Dr. Abdul Wahab speaks about the state of education in Pakistan

Feb 16 - 22, 2004

Dr. Abdul Wahab, known for maintaining strong discipline in the educational institutions, as it is the bridle which makes the best horse, says that it is discipline and training which is the key of the success both for the students and the institutions.

In order to achieve this goal, there is a need of a strong public-private sector partnership to fight out against growing rate of illiteracy as well as for promotion of quality education in Pakistan.

Dr. Wahab who at present is the President of Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, said that after passing through the process of nationalization and than denationalization, the private sector has once again playing a positive role in the promotion of education in this country. However, since a large number of private sector organization have come with a view to make profit instead of a mission to spread education, the cost of education is going on higher side while the quality of education is also deteriorating because most of the private sector organizations offer more and more admission just to maximize their revenues. This is a negative aspect of the role being played by the private sector. On the other hand, there are some negative points on the government side which are discouraging growth of education in the private sector. For example, Dr. Abdul Wahab said that the private sector organizations are receiving a lot of correspondence from the government departments asking unnecessary enquiries and reports just to get undue advantage by harassing them. This should be checked effectively, as the private sector in spite of all odds and even is passing through an evolution process. Let the private stand on sound footings to play their due role in the promotion of quality education in Pakistan. If they were discouraged in the initial stage, they might not achieve the desired results as they are still in the process of evolution. He said that it takes time to grow and come up to the mark and standards set under the policy.

However, every project has to go through the teething problems in the initial stage.

Citing the example of evolution process of various education institutions which have a big name today, he disclosed that the University of Karachi was started from a portion of the house of Prof A.B. Haleem in mid 50s. The office accessories such as chairs and a table, typewriter etc were obtained on rent, and the letter head of the University were printed on credit. One part time typist was hired. That typist was Akhtar Hussain who remains associated with the University for a long time. Similarly, today's prestigious Institute of Business Administration (IBA) had started functioning from two-room rented premises of the YMCA. LUMS which is yet another big name in the education sector was also started from a bungalow of one canal in Lahore which had a library in the kitchen of than house.

The purpose of these examples is that every thing starts from the first step, hence the private sector institutions should also be treated on that spirit instead of harass them just for personal gains by some of the corrupt government functionaries. The government departments should work with the spirit of reform and help out instead of corruption and unnecessary harassment to the growing institutions in the private sector.

Replying to another question, he said that in fact the education has always provided free in the sub-continent. However, the sympathies of the people are for the religious education and not for the modern education. Although the religion does not differentiate between different disciplines of the education, people generally support to the religious education being imparted in medarssah. There is a need to remove this misconception so that the education could be financially supported by the well offs. It is very important for overcoming the growing rate of illiteracy in Pakistan, he said.

Regarding importance of market related education, he said that it is very difficult to measure the need of the market and co-relate the time frame for the requirement. For example, he said that there was time when every body was running after the Informational Technology (IT) there was an IT institute at every corner of the street while every student was keen to take admission in IT. This blind rush result in waste of time and money of a large number of people because by the time they get through the courses, the market was already reached a saturating point offering to opening for the fresh graduates. Hence it is different to assess the market requirement and the time period of the requirement. Therefore, he suggested, education in the basic discipline has always important to avoid any frustration among the coming generation.

Regarding the government program to acquire services of the education experts from abroad to raise the quality of education in Pakistan, he said that the government has allocated special funds to acquire services of foreign experts on higher salaries. Expressing his concerns over the success of this program, Dr. Abdul Wahab suggested that instead of hiring foreign experts, the government should launch a teacher training program within the country, for improving the quality of the faculty. The teachers could be imparted training locally as well as they could be sent abroad of higher training. It is the local people who could serve the home requirement in accordance to the need of the country. Acquiring a few hundred would not serve the purpose at the larger scale he said.