The sustainability of the educational system is one of the important weapons that will effectively address key problems and global challenges in Pakistan knows Maria Farooq.
As a nation we are confronted with global challenges — greater competition, persistent pressures to innovate, new global markets and production options — in the wake of globalization which has proliferated in every field of our life. In such state of affairs, we constantly need to develop new ideas, methods, products and services, improve research and technologies that are crucial for future prosperity. These challenges are also being encountered in the education sector in Pakistan. Since education is the bedrock of socio-economic development and cultural enhancement in any country/nation, we need to address the problems in order to foster global competitiveness in a global market. The prime responsibility is assigned to the government of Pakistan and its related bodies to ensure the development and sustainability of research and higher education system. However, it has been observed that the education sector has remained a neglected area mostly due to the break-downs and discontinuity of governmental system.
Successive governments have been making efforts in promotion of research activities. Yet this effort seems to be a meager contribution. Besides other factors the scarcity of financial resources as well as a lack of vision of various governments are the root causes of the weak educational system. The insufficiency of resources such as dearth of research scholars/supervisors, poor library services, insufficient technological resources, plagiarism, and gender discrimination are the major difficulties in this regard. Owing to these problems it is observed that the homegrown PhD/ M. Phil scholars are lagging generally behind in the global market. With appropriate provision of financial resources and chiseling out of a vision to establishing a sustainable and productive higher education system, Pakistan can achieve international standards of research/educational value. According to UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report (2010), Pakistan has allocated the lowest budget i.e. 2 % of GDP for the education sector compared to Bangladesh 2.6 %, Nepal 3.2 %, India 3.3 %, Iran 5.2 % and the Maldives 8.3 %. The average for developing countries is considered to be 4.5 %. Thus, Pakistan’s figure is well below the required budget percentage for the desired progress, which is alarming.
The recent dissolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Pakistan instead of addressing its issues and pitfalls proves a witness to government’s failure to come to terms with productive and sustainable education policy. It is being generally stated in the Pakistani newspapers that this decision has not been taken objectively. The law-makers have not deliberated the matter with a discerning eye. Hence it is believed another system has been discontinued which shows a lack of constructive vision and incompetence in planning and policy-making. It seems that the government doesn’t realize the fact that the education sector has an equal role to play in economic development and prosperity along with enrichment and development of the mind of the society in the overall organizational structure. Let us take the example of India where continuity of system has advanced the educational structure of India. According to Caroll’s report (2008), India has 6,318 PhDs whereas US has 26,891 PhD scientists only in biotech science department. On the other hand, Pakistan has a total of 6,551 PhDs. It is to be kept in mind that HEC’s contribution in this 6,551 figure is considerable. The Overseas scholarship program initiated by the HEC also could not fulfill the needs of the higher education system because the number of PhDs is very less to cater to the national needs. The government of Pakistan needs to take serious steps to ensure continuity and sustainability of the educational system rather than following make-and-break policy.
Globally, technology also plays a decisive role in advancement of research activities and learning processes. It is also true for Pakistan that in order to keep abreast with global competitiveness, it has to ensure the unobstructed provision and maintenance of technological resources. Pakistan has been facing a lot of technological constraints in the education sector as well. The government of Pakistan has provided with these facilities but the problem is yet again scarcity of financial resources and poor administration. The technological resources like e-databases, computer laboratories, projectors have a very constructive role in research promotion in all fields of learning. It has been generally reported that there are intermittent failures of internet connections, breaking down of computer systems which act as a hurdle to accessibility of e-databases. So these problems need to be addressed in order to ensure smooth advancement of research and cultivation of sound educational system of Pakistan.
The following recommendations are to be made to the improvement of the educational system: sufficient allocation of budget for education; control the quality of research/education by keeping check on the universities’ policies and frequent evaluation of the PhD scholars; increase emoluments and benefits for research supervision (owing its being an underpaid area), sufficient provision of technological resources; and most importantly, a constructive vision. The government should also request international donors to financially support Pakistani educational system as well as increasing the number of foreign scholarships offered to Pakistani highly motivated researchers. The universities should also increase the number of link-programs with international universities. These steps will provide a motivational push to researchers into thoroughly channelizing their energies into research and also upgrading the educational system in Pakistan.
It is a universal truth that education is the central instrument of change and progress in any country. It can provide solutions to our problems as a developing country as well as enable us to face global challenges at all levels. Therefore, it should be prioritized at the highest level as a fundamental necessity for a prosperous and bright Pakistani society capable of absorbing from and contributing to global communities. Therefore, a comprehensive policy planning, objective allocation of resources and objective implementation is required to launch reforms in the educational system besides continuity of the system. This will constructively channelize the potential and energy of Pakistani nation. As Socrates puts it, “the bent given by education will determine all that follows.”