PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION- A 'COMMODITY' ON SALE

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
July 07 - 13, 2008

Education from a moral obligation gradually metamorphosed to commercial venture in Pakistan. Today education is considered a highly profitable business attracting high profile business tycoons for investment in this sector. Education, particularly the professional education, has become a commodity on sale, to say the least. These commercialized trends have perished the social values and educational ethics in Pakistan. It promoted class-consciousness setting a rational paradigm for the private investors in education sector, making education a profitable business for them. The product came out from these educational cum commercial institution was the rational, materialist class lacking moral attributes. Naturally, they will sell what they bought - education.

A common man cannot afford to pay even the fee for a semester being charged by the private institutions offering professional degrees. In fact, getting a professional degree is becoming not only difficult but impossible for the middle class. It is beyond the reach of the lower middle class and the poor cannot even think of getting a professional degree in the given circumstances.

Friendly and peaceful environment, standard educational facilities, high-tech computing services, institutional infrastructure and the necessary paraphernalia are considered the requisites for establishing a quality professional education institution today. These requisites can be met at high costs in terms of investment capital. These are the tangible elements for a quality educational institution. But there are intangible factors, which are even more important for achieving the desiderata viz. quality education. The intangible factors include discipline, communication skills, professionalism, educational ethics, standard teaching methodology and meritocracy. It is a hard fact that if tangible criteria for the quality education are met only, ignoring the intangible factors, the education becomes a 'commodity' on sale. This leads to commercialization of education - greater the investment, higher the price for 'commodity'.

Education develops a person's faculties of mind. It blossoms all aspects of one's personality - from moral, spiritual, mental to physical. Now there is a difference between qualified and educated person. A qualified person may be expert in his field of study possessing potential to earn money or hold an executive post in an organization by dint of his expertise, experience and qualification. But an educated man is identified by his humanistic approach and moral behavior toward his fellowmen.

According to an American sociologist, any social institution or organization has to pass through four evolutionary stages: 1) Forming 2) Norming 3) Storming; and 4) Performing. Seeing the plight of our educational institutions in realistic perspective it becomes vivid that private institutionsí evolution has restricted to the first stage of forming. The owner and managers of private educational institute all the time, remain engaged in expanding their business establishing new branches in different areas. And thus such institutions do not reach the performing stage.

Professional education institutions in public sector though have passed through Forming and Norming stages due to the allocation of funds in the budget each year, but their evolution has stopped at Storming stage. They often remain stormed by institutional politics, professional jealousies, absenteeism, favoritism, nepotism, and other corrupt practices. Commercialization of education gradually precipitated glamorization with a discernable impact of western culture in the high profile educational institutions in the country. This is because of the fact that some complex- ridden minds interpret and deem modernization as westernization.

A cursory look at the campus building complex of a high-profile institution of professional education in private sector reveals a heavy investment in the project. But can the heavy investment ensure the standard of quality education? Can the facilities and high tech computing services meet the real parameters of quality education? Do the heavy investment capital, liberal environment, standard educational facilities and westernized paradigm of imparting education provide for the yardsticks to judge the standards of education?

Not all, but most of the private educational institutes traumatized the moral sanctity of educational phenomenon commercializing the education for all. Educational standards were raised by charging high fees making the education an expensive commodity. These private institutions fixed the yardstick of high charges as the set parameters of quality education. They developed a symbol of status through offering costly educational packages to aristocratic and rich classes of the society. This promoted class consciousness and deepened sense of deprivation and frustration among the poor and lower sections of society.

Education got commercialized by the passage of time. The businessmen took interest and invested heavily in education sector turning education into a commodity on sale in lieu of high charges in terms of fee. Private schools, colleges and institutions witnessed a mushroom growth all over the country as the major business groups and tycoons made substantial investment in education sector. On the other hand, the government schools, colleges and universities remained stuck to their obsolete syllabi, old teaching methodology and worn-out system of examination to judge the knowledge and ability of the students. Universities in public sectors have so far produced an army of jobless Graduates and post Graduates, most of them are incapable to compete in practical fields. They have only one distinction of having a bachelor or master degrees in various disciplines to accomplish the formality of required job. Truly speaking, their degrees are worthless in practical scheme of the things.

Professional education has now become the right of only privileged class in Pakistan. Ruling elite and bureaucrats mostly belong to this class. A poor or mediocre hardly finds access or achieves the ruling position in bureaucracy or democracy. In practical scheme of the things, the students who get their education from institutions in public sector prove less competent, less confident and less efficient than those who have received their education from high profile English medium institutions in the private sector. The term 'Educational apartheid' may be used for the system of education in Pakistan. It reveals discrimination in crudest form in the educational field. It has made the quality professional education a dream for poor sections of the society. Professional education is the right of every citizen. It is not privilege of mere high class. The government should take steps to ensure educational system free from discriminatory practices for all the citizens.