The dying trend of book reading is not only a matter of great concern but also a reason for the abundance of superficial knowledge in our university students. The internet has given birth to a new habit of looking up the concepts and definitions of different topics instead of exploring them in depth by reading books.
I usually find my students disinterested whenever I recommend a book in my computer science classes. Sometimes, I wonder why these students have joined a degree programme instead of joining an institute where they could have easily learned how to different programming skills. Classes are the best places where a teacher can introduce students to some must-read books.
Whereas people born in educated families during the 70s or earlier had the parents who would recommend books and authors to read; today’s parents hardly have time to read one themselves let alone recommending them to their children. I remember that during my childhood the only treasure that I had access to from my father’s belongings was his large number of books. My eldest brother started reading the non-fictional books from my father’s cache, and then he would guide me which one to select first and read. This kind of guidance is non-existent today. When Apple was still a fruit, the habit of reading books usually meant reading the books that are not part of the curriculum – books such as on poetry, mythology, theology, science, sociology, or fiction or whatever looked interesting.
As a teacher, I have introduced many books to my university students and have even taken the pain of buying some books that are always on my desk – which can be borrowed if some student likes to read it and but doesn’t want to spend money on it. Yet, I am unable to convince most of the students actually to give books a try. Even if a student (mostly girls) take a book for reading, they return it in such a short span that is enough to believe that it wasn’t read. When I ask them how the student felt about certain parts of the book, they suddenly remember that they only touched that part vaguely, though mostly their overall idea of the book is good which they acquire through wonderful googling skills.
I believe that a student should be well read before he graduates from a university. He should be familiar with his likes and dislikes, and his opinions about the world issues. He should also know what his independent choice will be if the pressure of ‘becoming-something’ is lifted from his shoulders. When I talk to the students in my free time, I notice that many students join various degree programs only after seeking advice from their parents. The result is that a student having the passion of sports is found sitting in a class of computer programming. This eventually turns him into a below average performer in both classes and the field.
The lack of love for book reading is producing too many problems. These and other problems are evolving because of the way the students are taught at the school level. The school education in Pakistan needs a revolution. The kind of education that is only imparted in the best of the private schools should be given to each and every school going child. This is the only way that can ensure that one day we can have literate degree holders.
We must also notice the virtual absence of book delivery services from stores like Amazon to Pakistan. The same international booksellers are happily delivering in India. It seems that we have thought about everything as a country ranging from arms to ammunition, counter-terrorism, extraordinary analysis of ordinary news, taxing and inflation, yet we haven’t thought as well about the situation of education in our country. We are a country where vice-chancellors plagiarise their PhD degrees, yet they keep sitting on their posts. We are also a country where a beggar earns more than 30000 a month by just begging yet an educated person doesn’t have a guarantee of a job. If this is how we are going to run our universities, how can we convince our children to spend some time and money on reading as well?
The writer is an Assistant Professor. He tweets @Prof_MKShaikh