing credit are relatively common practices. Most people have almost become immune to this, and that is the worst thing that can happen. Rights are never on sale, they have to be fought for. And it isn’t fair that somebody else gets credit for something they have not even done. Also, once a person gets into the habit of copying other peoples’ work and not making their own effort, their ideas ultimately stop flowing and their creative juices become stagnant and covered with algae. Once the idea that copying is perfectly fine is inculcated in students, they never feel the need to do otherwise. Trying to find an easy route is part of human nature. But then people who make an effort to produce original work should also stop doing it, since they are ultimately not going to get sole credit for their hard work. But they mostly don’t, because seeing your thoughts and ideas emerge on paper right in front of your own eyes has its own charm. And this charm is quite addictive. It is sad that most people don’t get a taste of this charm since they are never encouraged to try writing out something that is totally a product of their own mind, and not anybody else’s. A few words of encouragement on a teacher’s part can go a long, long way. They can change someone’s life forever. A few words of encouragement can prevent a child’s thoughts from being caged for life.
Most teachers in government schools specifically ask their children to learn things by heart and exactly reproduce them on paper. Students are even made to learn stories with a moral, such as the fox and grapes one, by heart. The moral is important, not the wording of the story. The entire scenario sheds light on two important conclusions. One is that the teachers of government schools have undergone the same training that they give to their students, and thus lack any originality or creativity of their own. The second point to note is that copied stuff is relatively easier to check. These teachers are already paid too less, so they don’t really feel compelled to increase their workload by checking original and different paragraphs. What the teachers don’t realize while thinking only about their own benefit is that the child will be at loss for their whole life. It can be seen that doctors are not exactly known for their creativity, because they have rote learned books about anatomy and physiology and done little else. Sometimes students do try to bring out their creativity in assignments, but they are shunned as being poor learners. That is outright unfair.
Our education system needs change in several aspects. Course content needs change. Teachers need to be paid more. A more effective system of checking plagiarism, cheating and the use of unfair means needs to be introduced.
All these suggestion might seem shallow and useless, since established things are extremely hard to unroot. Starting small is easier, and somehow more plausible. And we can all start small. Connecting is the small part. Evolving is the huge part. But the most important part? Let thoughts run free. Let kings fight for land, let waves roll over ships, let the wind snatch away your umbrella, let the unicorns take over your dreams, let the rain wet your hair, let the tide wash away the sand castle, let the pink roses grow all over the cottage wall, let the fisherman catch a fish made entirely out of gold, let the frog turn into a handsome man, let the prince and princess live happily ever after. Open the door of the cage. Let thoughts run free.