The first teacher takes attendance by calling out the roll numbers. The roll numbers are assigned in alphabetical order with respect to the first name. After the roll call, the teaching commences teaching assuming that one can call it that. Everyone opens the course book and the teacher starts to either read from it or writes the same material on the board. That was the only method of teaching in my Pakistani school.
A few teachers would call up different kids to read certain passages. A few teachers would, in either recitation mode or writing on the board, paraphrase the material from the respective course book. If the teacher recited the course book, then we marked the passages in the course books. Our homework would be to copy that marked material to our workbooks. If the teacher wrote material on the board, then we quickly jotted that down to our workbooks. There was no homework in such a case. Even then, everyday my homework would take 3-6 hours to finish.
Corporal punishment was the result for not doing the work. I never had a single teacher who didn’t hit the students. The punishments varied from different teachers. Some would institute punishments for failing tests. Some used their hands while others preferred to use long and heavy wooden sticks. On many a day I went home with red and swollen palms.
All the teachers had the required knowledge for the courses they, ahem, taught. They simply chose the easy and often lucrative path. You see there wasn’t much teaching going on in the school but after the school was over, these teachers would be available for tutoring. Pakistanis who wished for their kids to advance in Urdu or Mathematics could call up the respective teacher and set up a weekly time. Then the teacher would come over and in fact teach the kid rather than paralyze him with fear.
Only the smart or the tutored few would comprehend the course material. Most students would rehash on tests with their overworked memories. Most would also cheat. There were many methods: School bag between the legs with an open book in it; small sheets with relevant material; corresponding body art; eerie whispers. I planned on cheating many times but never had the guts to go through. I was too scared of getting caught. I once wrote an entire sheet of Chemistry formulas the day before the test. I hid the paper in my workbook on which I was writing the test. I didn’t bother with it – I remembered all the formulas because of writing them the night before.
I will always remember this one exam where the mother of all cheatings took place. There was this one kid who was always well-groomed. He would, of course, memorize all the material but had a little problem in recalling it. For instance, _______ is the largest river in Pakistan. He would answer Karachi instead of the Indus River. Everything was there in his head but he would jumble it up.
For exams, we would be seated in a different class by our roll numbers. Two students would be seated in each desk and both would be from different grades. If a student finished the exam early, then he could turn it in and sit idle for the remaining time. This slick kid had handed in his exam. I was chugging along on mine.
We were being watched by one teacher who was sitting in front of the class. Then, another teacher came in and looked through the pile of exams that were turned in. He got what he was looking for. He then came towards that student and started correcting him on the multitude of mistakes he made. The student diligently wrote down the right answers. My jaw dropped. The teacher sitting in front of the class was oblivious. This circus went on for the next few minutes.
The shameless teacher must have done at least a quarter of the exam for that student in those few minutes. At the end, the teacher berated him for getting so much wrong. They had gone over most of this material last night. No, the teacher wasn’t his tutor. He was his father. The son and I learned a lot from him that day.