A Proposal Concerning The Study Of Sciences With Special Reference To Pakistan

Aziz ul Haq 

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Neither my age and experience nor my profession qualifies me to speak on so deep and difficult a subject as that of education. Yet, feeling my responsibility as a comparatively educated citizen of a democratic state, I have gathered, this evening, some courage to present a few of my humble submissions regarding some of the important problems of education in general and of scientific education in particular. Whatever views I am to put forth are, in principle, the outcome of my own limited experience, firstly as a student of science and then as a research worker at a scientific laboratory. Yet the ideas claim neither novelty nor originality of any great measure. I would have stressed them to be of rather more than ordinary importance, had I been not aware of the fact that I am standing in the midst of a galaxy of eminent educational experts and specialists. I am presenting my views with the only ardent wish that, feeding themselves upon the manure of much mature minds than my own, they may develop into a healthy tree with fruits sweet and plenty enough to be of some reward.

Let me start with the latest of my experiences. As I have just said, for the last three years I have been working as a scientific worker at the laboratories called Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The laboratories are undertaking research work on a wide variety of technical problems associated with different industries. As we are all well aware, our developing country is just stepping to enter into its important economic phase of industrialisation. This task of industrialisation is, literally, an uphill task. There is no smooth high-way to industrial prosperity, especially when a country is in its initial stages of industrial development. Every country has its own industrial resources and limitations for which it has to design its own manners of exploration and exploitation. This designing requires, on the technical level, a large number of scientific laboratories like one at which I am working. And these laboratories require, for their successful conduct, a huge number of research workers. The progress and prosperity of an industrial society depends, to a considerably large extent, upon the effective scientific research workers that it produces. I have said “effective” research worker. This adjective I have added in the light of the experience gathered at my laboratory. Whosoever is in touch with these laboratories knows fully well that a large number of workers, especially the fresh graduates and Masters, are deplorably deficient in their research capabilities. Most of them are, at best, good skilled scientific assistants, who can render the service of their mechanically trained behavior in the capacity of mere chemical technicians. And there is a world of difference between a research worker and a technician. Research is like entering into a foreign territory, the successful passing through which requires not merely the training and capability to walk but also the mental built-up of an explorer who would employ his mind to sort and categorise every relevant event and occurrence to make his way out to his destination. Most of our graduates and Masters know only how to walk on a road which is already there. They can tell only what they have already been told ; do only what has already been done. To manipulate a strange situation, to resolve the oddity of an event, or to strike at some thing new, in a word to think creatively, is beyond their capacities. They are mechanical and stereotyped in their thinking, not creative, not at all.

It appears as if I have become emotional if not dogmatic in stressing my point. I accept the charge. I think anybody who has a heart to feel for his nation and has a brain to think of the dire need of creative scientists at this hour of international industrial supremacy and difficult survival and sustenance of independence, would become impatient when asked to make use of the so-called best educated citizens whom he finds better off than illiterate labourers only to the extent that their minds are store-houses of information in a foreign language while those of the labourers in their vernacular. If we want to live honorably as an independent nation, we shall have to develop our own mineral and industrial resources for the purpose of which we have our own army of creative scientists and research workers. What is required, therefore, at this crucial moment of competitive survival is the development and fostering of that system of education which would facilitate and further the bulk production of creative scientists and research workers.

It is my humble contention, based upon my limited experi­ence as a research worker, that our present system of education is grossly defective in the sense that it would produce every thing in a student except the research and creative capabilities. I think merely by detailing the data of our syllabii, and our mode and manner of education, and just by taking the help of a few laws of applied human psychology, one can, without much difficulty, derive and demonstrate scientifically what I have empirically observed and registered.

Right from our primary schooling onwards to our college and university learning, our system of education remains essentially the same. (By the term ‘system of education’, I mean” the sum composite cosmos of various and multifarious relations existing between the teacher, the student and their throught products)”. From a psychological view point, this system of education may be designated “authoritarian”. Sociologically, it may be labeled “feudal-monarchic”. Like many others of our codes and customs, our system of education is a product of our late socio-economic set-up, and deserves a similar treatment of reorientation, reconstruction and democratization. This is especially true about the imparting of scientific knowledge which can never bear fruitful results to any practically appreciable degree under the prevalent circumstances. Authority and scientific temperament have always been, are, and will always be, at pistol points to each other. This is true not only in the sense that scientific findings question authority but in its converse sense too, that an authoritatively regimented brain has no room for scientific mode of thinking and reacting. Religion and morality, laws and conduct based on religion, may be, or perhaps can only be, distilled efficiently and successfully with the help of the authoritative system of education. But not and never sciences and scientific way of thinking, especially the latter which is also more important, particularly in the case of a research worker.

Lest I be misunderstood let me add a few further lines in conjunction with my remarks above. I oppose the present feudal- monarchic, authoritative system of education not on ethical and moral but on practical and technical grounds. The process of industrialisation as well as the organization, administration, progress and prosperity of every single life-sector of an industrial community depend upon democratic modes of thinking and reacting. This, I believe, is a rational, logical and scientific con­clusion rather than an emotional and ethical verdict. Feudal, agrarian economy does require for its establishment and stability authoritative systems of thought and behavior. This remains true of the quasi-scientific agragarain professions as well. These professions demand artisanship, technical skill and dexterity rather than creative modes of thinking, on the part of workers, and every student of human behaviour knows fully well that skills require drill, discipline and vigorous training for long years together and this is why the caste-system, based upon the segregation of various artisanships, takes birth and propagates successfully in, and along with, a feudal economy. In an industrial society, too, a large number of these artisans, now called techni­cians, are required. But along-with them a considerably large number of creative research workers also remain in demand to help, on every step, the industrial system to grow and develop to still higher and higher levels of existence and efficiency. It is they, the research workers, who are the torch-bearers of industrial civilization.

By now, I hope, I have made sufficiently clear the inherited defect of our present authoritative system of edu­cation. It produces technicians and artisans, academicians and encyclopedies but not research workers. Pointing towards the” relationship that exists between democratic atmosphere of learning and true scientific temperament, I have also suggested the remedy to cure the sickness of our diseased system of education. This remedy, which, I believe is the only true remedy, is nevertheless too ambitious and expensive to be applied in the near future. To raise merely the slogan of democratization of the system of educa­tion without taking into account the concrete existential realities is idealism. Neither social systems nor their various differentia revolutionize themselves over-night. Time is required first to break the old habit-inertia and then to give momentum to the new ones. Realization of this scientific fact is very important. in chalking out any practical plan of social engineering. In the light of this therefore, I think that, accepting our present limitations, we should try to develop interim procedures which may, in their own limited capacity, help in the production of scientific workers. One of such procedures that I am in the know of, I would like to present this evening. This procedure was developed by me during my student life, when I was in quest of some better method of education to satiate some of my personal thirsts which otherwise I always felt to be remaining terribly unsatisfied. I always wanted to know as to HOW scientists think their thoughts when I was only told to WHAT they think about. In quest of the same quarry, my humble procedure got developed. I call this procedure “the introduction of genetic approach to the subject-matter”. In essence, the procedure is simple. Give to the students the various scientific theories, laws and inventions in the exact possible way in which they were formulated and developed. Do not start a chapter on, say, gravit­ation from the Newton’s Law of Gravitation, but from the various facts which compelled Newton to formulate the law. And starting from these facts, try to present  “artistically” and in detail the various thought processes that might have gone through Newton’s mind till he came to his conclusions. In this way, we shall be adding to the student two essential qualities. Firstly we shall be giving him practice in the scientific way of reaching conclusions by asking him to trace and retrace the mental paths of various scientists par excellence, and secondly, we shall be inducing in him the feeling that the scientists were and are, essentially not much different from us, and thus would be initiating him to independent scientific theorizing. This latter quality is rather more important, psychologically speaking. Our present system of education, being authoritarian, makes the student feel that he is an ordinary mortal competent to produce nothing while the Newtons, Galileos, and Einsteins were prophets of sciences upon whom important facts of life used to descend from above the blues, by the grace and will of Almighty God. This feeling is the real checking block against creative thinking.

I hope that by the introduction of genetic approach to, and by the detailed artistic presentation of, the subject-matter, we can produce a considerable change in the whole set up of transmigration of thought-product, resulting thereby in the desired end namely that of the bulk creation of scientific workers. This introduction of genetic approach, as one can easily visualize, would demand very little change in the present system of education, especially in the most-difficult-to-change authoritative relation ship of teachers vs students. Whatever change of atmosphere the introduction of genetic approach claims to bring, it would bring via the artificial atmosphere of scientific learning, created through the artistic detailing of the mental worlds of scientists—the best spots of unadulterated democracy. If accepted, the suggested procedure would therefore, require merely a couple of differently written text-books and nothing else—a demand which can easily be met with.

Mr. Chairman, I am afraid I have already taken a considerable portion of your precious time ; otherwise, I would have tried to present some of the other important intricate matters related with my proposal so as to make it sound more solid and practical. Leaving the article, therefore, at this stage, I only wish that, if found to be given some attention, I shall try to present my further thoughts at some other time.

Thank you for the patient hearing ; thank you, Gentlemen.

Printed in “Education and the College Teacher” By West Pakistan College Teachers Association Lahore.

Dec. 31, 1962

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