Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


More lethal than RAW

Updated May 16, 2015 09:10am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

The writer teaches physics and mathematics in Lahore and Islamabad.
The writer teaches physics and mathematics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Our generals say India’s spy agency RAW is up to its nasty tricks again. No evidence provided but, okay, we’ll buy the story for now. There are two good reasons. First, it’s safer not to question the wisdom of generals. Second, they speak from deep experience, having long played the spy-versus-spy game across borders.

So let’s provisionally assume that India’s spies have engineered the odd bomb blast here and there, and send occasional gifts to the BLF or other militant Baloch movements.

But RAW’s alleged antics are pinpricks compared to the massive and irreversible brain damage that Pakistan’s schools, colleges, and universities inflict upon their students.

Imagine that some devilish enemy has perfected a super weapon that destroys reasoning power and makes a population stupid. One measure, though not the only one, of judging the lethality of this hypothetical weapon would be lower math scores.

Read: RAW instigating terrorism, says army

No such scores are actually available, but for over 40 years my colleagues and I have helplessly watched student math abilities shrivel.

Only the wealthy customers of elite private schools and universities, tethered as they are to standards of the external world, have escaped wholesale dumbing down. As for the ordinary 99pc, with the rare exception of super-bright students here or there, some form of mental polio is turning most into math duffers.

Imagine that an enemy has perfected a super weapon that destroys reasoning power.

Does being poor at math really matter? After all there are plenty of intelligent people everywhere, even brilliant ones, who hate math and therefore are bad at it. But this is only because they had dull and uninspiring teachers who never taught them that math is a beautiful exercise of reason, one step at a time. Once on track, you quickly realise that math is the most magnificent, surprising, and powerful of all human achievements.

The success of the human species over other forms of life on planet Earth depends squarely on mathematics. Without math the pyramids could not have been built, navigation would be impossible, electricity could not have been discovered and put to use, factories and industries would not exist, computers and space exploration would be unimaginable, etc.

Here’s how bad our situation is: in a recent math class, I had rather typical 18-20 year-olds from non-elite schools. They had studied geometry but their teachers had not exposed them to the notion of proof — the step-by-step process in which one starts with a proposition, carefully constructs arguments, and then triumphantly arrives at the conclusion.

Instead, they were taught math as a hodgepodge of recipes. A few they remembered, the rest were forgotten.

I nearly wept to see that barely three to four students out of 60 could prove the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. None could prove that similar triangles have proportional sides. Quite a few had difficulty with fractions, some did not know how to take the square root of four or nine or unless armed with a calculator, and translating even simple real-life situations (like compound interest) into equations was difficult. Twelve-year-old kids in Japan or Europe would have done better.

Their teachers are still worse. Earlier I had the misfortune of teaching math courses to college math teachers. In their late 30s or early 40s, most were staid and stable family men who had come to university, expecting to get a higher degree and hence a higher pay grade.

But for all their years of teaching math, they were blanks. Diluting my nominally ‘advanced math’ course to a beginning level course did not help. My conscience could not allow a single teacher to pass.

Could the use of English — a difficult language for all except ‘O’ and ‘A’ level students — reasonably explain this dreadful situation? I am sympathetic to this point of view and therefore use Urdu exclusively in my physics and math lectures, both in distance learning modules and in real-time teaching (except when a university’s regulations require that I teach in English). But this barely solves 10-20pc of the problem.

So then is the math curriculum at fault? It certainly can be improved but almost the same topics in math and science are listed in Pakistani curricula as would expectedly be covered by a similar cohort internationally. In fact, primary school children in Pakistan are expected to carry a bigger burden than overseas kids.

The impediment to learning proper math is just one — wrong learning goals, wrong attitudes. Mathematics does not require labs, computers, or fancy gadgetry. But it does demand mental capacity and concentration. Nothing is true in math unless established by argumentation based upon a rigorous chain of logic, with each link firmly attached to the preceding one. The teacher who cannot correctly solve a math problem by following the defined logic will suffer loss of face before his students.

Contrast this with the madressah model wherein truth is defined by the teacher and prescribed books. The teacher’s job is to convey the book contents, and the student’s job is to appropriately absorb and memorise. There are no problems to be solved, nor is challenging suppositions or checking logical consistency either encouraged or even tolerated.

Limited to religious learning, such learning attitudes are perfectly fine. But their absorption into secular parts of the education system is disastrous. The hafiz-i-science or hafiz-i-math, which are copiously produced, carry exactly zero worth.

Giving logic a back seat has led to more than diminished math or science skills. The ordinary Pakistani person’s ability to reason out problems of daily life has also diminished. There is an increased national susceptibility to conspiracy theories, decreased ability to tell friend from foe, and more frequent resort to violence rather than argumentation. The quality of Pakistan’s television channels reflects today’s quality of thought.

For too long education reform advocates have been barking up the wrong tree. A bigger education budget, better pay for teachers, more schools and universities, or changing instructional languages will not improve learning outcomes. As long as teachers and students remain shackled to the madressah mindset, they will remain mentally stunted. The real challenge lies in figuring out how to set their minds free.

The writer teaches physics and mathematics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (256) Closed

SKK May 16, 2015 01:23am

Correct definition of our school production, Hafiz-e-science/math. One has such long term challenges with such training .i.e throughout professional life. But this is not limited to Pak only.

Sreenivasa Rajiv May 16, 2015 01:24am

Mr. Pervez Hoodbhoy please come to India. We need intellects like you. - A humble request from Indian student.

shyam May 16, 2015 01:29am

this article is spot on! rational thinking has been hijacked by ideological education that promotes delusion of superiority and parochial/separatist extremism.

Raj May 16, 2015 01:49am

A brilliant analysis of what is wrong with the Pakistani education system.

Indian May 16, 2015 02:04am

Outstanding stuff! If Pakistan can produce people of the author's calibre then nothing stops Pakistan from turning it around within one generation - political will permitting, that is.

Shoaib Wahab May 16, 2015 02:17am

Is it just me or someone else here also cannot comprehend the argument presented by Dr Sahab. Sir you have rightly identified the most important issue of our society, but what on earth does that have to do with RAW and its involvement in our country.

Black Sabbath May 16, 2015 02:33am

Education & education alone can save Pakistan & pull it out of the current cycle of extremism, intolerance & violence but sadly Pakistan's literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world as 43% of Pakistani children don't get any formal education at all. But even more troubling is the fact that despite decreasing literacy rates, the Pakistani government keeps cutting education budget to accommodate military spending.

Faizan May 16, 2015 03:04am

I have always admired your writing , and so this one , mostly it feels like some body is giving better words to my thoughts . thank you for writing good for good !

paul May 16, 2015 03:09am

Thanks for insightful presentation of an often overlooked problem in education, not just in pakistan but all over the world (possibly more prominent in pakistan).

religion (especially when in the hands of fundamentalists irrespective of whether they are, hindu/christian/jewish/islamic) can cause death of reason and that kills human spirit. hoping for a future when kids are encouraged to use reason in education.

last island May 16, 2015 03:16am

brilliant article. Schools must teach how to think, not what to think.....

Arjun May 16, 2015 03:29am

Great article. As someone with a background in Mathematics, I can certainly relate to the logical problem solving ability that the subject brings. The author also echos my thoughts around how logical reasoning seems to be fast evaporating from Pakistan. The madressa and gun culture instilled by Zia-ul-Huq has done more damage to Pakistan than the "so-called-enemy" India ever could.

DavePh May 16, 2015 03:37am

I am a big fan of Prof. Hoodbhoy's intellect and fair assessment of situation in Pakistan. It is always a great pleasure to read his articles in your esteemed news paper.

I only hope and pray that my Pakistani friends pay heed to intellectuals like him, who have well being of your country at heart. There is no dearth of evidence that RAW is incapable of doing the kind of atrocities that Pakistani Generals claim that they do. It is important to focus on internal problems and find their amicable solutions. All the Best!!

Vik1 May 16, 2015 03:41am

Amazing article and piece of advise sir. Some of these applies to India too. Kids draw graphs and they do not know why they need them. No modeling, but straight somehow problem solving.

lalai May 16, 2015 03:49am

Excellent article. Madresah mind set is definitely producing hafiz-i-science or hafiz-i-math. Even those good in math find it difficult to apply the knowledge to resolve every day small problems.

Thoughtful May 16, 2015 03:57am

I feel the pain of a genuine teacher and an intellectually oriented scientist like Dr. Hoodbhoy.

michel May 16, 2015 04:02am

So strong thinking. But sir it is quite difficult to understand your anology. Indeed it needs the logic and specially the inductive argumentation. Should be very clear and to the point for these propagandist.

Varun May 16, 2015 04:04am


raj May 16, 2015 04:20am

Hmmm no use playing flute the buffaloes.

T May 16, 2015 04:21am

Mr Hoodhboy, please don't call them "Teachers".

ga May 16, 2015 04:58am

Brilliant article. What teachers would a country produce if it doesn't even have a teachers college. Hiring neighborhood aunties and uncles to act as teachers just won't do. Having Urdu medium , English medium and madrassha are pulling the country in 3 directions.

s.subrahmanyam May 16, 2015 05:00am

A lone voice crying in the wilderness for modern education in schools. I compare this with India and feel Pakistan is falling so far behind. Yesterday Venkat Panchapakesan died of cancer in the US and he was 49. He was brilliant and headed the You Tube Division of Google. His educational background? Schooling in Coimbatore, engineering in Coimbatore, masters in a not the first level university in New York. Then the career path took of as his intelligence was recognised despite being educated not in fancy schools and IITs but in a medium sized town in deep south. There are hundreds of such instances of millionaires and billionaires from small towns in India. The reason is a thirst for modern education and excellence. If there is any religious training for us Hindus, it is for fifteen minutes with a pandit at home to inculcate values and not dogma.

s.subrahmanyam May 16, 2015 05:03am

Indian Muslims are different. Come to Aligarh Muslim University and see the standards and the bright bunch of Muslim boys and girls who are graduating from there.

Javaid Bashir May 16, 2015 05:04am

The problem boils down to madressah mindset. Can we change it through introducing reforms in the educational curricula or switching the medium of instruction. Certain quarters want the teaching to be imparted in National Language Urdu others prefer English as it is the International language spoken and understood by all. Some give reason that all literature is in English. Research is done in English and more scientific research is published in English.

We can give argue the case for either Urdu medium of instruction or for the English medium of instruction. But the success rate will not change, because we have not changed the mindset.

What's wrong with the present system of education? Has not it worked for decades or time immemorial ? Anybody's guess . Yes it has like a broken record. The pass percentage has lowered over the years instead of climbing. Therefore it must be defective and need the change. Why can not we change it ? Because we do not spend enough money.

rama May 16, 2015 05:16am

Nice article, I am worried about the writer, he may be blamed as RAW/MOSAT agent.

CYRUS May 16, 2015 05:28am

I find a old cannon ball from a Spanish galleon in the Philippines. If I drop the cannonball off the side of my fishing boat into the water above the deepest part of the Pacific ocean, how long will the cannonball take to hit the ocean floor? The answer to his question requires a few simple facts and elementary math. An approximate answer of the time it takes to hit bottom would be good enough.

suresh May 16, 2015 05:33am

I am shocked to read your article Dr Hoodbhoy, if this is the situation imagine the next two generations, they simply will have no ability to lead a productive life except to fight and kill as there is no way the youngsters will have capacity to reason and argue their point of difference. Most politicians leading the country are also on fake degrees and hence you can not expect anything better from them, hope and pray that people like you will take the initiative to improve this situation.

JIM May 16, 2015 06:05am

The mindset is so much closed that, the khateeb in today's sermon declared not to challenge anything divine and at the same time spent our lives under the religious decrees. How can you develop a mind if you are telling all the time, accept what is revealed without any question. Unless, we get out of the fear that asking questions will not lead you astray, rather it will strengthen your beliefs, we will be going downhill it terms of knowledge including math, sciences and logical reasoning.

TARIQ May 16, 2015 06:18am

Thank you Mr. HoodBhoy, You are so right. Of course, I think till we get the word Islamic Republic out of the Republic of Pakistan, this will surely continue. That wont mean that Muslims wont practice Islam, they will just practice real Islam and not an adulterated version. Many may not like to read this but Pakistan was a very peaceful country before this happened!

Hrleen May 16, 2015 07:05am

Like always Mr Hoodbhoy, you are brilliant. It is not because you drove a hole in conspiracy theories which have become lifeline of Pakistan's middle class, but because your stress on relevance of mathematics. I couldn't agree more with your argument that many people hate math because they got dull and uninspiring teacher. I used to hate mathematics, as my math teachers would miss one step somewhere assuming that students knew it but in reality we didn't and I lost interest and start hating it until we got a good teacher in grade 9th who reignited my interest. Another point you made that mathematics develops your reasoning power and intellect is also true. Mathematics lays the foundation stone of all other sciences. On the other hand, it is rather unfortunate that Pakistan army, without any concrete evidence, is trying to divert attention towards an external source for trouble inside the country. The frequency with which terror attacks happen in Pakistan is not possible from outside.

An Indian May 16, 2015 07:29am

A thoughtful article. A scholar like Mr. Hoodbhoy is welcome in India. As a learned sage from south india once said, "a king is respected only in his country, the scholar is respected everywhere"

Monsoon May 16, 2015 07:46am

This article should be framed and hanged in the offices of all policy makers and advised to read it thrice a day, everyday.

tochibawa May 16, 2015 07:53am

Dear Hoodbhoy, Your analysis,diagnosis & advice is excellent.If powers that be utilise that, younger generation of your country will be thankful to the Almighty for having given a teacher like you to the country. Please go on doing such a nice job. BTW I am from yiur neighbourhood ,India.

Dawson May 16, 2015 07:55am

@Raj The same chappaa and rote learning is pervasive in India. The problems are common across the borders.

aryastan May 16, 2015 07:57am

Maths is beautiful, but the majority of world is not beautiful, so does not matter.

sa May 16, 2015 08:05am

Brillaint,written by a truest Pakistani if i culd say that or better a humainst looking for betterment of minds if not souls

P. S. Natarajan May 16, 2015 08:23am

What is good for teaching mathematics is equally good for teaching other disciplines. Perhaps unconsciously, the columnist has said that it is fine to uncritically accept and memorize the religious text; on the contrary, it is the worst, and root cause of all the sectarian trouble in Pakistan and elsewhere. Iqbal, so much honoured in Pakistan, mentions in the very beginning of his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam that the rational attitude is extremely relevant for religion. What is important for any educational pursuit is a questioning and thinking attitude. Otherwise answers without questions lose their context and become meaningless. Even mathematics has been questioned by Kurt Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem.

Calcutta Man May 16, 2015 08:24am

Great article. Next time someone blames (1) RAW for Pakistan’s polio problem, or (2) BCCI for the recent bus blasts, I’ll say, “Ok, tell me, how many degrees do the three angles of a triangle add up to? And please don’t Google.”

iTellYou May 16, 2015 09:14am

@suresh why are you shocked? Haven't you read Pak trolls commenting in the forums :)

JET LEE May 16, 2015 09:20am

First time I realize that some good intellectuals exists in cross border.

Khurram May 16, 2015 09:22am

@suresh you can see this already in areas like soldier bazar, renchor line, liaqatabad, karimabad etc. They fight for petty things like abusive language and so on.

Komal S May 16, 2015 09:23am

The problems mentioned here are there in India too. The education system is geared towards marks. When we were kids the education system looked more like a test match, you had enough time to learn and acquire skills. Now, it is more like a T20 game(IPL is good, though). Students in 12th grade write at least 10-20 practice exams in prep for board exams. We just had one practice exam when we were young. Kids are under huge pressure to perform, teachers skill level is comparatively lower. The 4 year engineering are a breeding place for mediocrity in most of the Tier 3/4 colleges(80% of our students come from here). Nothing is taught and hardly 20-30% successfully graduate. They build bad habits during these 4 years(casual, lack of integrity, entitlement mindset) instead of working hard and build skills. The demography dividend will only work if our younger population are giving opportunity to learn the right way. Only difference though is our schools are NOT source of extremist mindset.

yoyo May 16, 2015 09:29am

@TARIQ really , when bro

anil tiwari May 16, 2015 09:30am

Every stable operation system in this world has an Integral Equation who's roots are positive and finite. Mr. Pervez Hoodbhoy please find out the Integral Equation of Pakistan. Then you will get an answer as well as the solution mathematically.

Salj May 16, 2015 09:50am


Varntvar May 16, 2015 09:56am

Brilliant. Stay safe Dr Hoodbhoy. I want you to succeed in your mission. But if the going gets really tough, gates of India will always be open for you. Thank you Dr Hoodbhoy.

ashok kumar lal May 16, 2015 09:58am

Sir--you have correctly described situation in my country,s states UP, Bihar,Jharkhand, W.Bengal and few more.

Eye openor May 16, 2015 10:02am

An eye opener for all Pakistani students. Well said.

Third Party May 16, 2015 10:04am

Very genuine analysis !! Great Article !! Afraid only few handful persons like you might not change the fate of the country ! And I doubt if any of the readers here will get your points !!

white noise May 16, 2015 10:17am

Dear Pervez Hoodbhoy : you are the last of your generation who talk sense, make sense of things and have spent time in the company of sensible people & I feel sad that when I look around, I don't see anyone you can pass on the baton to when your time ends on this earth. Pakistan has lost a lot since the 70s and this will continue till it destroys itself economically, socially, and morally.

nasir May 16, 2015 10:17am

Excellent,Excelent,you have pointed out 'Mother of all problems' in pakistan.i am still grateful to Dr waseem of IR Dept,at QAU who taught me how to think logically and objectivly

Kalandar May 16, 2015 10:19am

You are speaking to a marble wall since 40 years. Today social media have advanced so much that information is available to everyone. You guys have tried hard to spread awareness in prior times. I think it is time for you to build support groups outside the Pakistan. Enough of spoon feeding the 99%! I am being following you since 15 years and see things are going from bad to extremely worst.. There is something really wrong with our people!

bryan May 16, 2015 10:23am

@michel I understood the problem perfectly. BTW what was ur Math score?

Mehmood May 16, 2015 10:25am
            An excellent  and factual analysis of what really ills the Pakistani society in particular and entire Muslim population in general....I wish, we could have more people, talking sense, like Professor Hoodbhoy among Muslims .......I salute you for always talking sense in spite of all odds.              
Kala Ingrez May 16, 2015 10:27am

The problem with Pakistani people has to do with their way of thinking – especially the way the educated elders treat the masses and present logic. For example, there was no need for you to bring in the generals and the Indian spy agency RAW in this discussion but you did. You article is justifiable and indicative of the issues faced by the Pakistani educational system. We just wish there are more folks like you willing to discuss and provide solutions to put the system back on track and provide equal educational opportunities to all citizen regardless of wealth and religious or sectarian affiliations. Maybe a united front by like-minded educationalist will be the way to get attention from the provincial and federal governments.

amit May 16, 2015 10:31am

@Raj and Indian education system as well

javed Hasrat May 16, 2015 10:38am

Excellent PervezHoodBhoy...!! Hats off

Kautiliya May 16, 2015 10:44am

Love your ironical humor. Please protect your self,world needs people like you When will they learn,when will they learn. as the song goes.

lkhan May 16, 2015 10:47am

Mr. Hoodbhoy, no wonder your writings are so full of rational thought, rather than emotional gibberish. You are so right, math is basic for working out problems in life and developing thought with logic. To think this part of the world at one time produced great minds in the subject and has come to this, is very sad. An aunt of mine pre-partition, stood first in India in her PhD Math, something I have been immensely proud of....

Fahad May 16, 2015 10:47am

Sir policy needs to be revised at th grass root level

Freeman May 16, 2015 10:48am

There are lot of issues contributing the core problem of reasoning or math score. Teachers, books, parents, technology, exams, marks race (for admission in medical and engineering schools), government, media and religion etc are playing their part but I think the most important one is the exams. It is an unfortunate fact that people go to school only to pass exams for the sake of getting a job or secure admission in certain institute to get a better job. It is a big challenge to break this vicious circle but correcting only one link that is far less challenging as compared to changing mindset of whole nation could bring big change. That is exams ...... Continued .....

Aurora May 16, 2015 10:49am

Last four lines are a chilling warning and if not heard by the holders of reigns in Pakistan than prevailing confusion may lead to a chaotic society unable to prosper with changing times. But is reform allowed by question the devine's authority / rulings with reasoning & reality of present ?

lkhan May 16, 2015 10:49am

@TARIQ You are so right Tariq...

Farooq Khan May 16, 2015 10:50am

Every educated Pakistani, and anyone who is anything in Pakistan, needs to read this article and then take corrective actions required to salvage failure in education standards. The madrassah culture must be changed.

Reason May 16, 2015 10:55am

If we remove the religion mask and watch with reasoning mask , you would observe these facts. Authors like PERVEZ HOODBHOY are in minuscules numbers in Pakistan and they get killed often for being reasonable. Keep it up Pervez.

Sad state May 16, 2015 10:55am

This is really a very sad state of affairs for Pakistan for a significant population which rely on medrassahs to impart basic education and is definitely some of the root causes of majority of the problems faced by Pakistan... Unfortunately most of them can't see this as without their knowledge they have been affected as its impact is spread in day to day life... Only hard solution is to reform who and how basic education is delivered. Well can Pakistanis rely on a political will on solving this big issue?

Talat Haque May 16, 2015 11:01am

Please do not go anywhere from Pakistan, we need you more than anyone else. So indebted to you for choosing to live and teach this mostly ungrateful nation. But, then there are those who smile every time they even think of you ! Thanks. :)

Mian Amir Hakim May 16, 2015 11:03am

Dear Sir. You are a person whom heart pleads to respect. Alas; this society does not pay heed to the words of wisdom. Somehow we need some miracle to change the whole system of governance. My daughter once back from the school like a parrot keeps on reading from the pages of the books to memorize each sentence. It is horrifying indeed. If I ask her to develop understanding and reasoning. She weeps that this is the only way to get good marks. The teachers don't tolerate even a single sentence of the concepts of the students. This is our matriculation. I don't talk of the O & A levels as they gave a different system. Such students (rattakhore) get in to the professional institutions after securing high grades. What can we expect from them?

SANJEEV KUMAR YADAV May 16, 2015 11:03am

Only 16 comments by now!

Hopeful May 16, 2015 11:06am

Lighthouse in this dark!!!!

syed wasim haider May 16, 2015 11:07am

Our primary education system needs a complete restructuring. This sector is completely ignored.Education Ministers are usually politicians with average education so we should accept this situation.

INDIAN May 16, 2015 11:09am

Nice article!! Food for thought! May this article open the eyes of concerned persons!!!

Ajay Singh May 16, 2015 11:09am

Mr. Pervez Hoodbhoy always reminds me of our former President, brilliant scientist and above all wonderful human being Dr. Abdul Kalam. India would love to have people like Mr. Hoodbhoy. Pakistan is lucky to have him.

Kazmi May 16, 2015 11:20am

Having taught 17-19 year olds for 6 years I feel your pain Mr. Hoodbhoy. Although my memories are pretty vague, but I do not remember a single teacher who taught us the art of questioning. Mathematics and Physics were taught to us as our Moulvis teach us our Religion. 'It is because it is.' How can you question your teacher if you already know his answer? We need to Teach our Teachers first. We have a loooong way to go as far as education is concerned.

India - RAW May 16, 2015 11:22am

Pervez Hoodbhoy is the man !!

N.S May 16, 2015 11:23am

If the education system is so dismal why do we have a newspaper like "DAWN", the likes of which cannot be found in India or elsewhere, full of content and substance in editorial and other sections. It is all staffed by the local Pakistanis, mostly educated here, by the very same system.

N.Sid May 16, 2015 11:27am

What the esteemed physicist/writer has done in the last 40 years, as he was associated with the education system in Pakistan, in improving and rejuvenating the standards.

Criticism for the sake of criticism is not what noble, learned and caring people indulges upon. It is the easiest thing to do.

jj May 16, 2015 11:29am

Nailed it.

Aam Admi May 16, 2015 11:35am

The reason of declines in educational standards is that no one cares especially the people who are in a position to fix it. Instead of fixing the system, we have created many systems where people buy what they can afford

Sivaram Pochiraju May 16, 2015 11:36am

A wonderful and thought provoking article by a genuine mathematician. I appreciate Pevez Hoodbhoy very much since I love mathematics.

ahmed41 May 16, 2015 11:43am

the square of the number 114 = 12996

Can maths folk do this without paper & pencil, mentally ??

This is not mathematics , just a skill at calculation.

Milind May 16, 2015 11:46am

A brilliant article by Dr. Hoodbhoy.. My passion in maths is renewed after reading the virtues extolled by the author.. Thankfully here in India we have moved from blind faith in religion to a questioning attitude. Add to it, Hinduism allows space for questioning & critical reasoning, thus any logic/maths doesn't run contrary to it... Here we have these maths Olympiad exams that are making it popular among the kids.. These exams have easy to use, flexible & interesting curriculum, due to which my kids have started loving it and excelling in it.

Ravi May 16, 2015 11:50am

The author has precisely hit the nucleus of a precarious societal problem with a charge-less neutron of pure logic, which in turn triggered many derivatives to hit simultaneously and precisely at the ruler-military-madrassah mindset, which considers ignorance is bliss: 'Just believe in what has been prepared by us for you to believe'. Brilliant!! This is called logical precision, and I enjoyed reading every word of it! The sad part is that no one will listen to voices of wisdom until the ground becomes parched with fire and its inhabitants become refugees in their own land and perish with no hope left. I see no light at the end of the tunnel as a much more powerful chain reaction has been already set in motion decades ago by fanatics and that will take its natural toll before it can subside down. That will take a generation or more. Just read any history, which led to civil wars and total destruction. No outsider can help such a society. Change should originate within and it may!

Abu-Salmaan May 16, 2015 11:56am

@JET LEE Actually there are many other Pakistanis also which I personally know, a very enlightening article especially for those who don't no the power of logic or maths.

Aimal May 16, 2015 11:57am

We need such words of wisdom on both sides of the border in the subcontinent and even in Bangladesh. We know that the evil mind set of human beings justifying all wrong doings with the help of religion is very widespread in the subcontinent and can not be removed overnight as there is no solution in sight. Still thinkers having right mind set must keep their efforts going. Many such blogs must appear all over. Even if this can change the mind of only one person, still it is a win.

F.A.K. Rao May 16, 2015 12:03pm

I appreciate the concern of Dr Hoodbhoy . Not to speak of math, good education in Pakistan is rare commodity found in few private schools, which is only affordable by elite and wealthy.Public sector is mere increasing literacy rate of just reading and writing and nothing else

OM May 16, 2015 12:06pm

I respect your sincere efforts to bring changes in typical Pakistani mindsets. You should visit Indian cities as well to bring awareness for Mathematics in India also.

recluse May 16, 2015 12:09pm

Salute u sir! i desperately want to be your student, i scored 85% in physics and maths in matric and Federal board exams but now i cant even tell the sum of 9 + 5 which my father suddenly asked me yesterday :D

Abbas Ali May 16, 2015 12:15pm

Only rational article in the paper today.

UMAR May 16, 2015 12:18pm

Please do not lose hope there is always sun shining after every night. In our case it is a very long night but be sure it will pass.

avi May 16, 2015 12:19pm

Before reading ur article I was sure a masterpiece is never disappoint us sir....bravo

Temo Shanko May 16, 2015 12:35pm

Mr. Hoodbhoy you have analysed the education system in Pakistan very logically being a mathmatician and physist. World needs people like you.

TUMBAKTU May 16, 2015 12:39pm

Great article..the situation is not very different in India too and is almost as bad as what you have described among the Muslims here as large number of them go through madarrsa system. Average govt. schools in India are pathetic and reasoning not encourages. One of my friend in one of govt. engg collage told the professor that the equation you have written is wrong. The professior replied if I know how to write it correctly I would not be teaching here. The quality if IIT's is good in India because they manage to get top quality students but rest of the education is far behind China, Korea or Japan. Look at any quantitative exams such as Actuary, FRM ...Chienese outnumber any other race by a huge margin. Most of the average Indians believe that our education system is very tough but but the reality is very different. If you just count maths Europe still dominates.

yawar May 16, 2015 12:40pm

Indeed going numb is more lethal than any problem ... books which students study, the logic and the reasoning which the books (written by most of the local authors) contains too reflects the training of subconscious mind went through. I remember the time when I studied linear algebra in Pakistan ... and when I studied the same subject from the book and lectures of gilbert strang ... nothing to say more than this!

yawar May 16, 2015 12:43pm

not only hoodbhoy but all must contribute to address this problem ... !

Rustam Ali Khan May 16, 2015 12:50pm

@Sreenivasa Rajiv No he is a priceless gem Indains can't afford

ALI May 16, 2015 12:53pm

Great read! keep it up!

Sajjad Ashraf May 16, 2015 12:59pm

An outstanding explanation on the mental decline of a society that never constructed upon its dreams. A society, which we allowed to be hijacked by thieves, power grabbers, and people who exploited the desire of millions for freedom for person gains. We are a society left with little purpose

We needs likes to Dr. Hoodbhoy to shake the conscience of this nation, which still fails to understand that societies develop through whole ecosystems of state and social structures working in harmony. I have seen this society degenerating into what it is now, and one blames the other. One institution alone cannot lift us out of this depth. We need to pull together.

And, incidentally, the Math test, which Dr. Hoodbhoy talks, Singapore ranked NUMBER 1. Such is our cynicism that we dismiss it as a small ineffectual matter. Proves what Dr. Hoodbhoy is saying.

aqdas May 16, 2015 12:59pm

Its my heart's voice. Hope we could get huge benefits from your intellect. Lets hope for good times to come.

Omer May 16, 2015 01:00pm

The problem is in Pakistan people opt the teaching profession as a last resort. They lack training and in some cases a teacher who is an MA in Urdu or English is teaching Mathematics or science to students. The curriculum has not been changed for years. A few months ago I visited the site of khans academy and observed the way of delivery of lessons. It was very simple and easy to understand. We lack the new techniques in our teachers who makes an interesting subject a nightmare to their students.

Vikas, Munbai May 16, 2015 01:02pm

"Limited to religious learning, such learning attitudes are perfectly fine. "

Why, Professor ?

saqlen rasool May 16, 2015 01:13pm

this is exactly what I feel and think about our education system. logical reasoning of our master degree holder students is very poor. creativity, confidence, originality etc cannot be noticed amongst our graduates.

Muhammad Umar May 16, 2015 01:15pm

Brilliant article. It has nicely presented the current state of the some of the challenges with our existing education system. The attitude is the key to have the self-sustainable good quality education system. Some friend in the comments has rightly pointed out that teachers should assist to their student how to think and not enforce upon them what to think. Keep writing intellectual and insightful articles like this Dr sb.

P.S. In my opinion the sentence "As long as teachers and students remain shackled to the madressah mindset" is a bit harsh and it couldn't be the case everywhere.

JP May 16, 2015 01:19pm


Chinese PISA scores from HK and Shanghai that beat everyone else, are not really representative of the rest of China. That said, they are still probably way ahead of South Asia.

Mustafa May 16, 2015 01:29pm

A true depiction of the system of education in Pakistan. Logical thinking and critical thinking seems a part of past. The same can be judged in a result card of GMAT result card.

Ramesh May 16, 2015 01:30pm

From a distance, I feel the writer is 'to the point' while hitting out at the system of ... I hope it doesn't lead to calls against him by those feeling offended by this article. Let's wish such saner voices lead to betterment of system in Pakistan, which in turn leads to a peaceful society. Amen!

imran siddiqi May 16, 2015 01:51pm

Alas.......!,majority of pakistanis are not able to understand this beautiful article

Abbas Ali May 16, 2015 01:53pm

@JET LEE People on the other side too have close minds. We are not alone.

ROHIT PANDEY May 16, 2015 02:11pm

I don't know if it is true,but,I read somewhere that Dr Hoodbhoy was once tutored by Dr Abdus Salam,the Nobel laureate?:)

Must have been a sparkling interaction between the student and the teacher?:):)

Keen Reader May 16, 2015 02:15pm

Absolutely spot on article!

Naeem Sajjad May 16, 2015 02:25pm

I consider myself a victim of this system.I have been a diligent student but now after completing my study i feel this system has taken away my rationality instead of polishing it.

Harmony-1 May 16, 2015 02:33pm

@rama - Don't start giving nonsense ideas!

Krish Chennai May 16, 2015 02:37pm

Great article, but people as eminent as Dr Hoodbhoy have to come up with suggestions too. The question is, how do millions who are not in elitist grouping of society, and unable to afford quality education, still acquire it ? The answer is simple - through information technology. Even higher mathematics, among scores of other subjects, can be learnt through sites like and several others, all for free. Elders have to provide the guidance and the opportunity. Computers and the net have to reach the villages, and the madressahs too. This will no doubt enable thousands of children and young girls and boys to leapfrog into higher education, and that is a dire necessity for our sub-continent. For starters, you-tube and blogging sites have to be without fetter.

Usman Sharif May 16, 2015 02:38pm

A master peace !!! in our country the only way to secure good marks in inter or even in graduation level is cramming! thats alarming indeed.

Llama Gama May 16, 2015 02:43pm

You said it, Sir! The real enemy of Pakistan is not India, but another 'I' - yes, the fanatical version of your religion, that is pulling the country down the ranks. High time, Pakistan separated the creeping influence of religion in every sphere and looked ahead.. Across the Muslim world, overall standards in education, living, economy have plummeted in the last 3 decades, and this will only go downhill if the mullahs and madrassas go unchecked.

Najmuddin May 16, 2015 02:49pm

Very true analysis. It definitely shows how a sincere teacher feels about the state of affairs in education. Keep knocking by such articles. Inshaallah it will make the difference some day.

Pramod May 16, 2015 02:52pm

It is heartening to note that Pakistan has writers like PERVEZ HOODBHOY and readers who adore him.

Wachaspati Pandey May 16, 2015 02:54pm

I sincerely wish more scholars like you in our sub-continent, because situation even in India, if not worse, than not very encouraging for math and pure science stream. More and more students in colleges are opting for commerce courses only for easy vocations in managements and accountancy. So much so that even our IITians after graduation go for MBA courses and then scurry for Civil Services! Most of science seats either go vacant or offered to less deserving students, who just drop out of these courses at opportune moments. We're not encouraging love of pure science and engineering at any level. The minuscule students who love math or physics are able to develop their faculty only when they go abroad for higher studies.

AVMPolpot May 16, 2015 02:55pm

Sir u r my candidate for the Minister of Education.... and then to higher offices.

Wachaspati Pandey May 16, 2015 02:56pm

I sincerely wish more scholars like you in our sub-continent, because situation even in India, if not worse, than not very encouraging for math and pure science stream. More and more students in colleges are opting for commerce courses only for easy vocations in managements and accountancy. So much so that even our IITians after graduation go for MBA courses and then scurry for Civil Services! Most of science seats either go vacant or offered to less deserving students, who just drop out of these courses at opportune moments. We're not encouraging love of pure science and engineering at any level. The minuscule students who love math or physics are able to develop their faculty only when they go abroad for higher studies.

S.U.Baig May 16, 2015 03:12pm

A fascinating piece of article.

Hassan Akbar May 16, 2015 03:25pm

Math IS horrible anyhow.

PensivePakistani May 16, 2015 03:25pm

Maths, sciences and honest hard work are incongruous with our national passion for finding easy shortcuts to everything - prosperity, security, college degree, fame, you name it.

The only exception to the above is that we are taking the longest and the most tedious route to the realization that shortcuts don't work.

Calcutta Man May 16, 2015 03:34pm

@Rustam Ali Khan

He already visits Indian universities as a guest lecturer, did you know that? Know your facts before you make these claims....

ask May 16, 2015 03:49pm

Hoodbhoy Sahab, you are a wonderful man. There was only one thing wrong with your essay: it ended. I wanted it to go on & on!

On Looker May 16, 2015 03:51pm

No wonders we are in such a mess.

Amartya Mishra May 16, 2015 03:57pm

i wish someone like PH has been in India. he openly inspire young scientific minds through his columns on regular basis . in India only APJ abdul kalam has been able to do so. if possible please come and settle here in India. :)

nasiroski May 16, 2015 03:58pm

Assessment from a lifelong teacher, it can be questioned but not denied.

Aamir Berni May 16, 2015 03:58pm

Sir, I wish you re-write your articles in Urdu. There are good people who know no English and can benefit from your insight and courage. Please note there is no advanced country that uses a foreign language or still is ruled by religious Mullahs. Thanks.

Sheraz Khalid May 16, 2015 04:00pm

No doubt math is language of physical universe, but this writer has passed Plato in suggesting importance of mathematics. Mathematics is not alone the bone of contention of our societal problem but poor political caliber is more.

Rahul May 16, 2015 04:11pm

India students need Intellectuals like you Mr. Pervez Hoodbhoy (not just actors from Pakistan for bollywood). Have you thought of spending some time in the near future teaching in india ?

Jha May 16, 2015 04:25pm

What an article sir!

Najjee May 16, 2015 04:29pm

An excellent article, must read for the masses in Pakistan.

waseem haider May 16, 2015 04:34pm

100% right

WiseMan May 16, 2015 04:40pm

I am in tears to read this article. The land that produced Aryabhatta, Apasthambha, Chanakya and many more is now in such a sad state. Can there be a national debate in your country about how to restore the past Math genius of the "land of pure".

Pakistani May 16, 2015 04:55pm

Dear, Mr.Hoodbhoy the "Massive" amount of maths and physics knowledge which you have , had brought what good to the country. as if you are ready to volunteer yourself for betterment of the nation. Action speaks louder than words.

AKS May 16, 2015 05:05pm

Just look at the irony. They parted out from India, the country which gave the world the concept of 'zero' and 'decimal'. Nevertheless, the mathematics city topper of my school is a Muslim, Indian of course.

Siraj Ahmed May 16, 2015 05:12pm

Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy is my professor. He is one of those handful intellectuals left in Pakistan. We need to think and talk like him , if we really want to compete with the world. Thank you Professor, once again for guiding us on to the right path.

KHUSHI MEHERBAN May 16, 2015 05:21pm

May your tribe increase. We need good maths teachers on both sides to reclaim leadership in the twenty first century

Hassan May 16, 2015 05:32pm

Last week my daughter, who is in fifth grade, was preparing for her maths test. I solved a problem for her in the way as described in the preceding examples of the exercise. she told me that she wouldn't do it in this way because her teacher will not accept it. She insisted on solving the problem the way her teacher did it.

rony May 16, 2015 05:33pm

What has happened to the great indus valley civilization. I think people there are not even aware of it great indus valley civilization.... After 5000 yrs, its sons have done a complete u turn. Forgetting maths and science and embracing hate and religion.

Seedoo May 16, 2015 05:36pm

As always simple and brilliant article by Dr. Hoodbhoy. As a teacher in MBA school, I always tell my students that it is not the information but how they think and use the information is important to me. My students are always given open book and open notes exams. This way they don't need to memorize formulas and can use their books and notes as reference, but I tell them that if they ever think that they can find answers to the questions in the book, they will run out of time and will not be able to finish the exam.

ramarabalee May 16, 2015 05:38pm

when i was working in bahrain our pakistani driver was groaning under unending work load and very low pay...i asked him why he chose a drivers profession...he said in the fifth standard his teacher had beaten him for not doing maths homework and when he reported this to his father the teacher got severlely thrashed by his father and so he left school did odd jobs and ended up in the hoodbhoy is so right ...the teacher could have done better and his father better still....the poor driver said his only other option was the madrassah

Vijay May 16, 2015 05:42pm

Excellent analysis Mr. Hoodbhoy. Unfortunately it's not easy to get away from madrassas. These madrassas offer free lodging and boarding and a protected environment to the poor kids something their parents can't provide. Unless Pakistan Government can find an organization that replaces Madrassas nothing will change.

Khaled May 16, 2015 05:49pm

Very brilliantly analysed, keep it up, we admire you professor . Hope people who matter get the time to go through this thought provoking article.

Gaurav Kaushik May 16, 2015 05:54pm

Logical and inarguable true like Maths itself... Hats off..

Ram Mukundan May 16, 2015 05:58pm

Maths is a subject thoroughly mangled all over the subcontinent from the earliest classes. It's a wonder that any students can still tolerate maths, when there are so many destructive teachers in the field here.

Mirza Baig May 16, 2015 05:58pm

I went to public schools and graduated from Pakistan and migrated to USA 30 years ago. Now 58 I recently planned taking GRE for admission to restart my academic journey. I read a few Math books and took a few lessons online. I then recalled how my teachers taught me math in my primary and secondary school years, I was saddened. I loathed Math when I was young while I enjoy it now. Was that incapable teachers or I have changed, There is not doubt Hoodbhoy has touched a very soft spot in Pakistani education system. I hope the first thing they do in Pakistani schools is to improve teaching standards especially teaching math.

Rao May 16, 2015 06:05pm

P Hoodbhoy is no doubt a. Very smart man with an excellent ability to write and express.

But, he comes across as very bitter and it shows. I wonder if it is because of experience of being kicked out by University authorities for not being cooperative and showing un-Pakistani attitude in his writing and speaches!

I hope what he is saying is true!

Asad May 16, 2015 06:14pm

Great article! I myself was taught to mathematics like this i.e. pure cramming... Fortunately, I have learnt basics from "", and understood the subject for very first time...

ala May 16, 2015 06:34pm

Asian students are any day better than western students, give them a chance

Well Wisher May 16, 2015 06:35pm

Dear Sir, I admire your courage. Please protect yourself and your family after these articles are published. I would like to extend this comment to Dawn management and their family members for being one of best news organization while realizing the risks of publishing such articles.

IMRAN ALI May 16, 2015 06:50pm

our powerful elite both in civic and uniform want to produce half baked student and teachers,in last 20 -30 years there is mushroom growth of seminaries even in Karachi.Islamabad,Lahore..

Shivraj May 16, 2015 06:51pm

I think pak is following the dialogue "All is well!! till now.

reality bites May 16, 2015 06:57pm

Dr. Hoodbhoy has so accurately described the situation with our education system. Except for the elite private schools, all other for profit, government run and madrasas are churning out the sub standard work force.

Wish we had more people like Dr. Hoodbhoy in charge of education policy in Pakistan.

farzo May 16, 2015 06:59pm

brilliant on the spot. if fear this would never happen because they grow up in Madrasa not believing in this world with impression of temporary life neglecting all problems.

Arvind May 16, 2015 07:08pm

Good Article. From time to time we usually hear in news that Pakistan got this many billion dollars in aid from US. Where does all that money go ? Middle east and African countries always hire Foreign teachers for their universities and school/colleges. Indians go almost all corners of the world to teach because over the decades they have proven that they are good teachers. Pakistan can hire good teachers from outside. Or visiting teachers. Initially they will have to spend, then the passing students can help, they can bind a 3/4 years mandatory teaching tenure with the admission to these foreign faculty led programs. Start with one college. new improved courses. keep national level entrance test without any cost to students. keep everything corruption.

Jawad May 16, 2015 07:15pm

@Mirza Baig --absolutely --- teachers need to be trained -- how to teach and i think the author may consider taking the initiative . I consider this article as an initiative. Teach the teachers sir. Dont blame the student who dont have a choice but to go to a madressa. Sitting somewhere criticizing the system will not help -- after all this is one thing pakistanis are very good at.

Babbal May 16, 2015 07:24pm

Sir, with all respect,I disagree. Linking lack of maths knowledge to all of a nation's problems is carrying the 'logic' too far. Fact is,maths remains a mystery for most (including yours truly).

VISHAL RAVI May 16, 2015 07:29pm

Pakistan is lucky to have a Intellectual and gentleman like hoodbhoy But its very unfortunate that Pak Govt not utilizing him.If he would have been living in india ,he would have been in a much more greater position to spread his knowledge and views.

Fida May 16, 2015 07:48pm

Delete Urdu from HSSC and replace it with biology for pre-engineering students and with Math for pre-medical students so that every student at the HSSC level study the same set of subjects ie. English, Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Pak Study + Islamic study. The reason is studying Urdu upto class 10th is enough for people to communicate with each other. Insistence on Urdu after Matric is not only luxury, but it is the product of a retarded mindset or vested interest !

Niaz H. Jafri May 16, 2015 07:48pm

I am in my late 30's and am employed in a private organization with the reasonable pay package. One thing I really do regret now was avoiding & not learning Math at 'High School' & 'Intermediate' level because the same has done a great deal of damage to my career. Had I been good at basic 'Math', I would have definitely been able to grow professionally much more faster. I can say with conviction that'Math' is surely a mother of all subjects and in a Pakistani context, it is of paramount importance to pay some heed on this very critical issue since the subject is not only about numbers but about the concepts of real learning, critical thinking, logic, challenging your brain, IQ and much much more. Our real stakeholders & policy makers must take it very seriously.

Hugh Slaman May 16, 2015 07:58pm

Just to comment on the first part, our generals have been working very hard to change the perception of the Army from being a major player in politics to being an organization that plays its Constitutional role. Let's give them some credit: Kayani and Sharif have both ignored calls for them to take over and dismiss the governments they served, and for this they deserve praise.

Afzal Mir May 16, 2015 08:08pm

Pervez Hoodbhoy is an honest man and a straight shooter. Big reason for the destruction of education system in our country has been our uneducated and corrupt leaders. they intentionally kept the masses away from the education.

Roger May 16, 2015 08:10pm

@Arjun And don't we want them to stay the course like this. We win without even firing a single shot and not losing a single soldier. Infact we should encourage them to stay this course

Human soul May 16, 2015 08:22pm

Author is wrong if that is the case than how come Pakistan has made world class missiles and neculear Bomb

Hasan May 16, 2015 08:44pm

@TARIQ I hundred percent agree with you and the distinguished writer

inder May 16, 2015 09:00pm

After reading the article, a ray of hope from Pak is visible. Keep it up

Qaum_mazhab_se_ha May 16, 2015 09:28pm

pointed out the problem, but didn't give the solution. Every one can point out the problems, but as you have mentioned " The real challenge lies in figuring out how to set their minds free.", you didn't answer the challenge.

M K Sufi May 16, 2015 09:47pm

A good analysis of the present day situation. We are intellectually bankrupt.

Rashid May 16, 2015 09:48pm

What are the root causes that pakistan's education system does not provide better education and learning abilities to the mass. I agreed that the deficiency of reasoning lies among most (not all) teachers of primary/secondary/higher secondary teachers. Is there any solution to this problem or where do we have to start correcting it. That's the question for all and especially respectful Hoodbhoy.

Kamil M. Sanaulla, PE, May 16, 2015 09:50pm

After reading all the comments (139) so far, I am wondering why the Pakistani administration make him the Education Minister of Pakistan.

shyam May 16, 2015 09:56pm

@ahmed41 Have you heard of (a+b)^2, now use (100+14)^2. It is child`s play.

Naxalite May 16, 2015 10:03pm

Lets sticks to RAW for a while - do not try to divert attention over the issue!

ashraf petafi May 16, 2015 10:04pm

Sir I have been a big fan of your assessment on the issues in pakistan.your current topic is excellent.your assessment is superb.sir you should have been HEC chairman in pakistan.

SM ZAKI May 16, 2015 10:21pm

A fantastic piece of knowledge. Hood Bhy is right when he says that we should focuss on our own follies. Question is who made Taliban, who supported Afgan warring groups and who brought up Kahmiri gurilla groups i the past..? Will somebody dare to raise finger on "that" side.....!

Watcher May 16, 2015 10:32pm

Excellent . The entire problem of South Asia including many schools in India is solved in this article . Is anyone listening.

Khwaja May 16, 2015 10:35pm

I remember a year so ago a US senator was worried over one step drop in the international math competition of O'Levels by the US students. He, further said, "the economy and strength depends on Engineers." Mathematics is the right tool to the development. This also reminds me Mr. Khursheed Shah, the leader of the opposition when he was encouraging Mr. Agha Waqar - who claimed to run the engine on water - and said that "HO2" instead of "H2O".

Panjabi May 16, 2015 10:37pm

Great article

farhan May 16, 2015 10:39pm

Spot on sir

Faisal May 16, 2015 10:49pm

Decline in education among poor is just not a phenomena in Pakistan, it is a worldwide issue. Listen to the last four years of obama speeches about eduacation system in america, and you would think that these speeches are written by Mr. Hoodbhoy

Two out of five students in california can not even read their high school diploma. We are at the bottom of list in the education list among all the states in the US. California happened to be the sixth largest economy in the world.

Having said that, the writer is absolutely right and hopefully this would be the first step in the right direction by discussing the issue.

Muhammad Imran Khan May 16, 2015 10:50pm

is it mathematically proveable that a good mathematician can reason better in the matters concerning life than a person not well versed in the art of numbers?

Imran Haider May 16, 2015 10:50pm

I cannot undersrand how the author highlighted the issue with our schools and our learning system, and then suddenly blames it on madrassa. Did I miss something here?

Logical May 16, 2015 10:58pm

Hoodbhoy ur article is for promotion of maths or difficulties faced by u while teaching or its abt students poor at maths or is it abt something that its name suggets, i could not understand !!!!!

Akram May 16, 2015 11:09pm

Professor you have elaborated on the problem, how about suggesting a solution?

Syed kamal May 16, 2015 11:11pm

I always read trifles by dr perveez and one of the intelligent person in Pakistan however I feel he should come forward to do some practical work for the betterment of poor Pakistanies from his top class intelligence and brillance. Since I know he is selfless, courages and honest person.

Masood Mirza May 16, 2015 11:38pm

For Dr.Pervez Hoodbhoy "Genius is talent set on fire by courage".

zain May 16, 2015 11:46pm

brilliant article i recently met prof hoodbhoy randomly on a bus terminal we had the same talk as i complained of my weak math skills and my teachers inability to make it easy for me to fully understand

Jaysekhar May 17, 2015 12:03am

You are 100 percent correct

ss May 17, 2015 12:24am

The litmus test of stupidity anywhere in the world is the inability to understand where your self interest lies. It is only in Pakistan that dozens of Pakistans were killed to protest a book written by an Indian author (Rushdie) living overseas. there can not be any sane explanation for this sort of madness. This the real civilisatiobal conflict - between reason and unreason.

Fazil K. May 17, 2015 12:25am
  1. "Nothing is true in math unless established by argumentation based upon a rigorous chain of logic, with each link firmly attached to the preceding one."

Sir, I am afraid this will endanger the irrational fanatical thinking of politicians and mullahs and would be considered blasphemy.

  1. "The ordinary Pakistani person’s ability to reason out problems of daily life has also diminished."

I am afraid this is a malady affecting not only Pakistan but also large parts of the middle-east.

Gilgiti Khan May 17, 2015 12:27am

In the wake of this barbaric attack on a community in which you were born Dr Perez you took revenge by writing this article to tell 200 million pakistani what thy need to do if thy wana get rid of this retrograde ideology whose fire will not only engulf south Asia but actually the whole of the Muslim world

Ismail May 17, 2015 12:29am

Study of Fiqh is an integral part of education at Madrassah. Is logic and reason not used in the study of Fiqh? Get rid of this slave mentality Mr Hoodbhoy!

Faisal Sayeed May 17, 2015 12:30am

As usual, insightful and inspiring for all who long to seek answers and would like to see us grow as a nation. If we could just have 10 more like you !

By the way I ran into you in front of MCB at Melody in Islamabad last month. Meeting you in person was just as inspiring as reading your insights about what ails Pakistan.

Thank you for writing this article. I will definitely share this with my colleagues.

KM May 17, 2015 12:36am

@Naxalite than you will be stuck for life time.

suresh May 17, 2015 12:36am

this writer makes a lot of sense... never seen a more articulate voice exploring and introspecting the present pakistani society... pray for this gentleman safety.. hope he doesn't get shot in the middle of the road in Pakistan for expressing his views

susanta majumdar May 17, 2015 12:42am

Dear Professor, let me share my experience in India. Though I was a civil servant by profession during my free times, I sometimes try to help poor students. I find that Class VIII/ IX students can't work out simple HCF or LCM problems, they don't know the difference between a+a and a*a or what is meant by 'parallel lines'. Though my experience is primarily based on students from West Bengal, studies have indicated that the situation is not very different in most other states. However, the of general quality of teachers in Govt. run schools is very good but over enrollment and lack of commitment from the teachers are responsible for the sorry state of school education in India.

Hammad May 17, 2015 12:53am

As a student myself,i absolutely back your opinion.Not only do the teachers encourage cramming and grade you lesser if you express your on take on the content or even sometimes if you deviate from the wording in the book.Also,students are restricted to the textbooks which are ridiculously outdated and rife with errors.If a student adds something to the subject which is factually correct but not included in the curriculum,even then they strike you down.Some books are composed with the objective of roting,the pakistan studies book taught in grades 10 and 12 have a chapter which includes stats from the 1998 consensus which the students are expected to memorise.What good does that do?Also,some text books include bits of information which are explicitly stated without offering any explanation.

Ismail May 17, 2015 12:55am

Fiqh is an integral part of education at Madrassah. Is reason and logic not used in the study of Fiqh?

Ayaz Ahmed May 17, 2015 12:57am

There are 100s of students who are privileged to attend lectures of honorable Dr. Hoodbhoy. I see light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you Dr. Saab.

one question May 17, 2015 01:46am

I love your article. One question is about thousands of of computer ppl and professionals that Pakistan produces: software engineers, finance professionals etc. Who probably have good math skills. Many of those are converting to madras ah mindset. They were not like this before and their parents were not either. Despite their math acumen,they have become backwards. The pull of irrational thinking is much greater than rational thinking. How to reverse the degradation is also a challenge that needs thought.

raj May 17, 2015 02:00am

@Calcutta Man I love your comments but not math :)

arfan May 17, 2015 02:01am

@Arjun sorry my friend,if people of Pakistan excelled in maths;then they will realize how much there honest law abiding politicians fiddle them in name of democracy,and hardships they endure in ruling them.

arfan May 17, 2015 02:05am

@Arjun problem is I am still looking for the name of the politician/general who has done anything for Pakistan or the common men.Anyone with answer with evidence please advise

RR May 17, 2015 02:20am

Algebra is actually an Arabic world.

Ali Vazir May 17, 2015 02:30am

Extremely delighted to see 141 comments on my favorite subject (Mathematics) and one of the favorite writers (Hoodbhoy). Something to cherish upon :) Don't get disappointed Hoodbhoy, there are still many who just love Mathematics.

Observer May 17, 2015 02:42am

A well thought out article. Something that one would expect from someone of the author's caliber. I note that the article begins with examples from plain geometry. Perhaps, that is exactly where our intellectuals and teachers should start to repair the lack of rigor in reasoning in the thought processes of our children. Geometry lends itself beautifully to the notion of axioms, inference, and eventually derivation of theorems.

shyam May 17, 2015 03:01am

We all Indians (Pre-1947 Indians) have DNA of greatest and oldest mathematicians like Baudhayana, Katyayana, Aryabhatta, Varahamihir and many more including the great Ramanujan of 20th Century. Indians are traditionally great in mathematics.

Even today, Indian (Post-1947 Indians) students are considered as the brightest students in the world. In America, Indians are 1% of US Population but since last 10 years, they become topper nearly all competitions. In some like Spelling bee or National Geographic Bee, out of top 10, 5 to 7 students are of Indian origin. No one can beat them.

It means, proper atmosphere and encouragement are more important that the DNA or Genes, to be a bright student, which unfortunately not there in present Pakistan.

Sara Ally Qureshi May 17, 2015 03:04am

More lethal than anything else is the population explosion no one wants to talk about.Even wealthier countries cannot support and then provide jobs to out of control population growth.These kids have to provide for their families.Just imagine how they must be feeling.This can lead them straight to illegal professions.The Taliban menace is mostly due to marginalization of this population.

arfan May 17, 2015 03:22am

@Farooq Khan ,bhai u can not blame madrasah s for failure in main stream education,madrasah s have there own problem s.They have failed there student s;but mainstream education establishment's have nothing to be proud off,were masses have been left on side,the elite have gone everywhere,but there local education establishment s.

Vikas May 17, 2015 04:10am

Hoodabhoy saheb is Pride of South Asia !! Wish we had someone like him in India ! I m sure he would have got the same honor as APJ Abdul Kalam !!

W G Sheikh May 17, 2015 04:11am

The author's diagnosis is insightful and revealing; I wish he had laid out very specific and pragmatic 'to-do-list' somewhere toward the end of his write-up. Especially, for those who are directly impacting the young minds on a daily basis in the current alarmingly troubled Pakistani mind. I strongly urge the author to do so in his very next essay. It would immensely benefit those well-intentioned individuals who are yearning for direction.

nadeem May 17, 2015 04:18am

Your Are spot on. Very rightly said. Now the next bigger dilema is this question which i have been hearing from friends and collegues is why we have been thougt math especially algebra, regression, derivation which has no use in our daily life. Scarry stuff just imagine ...

Naeem May 17, 2015 04:45am

Muslims were leaders in math. What a shame that we are now so far behind. Let each educated Pakistani take responsibility for educating a Pakistani.

Our leaders want their gardeners, drivers,butlers and cooks. They are not interested in education as an educated Pakistani will want to work in an office or a factory instead of domestic help.Each of us have to take responsibility instead of waiting for our leaders for a better Pakistan

MMM May 17, 2015 04:52am

First ZAB nationalized good schools and then Zia made the curriculam "holier". I see many efforts in recent years to turn the tide and still have opposition from hardliners but if we keep getting brave people like this author, I do see the light at the emd of the tunnel.

MMM May 17, 2015 04:57am

@TARIQ I whole hearted agree with you.

anil May 17, 2015 05:11am

I am not sure about the religious factor (well, less resource and less knowledgeable teachers can be said as Madrassa don't have both). But the mind set is due to feudal practice I suppose. Even in India, questioning attitude is not well promoted (teacher is always in hurry to cover the syllabus). Quality of education has declined though university produces qualified people in large numbers now. Media which hardly glorifies education, instead worships celebrities is a major polluter of minds for urban youth.

gul zaman May 17, 2015 05:51am

This is very unfortunate, that some people are choking the development of fundamental reasoning by teaching kids to learn by rote only and not ponder and study carefully. Islamic civilization has done a lot in the fields of Mathematics, Surgery, Physics and Chemistry to name a few, and here we are where a bunch of fanatics has ruined everything by reinterpreting things their own way. Short sighted educational policies are really hurting the development of Pakistan.

Abdul Malik May 17, 2015 06:22am

@Indian Do you really think Pakistan has that kind of time ?

IFTIkharRANA May 17, 2015 06:26am

Very well written analysis. It so so sad to see the power of reasoning disappearing from education system.

suresh May 17, 2015 06:51am

@N.S Perhaps you misunderstood Dr Hoodbuoy, he did say that 1% of the Students who go to elite schools get the educations and rest of 99% as what he described cant questions what is being taught. Hope you will take this in right spirit.

Amit Lunia May 17, 2015 07:30am

Dear Dawn

writers like PH and NFP are your assets , Please protect them at all cost

Abbas May 17, 2015 07:42am

PH has captured in words what educated class in Pakistan has known for almost four decades. Pakistani society is in a life and death struggle of ideas. Setting minds free will ensure a truly free and prosperous nation.

krishan gopal May 17, 2015 08:06am

Brilliant article...I wish Indian news papaers publish such articles... good job sir..

naeem May 17, 2015 08:32am

A worth reading article written by Hoodbhoy. This complete depiction of our education system.Though, I have studied math 18 years. I have been passed through these difficulties..Excellent sir

Tariq May 17, 2015 08:54am

When Democracy will produce corrupt to the core rulers, what good could one expect from them. A nation needs a vision a goal to achieve, which keeps them motivated. There is not vision and no goal, rather what we see is rampant corruption and subservience to US.

Moody Yeller May 17, 2015 09:20am

@Reason Reasoning and mask do not go together, Mr. Reason.

Moody Yeller May 17, 2015 09:23am

@Ramesh On the Internet we are all at the same distance. :-)

Amit May 17, 2015 09:29am

Great article.I am a Hindu from India . I enjoy reading articles on dawn more than any Indian newssite. The quality of writing by most Indian authors is inferior to many of the Pakistani writers. Great writing style and balance. Good work.

Moody Yeller May 17, 2015 09:30am

@Mirza Baig Hey, we were using S.L. Lone's trigonometry book in the 1960s for "O" levels. (He wrote it in the 1920s). Not that there is anything wrong with that.

jay May 17, 2015 10:05am

Salute you Sir. In between the lines I can see the pain,frustration and love for your Country. Have seen and heard you on Pak TV shows,sadly the others on it are not able to understand your patient insistence on focusing on fundamental flaws instead of knee jerk reactions. The fruits of a certain tree,come to fruition after a while. Do not nurture such trees is what you always say.Sadly you are not understood by your people.

Sanjoy Sankar Guha May 17, 2015 10:37am

A very very interesting analysis. Such articles make DAWN what it is.

vaishavi May 17, 2015 10:59am

What a symmetric development on other side of the border too.

E.Somapalan May 17, 2015 11:07am

@Shoaib Wahab The learned gentleman professor wanted to say that the education system does more harm than RAW. It is very convenient to blame RAW for all the troubles in Pakistan, it is always better for any nation first to look inside, when you point the finger to somebody three will be pointing towards you.

ppm May 17, 2015 11:41am

@Shoaib Wahab ... this comment shows the views expressed by Dr sahib are correct ....

Ammy May 17, 2015 12:08pm

@Shoaib Wahab : the message is clear ; instead of putting up all your energies outside Pakistan on neighbours , put all your energies on your own people : teach them to prosper, innovate , learn . This will leave no time for people to waste on unnecessary focus on RAW which is just an excuse to run away from real problems.

far May 17, 2015 01:43pm

Until and unless we remove the hate stuff and separate the religion from our education system, Pakistan cannot prosper. the whole education system needs to be revised.

Culture Vulture May 17, 2015 02:19pm

One may agree or disagree with him. One may hate or love him for this views about our establishment, yet one cannot deny the fact that whatever he says, there is some bitter truth lie in what he says about various issues that has plagued our society in general and nation in particular.

This man certainly is the Noam Chomsky of Pakistan. We need such people who could show us our dirty face in the mirror.

Ganesh May 17, 2015 02:28pm

Brilliant article as usual, from a brilliant mind. The comments of - literally - hundreds of concerned Pakistanis shows that there is enough cause for hope in your country.

I can only smile at all those Indians who claim that we are doing very well in maths. Some time ago I was at this fast food self-service restaurant in Mumbai when I noticed this scene. A well-dressed young woman, who clearly looked educated, was finishing her meal when she sent her little kid to the counter with a 50 rupee note to get some dessert. The chap at the counter leaned across and told the lady that the money was insufficient- the dish cost 57 rupees. "How much more do I need to give you then?" was her response.

The only difference is that we don't have a Dr . Hoodbhoy to tell it it like it is.

ben May 17, 2015 04:04pm

Do you want to prove that what harm RAW is doing in little or should be ignored, well i am sorry you are know what is problem with well versed people like you, you want to prove every through debate and arguments and you guys think you are smarter than the rest of human folks. Your article shows they all are worthless and know nothing about Math or even basic and i think you are wrong in that.By the way have you ever compared migrated Pakistani students with their classfellows in colleges abroad.I dont agree with your analysis. if you are this intellectual you should have opened a school for these are taking care of your math and physics for your own satisfaction but out Army and Intellegence bodies are taking care more then that my dear.Dont try to communicate their analysis are wrong.Math and physics are your own satisfactions and personal experiences, you are trying to relate it to security issues of Pakistan.Pakistan hay to tum ho otherwise You're a refugee

A Khan May 17, 2015 04:06pm

Very valid points made by Hoodbhoy.

Agha Jan May 17, 2015 04:14pm

Dr. Hood, indeed a good article, however the Indian joy smeared through their punched letters via keyboard on this article, I am more convinced now that India is sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan.

In early 90s while studying in USA, I could not fathom the Superpower as majority of their college students could not even solve basic math problems.

I recently met a gentlemen on Jeddah Airport, who's a Geo Physicist working in KSA as a senior Project Manager, and I became curious to learn about his background as he was conceptually coming out very intelligent. I found out that he did his early schooling from a remote town in Mansehra to finally finish masters from Quaid-e Azam univ where perhaps you are teaching. He was very impressive with analytical insights. I finally boarded on the plane with a sigh of relief that I dont' have to worry about sending my kids to elite schools for O & A levels -- only thing Pakistan needs is stability, which Indians won't let us easily achieve.

Intelektual May 17, 2015 04:24pm

Teach them theory of reasoning and problem solving reset the exam paper format ! Introduce unpredictability in the paper patterns that are 90% predictable. A paper should be such that its a challenge even in an open book environment. Test logics not memory.. Award quality of content not length, format and hand writing..

Sanjoy Sankar Guha May 17, 2015 04:44pm

Just a thought that I would like to add. Professor Hoodbhoy attributes the declining skills in mathematics to the madressah model of education where propositions are routinely stated as givens, not required to be derived by proof. This may be true. The other part of the causative chain resulting from this is the inability to be able to see the truth, having learnt only to accept givens, which may be the misplaced ideas fed by the establishment or the radicals. This may also be true. However I think that a developed and just society will not result from merely education of the mind and intellect of its citizens, but also education of the heart. We all know what the Germans did in WW II though they had the best scientific talent pool in the world. This is precisely the reason why radicalism of any kind is dangerous and ultimately proves self-defeating.

Shahid May 17, 2015 05:38pm

Hifze-science and Hifze-math are not only in madrassahs but in 90% of our schooling. Students of most schools are made to remember things by heart instead of understanding it. Guess papers are the most important instrument to prepare for exams. And choices given in exam papers where one can solve 5 of the 8 questions make them read only the proportionate part of text books. Both teaching and the mode of exams is out dated and produce hafiz' of text books and nothing more. Talking of math, it should not be such a must to be good at math if a student's choice is a line of study which does not need an advance knowledge of it. Here in Europe, you ask any person with a masters degree other than maths, to calculate a square root without using a calculator and you will find that all of them would not be able to do that. I think, the main problem with maths is that many students do not know the applications of complex math in the real life.

imran May 17, 2015 06:34pm

@ Pervez & @everybody who commented ........... look, the culture in Pakistan has systematically been changed, this did not happen over night. Mahajirs (urdu speaking x-indians) that migrated to Pak, where the elite educated class, which the Punjabis and Sindhis saw as threat, and slowly killed the ideology of education as it threatened their dominance on the poor class. As much as most of you want to deny this, Punjabis were the major culprit behind this movement. For centuries, they were slaves to Sikhs, and with all of a sudden the new found freedom, they did not know what to do with it, and started the system of LOOT MAR. Unfortunately continuing to this day. as you can see from the government. A lot can be written on this, but people are tired, because Punjab is hell bent on destroying Pakistan...

Excelsior May 17, 2015 06:45pm

@Niaz H. Jafri

Mathematics is the queen and servant of all sciences.

Naveed Ahmad May 17, 2015 06:59pm

Interesting article. I agree math is important however as a product of American education, I am myself bad at proofs. This is an issue with education in general and the yes situation in Pakistan is much worse. I have given this topic a fair bit of thought.

I believe basic reasoning (w/ maths), English, basic general knowledge should do the trick. If we can teach this to every Pakistani it would be a start to creating a population that will ask the right questions. The answers will come in time ...

I believe this is very much possible in today's age! With a small bit of technology we can take Mr. Pervez Hoodbhoy's keen teaching skills to every child in Pakistan. The teachers you speak of can be there to monitor and dispense punishment but not teach. That would be left to experts ...

Shamsul Islam May 17, 2015 07:34pm

Pervez Hoodbhoy as an honest intellectual of Pakistan has been raising issues critical to the Pakistani society and state. This write-up of his raises the issue of poverty of philosophy prevalent in the society in Pakistan. However, his analysis carries lessons for Indian intellectuals also. We are faced with the same crisis with the Hindutva's attempts to mess up with the education in India. Shamsul Islam

Bharath May 17, 2015 08:25pm

Lack of education causes ignorance and drives people to believe in ignorants. Great article!

Iftikhar May 17, 2015 09:13pm

@Raj The medium of instruction in all Pakistani schools should be Urdu and only Urdu. Arabic and English should be taught as religious and economic languages right from Nursery classes. IA

Harmony-1 May 17, 2015 09:32pm

@Sanjoy Sankar Guha - Good analogy about Germans. Radicalism indeed is the nemesis.

Muhammad Awais May 17, 2015 10:20pm

Hats off to you, sir. You have really opened my eyes through this article. Each word is a piece of wisdom.

Razi Haider May 17, 2015 10:30pm

A much much needed piece of writing. Thanks a lot Sir for penning this down. Really hope that the society realizes the gravity of this problem someday!

Hasan Zahid May 17, 2015 10:47pm

What a well explained article that real problem is not the external influences on our territory but our biggest enemy is our stereotypical mindset our society itself.

Thoughts and hatred in our society that taught in seminaries, and our society is being regulated and influences by some extremists who do force us so hard to learn to what they teach us and rather not be innovative, inventive, productive, organised, disciplined, to be an inspiration to others and develop as a society.

It's true we are just 1% of the population being able express ourselves only cuz we were able to grasp knowledge with the fate to able to be able to afford private school education but it's so hard to compete in this world as this mindset dominates and represents our society.

Harmony-1 May 18, 2015 12:00am

@Sanjoy Sankar Guha - Good analogy about Germans. Radicalism indeed is the nemesis.

Ahmedyar May 18, 2015 01:55pm

That is so true! Objective thinking is the need of the hour. This article clearly illustrates where our problems lie. No doubt Professor Hoodbhoy is the rarest of all gems Pakistan has.