State of Higher Education By Asma Nisar

According to article 26 of the human rights declaration, education is the fundamental right of every human on earth. The article further states that every state should strive to provide free and easily accessible education to its citizens. In the modern, globalized world, education has emerged as a potent tool to cultivate a modern, peaceful and well-informed society. It is no longer considered as a luxury but essential for a nation’s survival.
Higher education is aimed at educating, training, undertaking research and rendering amenity to the community. The higher education system in Pakistan is facing a plethora of problems including uncertainty regarding the medium of education and preferred system of education etc., poor funding i.e. around 2.4 per cent of the total budget, inefficient teachers promoting the culture of rote learning and killing innovation, commercialisation of education by setting up multiple private institutes and universities, lack of technical education providing institutions, lack of accountability and administrative failure of the institutions to provide adequate facilities to the students.
In addition to these problems, there is no concept of providing counselling to the young generation about the scope and latitude of their desired degrees in the national and international job markets. As if these were not enough problems marring our education system, not a single university in Pakistan seems concerned about the physical and mental well being of its students. Unfortunately, hundreds of students have attempted and dozens succeeded in committing suicides in the past two years after surrendering at the hands of pressure related to education.
Similarly, political affiliations of the students and teachers, and their consequent contests have resulted in multiple deaths and injuries thus promoting a climate of violence in campuses. The QS University ranking 2019 has portrayed the abysmal picture of the state of higher education in Pakistan. According to the latest report, only two universities out of the 188 Pakistani universities made it to the top 500 while merely seven made it to the top 1000. If the government of Pakistan kept its eyes closed towards this deadly problem, Pakistan will not be able to become a reality of Jinnah’s dream. The government should try to bridge the gap between theory and practice by implementing the policies designed for the uplift of education in the country, the development of a uniform curriculum, which has emerged as a Gordian knot for the system, should be ensured to end opacity and bridge the gap between the multiple standards of the education system.
In addition, the university administrations should strive to provide adequate facilities to their students to ensure their physical and mental wellbeing. The government should learn lessons from the Chinese, Singaporean and South Korean models of education, which used education and knowledge as a tool to emerge as powerful nations. The presence of a huge fraction of the young population between the ages of 15-64 years makes Pakistan in a position to use its demographic dividend to boost its otherwise dwindling economy.
By making huge investments in the education sector, Pakistan should make efforts to develop an egalitarian system of education by encouraging mass enrolment, research and specialization which will eventually lead to winning of enormous economic rewards for Pakistan. Pakistan should endeavour to remove social stratification from the educational sector and should safeguard merit. Eradication of corruption and nepotism must be ensured by the policymakers to avoid misuse of the public money invested primarily for the promotion of quality education.
Last but not the least, our education system is in a dire need of critical education sector reforms i.e. the teachers and instructors at the higher education imparting institutes must fulfil their duty of imbuing youngsters with essential moral values. This is high time the policymakers should come out of their comfort zones and observe the pitiful state of education in Pakistan. Lest the state takes up the responsibility of uplifting the poor education system, Pakistan would remain at the bottom of the human development index. And our vision of developing a ‘Naya Pakistan’ will remain a distant dream.
Asma Nisar
The writer is a freelance columnist.

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