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An academic, a researcher and writer.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Pakistan: a country in need of education

Pakistan has been in turmoil for a considerable time. Ignorance, hatred and intolerance and the consequent desperation seem to be on the rise in all spheres our national life. The suffering of the innocent people at the hands of the militants, extremists and terrorists on the one hand is ripping apart the lives of our hapless people and on the other we are facing increasing international isolation, suspicion and humiliation. We are stuck between the proverbial ‘devil and the deep blue sea’. What is the way out of the tragic dilemma? Should we concentrate on combative reactions towards the western powers, and the rest of the world despite our obvious lack of any capacity to do so? Or else should we adopt some other, saner, wiser course of action in lieu with what the Japanese and the Germans did in the aftermath of war and destruction of their countries. The saner course of action seems to be the latter one.

The answer perhaps lies in quality education which brings enlightenment, a pre-requisite for a re-direction and re-orientation of our national life. The situation in terms of education, both qualitatively and quantitatively is far from ideal. With only about 2 percent of our GDP allocation for education there is little hope on both counts. The result of the negligence of this vital sector is extremely devastating for us. With one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, very little can be expected about the enlightenment of the populace and any rise in the quality of life. The most vital sector of our national life thus is in very shabby form. For development in the field of education we have to consider a number of things. We have to radically improve the physical infrastructure, with well-equipped schools, colleges and universities. We have to establish research centres, laboratories and libraries in these educational institutions to make them responsive to our socio-economic needs and to enable them to train our young generation in the best possible way in accordance with the challenges of the 21st century. Another important aspect of the education sector is the educator, i.e. the school, the college, and university teacher. Not much can be expected from teachers, suffering from various socio-economic problems, to apply themselves, wholeheartedly to the enormous task of providing quality education to the youth of the nation, and to equipping them with abilities to lead the nation in the highly competitive world. Teaching being one of the lowest ranked professions in terms of economic reward and social status attracts only those, who can’t find a place in more lucrative jobs. This trend has to be altered by associating more charm with the profession in order to attract really talented, able and creative people to the profession and consequently to bring quality into the education sector. It is said that the real defence of a nation lies in the hands of the teachers and in the classrooms where they prepare the youth for the challenges of life. It is often argued that a big source of extremism in our society is the presence of extremist religious seminaries, where bigotry and intolerance are promoted. To some extent that is true but the problem is much deeper than that. In fact our mainstream public sector education is not much better. It is pre-dominantly retrogressive in its orientation, with a premium on rot learning and blind follow. Very little independent thinking and freedom is promoted in our public school system. So revolutionary changes are to be brought in this system to make it capable of imparting an education that aims at developing the creative, constructive and humanitarian faculties of young people instead of filling their minds with bigoted, myopic and xenophobic ideas.
It is such an education that will help in Poverty alleviation and eradication of social injustice which are of prime importance in promoting peace and harmony in the society. This nation is really in need of revolutionary reforms in its education system, an education system that develops critical consciousness, enlightenment, peace, harmony and creativity of its youth. This is a defining moment in the history of Pakistan. We have to change the course of country from that of a security state to one that aims at the real welfare of its inhabitants. Not to do so might be at the cost of the unity and security of the country.