TREADING NEW EDUCATION PATHS

Some reflections on education in Pakistan

By SEEMA MUGHAL
May 22 - May 28, 2006

History cannot be simply wished away! Before President General Pervez Musharraf took over the reins of Power, "Freedom" was only a seven-letter word in the dictionary for two of the most important segments of Pakistan's population - women, and youth. Even after more than 50 years of Independence, they had continued to be marginalized. And not entirely by default, either.

President Musharraf will always be remembered in history for empowering the women, and the youth of Pakistan. As a woman, and as an educator, I salute the President for all his monumental services!

The Youth Conventions which are being held annually, under the directive of the President, testify to his abiding faith in the educated youth of Pakistan.

As the Vice-Chancellor of a private university, I have been in close contact with the youth of Pakistan over a long period of time, and I would like to avail of this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the subject of education and the Pakistani youth.

Though the confirmed cynics might not agree with me, I am convinced that the youth of Pakistan have got their heart in the right place, and they have a vast reservoir of creativity, talent, and energy. All that they require - and that surely is not asking for much - is that their elders and mentors should provide the right guidance and advice.

One area in which they feel particularly bewildered, is the absence of sound educational counselling. In most cases, there is not much guidance available at home, either. In the backdrop of the vast illiteracy that prevails in our country, there is nothing surprising about that. Inevitably, therefore, many of the talented students end up by settling for what are generally regarded as safer options in terms of selecting academic disciplines, such as medicine, engineering, business education and, more recently, Information Technology.

Their decisions are made regardless of aptitude, interest or the educational background required for a particular discipline. Such highly undesirable parental pressure on our youth, in turn, results in the students' apathy towards whatever they are forced into learning.

There is obviously need for the education planners, teachers, and parents, to rectify this distressing situation by creating general awareness about several other academic options, which were not available in this part of the world earlier.

In this connection, maximum use should be made of the electronic media to reach out to masses across Pakistan. Presentations and seminars should also be held regularly at relevant educational institutions to acquaint potential candidates, and their parents, about the emerging disciplines. For instance, till some years ago, there were very few opportunities for anyone inclined towards Fine Arts, Fashion - Designing, or Television and Media Studies. And of course, subjects like Women Studies and Development Studies were unheard of in Pakistan.

In the wake of globalization, the academic scenario is also changing rapidly. In almost all major cities of Pakistan, there are well established schools and universities which are now offering these and several other new disciplines.

It is also pertinent to highlight the importance of certain existing disciplines, such as Humanities, English, and Law.

While all the stress, and funds, that is being diverted towards promotion of sciences and technology, is perfectly understandable, what needs to be realized is that all this should not be done at the expense of Humanities and languages - unless we are short-sighted enough to aim at producing robots, rather than educated human beings with rounded personalities. As Wordsworth cautioned, there is more to life than "getting and spending".

(The writer of this article is Vice-Chancellor of Greenwich University.)

Though the confirmed cynics might not agree with me, I am convinced that the youth of Pakistan have got their heart in the right place, and they have a vast reservoir of creativity, talent, and energy. All that they require and that surely is not asking to much is that their elders and mentors should provide the right guidance and advice.