Utopian Dream: A Learned Pakistan

In a general census, the level of education in our country would perhaps appear more than what it really is. Ethically speaking, what we have over here is not fit to be labeled as 'education'. It appears to be just an acquisition of a piece of paper that entitles you to be termed as a graduate, master or a doctor. Such hyperbolic statement would be termed as cynical by many; still I believe it never bodes well to live in a fool's paradise. Unless we know the situation at hand, we can't possibly venture to find a solution.

According to an online encyclopedia, rate of education in Pakistan has improved considerably since its inception. "When Pakistan gained independence in 1947, West Pakistan had only one institution of higher education, University of the Punjab, and East Pakistan had the University of Dhaka.” In the early 1970s, all of Pakistan's educational institutions were nationalized under the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. For the next decade, Pakistan's entire system of education was state-run. However, the growing demand for higher education fast outpaced the establishment of new public universities. During that period, the system could accommodate only 25 percent of the high school graduates who applied to higher education institutions. The overcrowding prompted many wealthy Pakistanis to seek university degrees abroad in the United States, Great Britain and Australia; while others sought out private tutors at home or entered the job market without a degree.
In 1979, a government commission reviewed the consequences of nationalization and concluded that in view of the poor participation rates at all levels of education, public sector could no longer be the country's sole provider of education. By the mid-1980s, private educational institutions were allowed to operate on the condition that they comply with government-recognized standards.
Until 1991, there were only two recognized private universities in Pakistan: Aga Khan University, established in 1983 and Lahore University of Management and Sciences, established in 1985. By 1997, however, there were 10 private universities and in 2001-2002, this number had doubled to 20. In 2003-2004, Pakistan had a total of 53 private degree granting institutions.
The rapid expansion of private higher education is even more remarkable if we look at the number of institutions established on a year-by-year basis. In 1997, for instance, three private institutions were established; in 2001 eleven new private institutions were opened and in 2002, a total of 29 private sector institutions sprung up.
The government has decided to introduce 'English Medium Education' on a phased basis and to substantially end the right to 'Mother Tongue Education'. This new policy, which is termed 'Education Sector Reforms', states that "English language has been made compulsory from Class-1 onwards" and the "introduction of English as medium of instruction for Science, Mathematics, Computer Sciences and other selected subjects like Economics and Geography in all schools in a graduated manner."
However encouraging it may seem, there aren't many people around who can be termed as educated, civilized or conscientious. Bearing the English cross throughout one's educational life is certainly not the panacea of all ills.
The basic fault with the Pakistani education system is that we don't do basics. Every proper and poised system starts with a solid ground. We, on the other hand, believe in pot plantation and hope for deep roots. A school going child is forced to learn about Mr. Jones and Mrs. Simons; people he/she doesn't see around and in all probability will not see in his/her lifetime. Trying his best to grasp an alien world, the child goes on from his 'Jack and Jill' to the turmoil of passing the Matriculation examination and coming to the Intermediate world of mundane objectives and anonymous poets. From that world, the students, especially the arts students, are thrown into the Bachelor's world of Old England, where he/she comes face to face with ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, Oedipus complex and Russell's technicalities. And of course, we expect these students to pass with flying colors and are genuinely horrified when the general pass percentage is just around twenty.
Education at the post graduate level is a more woe-begotten affair. The syllabi are seldom updated. Researchers, in the world over, are required to present at least one research paper after a period of three months.
Here, the PhD scholars assume the status of god-heads and asking them to produce a new research is utter sacrilege. Hence, the students writing their dissertation, under the gods' tutelage, have to stick to some specific areas where the idea of spreading wings becomes rather absurd.
Moving from the grass root level, the chaotic education world turns out to be a nightmare at every step. The question of practical application of a subject is never raised. Even in the thoroughly connected global village of our world, the average Pakistani student has no awareness of the importance of human resource management. If your brother is doing an MBA, you simply enroll yourself in that programme in, preferably, the same college.
If a relative got a wonderful job after becoming a chartered accountant, you just go haywire to become one too. In an interview for admission in the Master’s in an English programme, a girl broke down and declared that "I hate the horrid subject, but have mercy and give me admission; otherwise my father-in-law will break the engagement. I promise, I will work hard and make you proud of me." And, here lies the crux of our fallible system; we work harder and harder…in the wrong direction. Social pressures, filial associations, economic considerations, all lead to the making of a wrong choice. Consequently, we have truck loads of masters in all the wrong fields.

When we need technical knowledge and practical sciences, we get masters in Education, Islamiat and Persian. When we need linguists, we get MBAs from unrecognized mushroom colleges who do not know a syllable of any language.

Acquiring a degree is not education. It is awareness and a sense of humanity that erases any frustration and restlessness. Learning in the wrong direction only aggravates the situation and perhaps even smothers any innate source of knowledge a person has. What we need desperately at the moment is a higher education commission that knows the importance of Human Resource Management and can work in some appropriate direction.
By: Javaria Shoaib (wateen.net)
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