INTERVIEW WITH NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO, DIRECTOR RAOJI CONSULTING ASSOCIATES (PVT.) LTD.
'DEPOLITICISING EDUCATION SYSTEM IS A VERY DIFFICULT JOB UNTIL WE HAVE TURNAROUND LIKE IN JUDICIARY.'
Dec 20 - 26, 2010
Professor Nisar Ahmed Rao, a well known academician of the country, has recently retired from the teaching faculty of Institute of Business Administration Karachi, where he taught a number of business subjects for 19 years. He was also Chairman Department of Accounting & Law during the last six years. He has an MBA from IBA and has completed his doctoral degree course work at the IBA. His doctoral thesis is in its advanced stage of submission to an international commission constituted at a European university.
Besides being a business management teacher, he has extensive management experience also, spanning over a period of twenty years, in corporate sector in senior management positions at private and state enterprises and has worked on important assignments. The professor has more than 20 publications to his credit including the papers presented in national and international conferences, workshops, and seminars some of which were chaired by him.
His other academic interests include development studies, education policy and curriculum development. He was the co-author (with Professor Churched Omar of University of Houston Downtown Texas USA) of first four-year BBA program of the country and has developed curriculum of couple of business schools of the country besides helping in their establishment and development.
He has provided financial management consultancy to the institutions including the World Bank and International Center for Chemical & Biological Sciences, a world-class research center and prime teaching institute of the country established under UNO charter. Presently, he is working on two books in accounting and financial statements and involved in business and management consultancy.
PAGE approached Professor Rao to have his views on the status of education in Pakistan. We present a gist of the answers given by professor Rao to our questions about education and human resource development in Pakistan.
PAGE: WHAT KIND OF SKILLED WORKFORCE EVERY SECTOR NEEDS IN OUR COUNTRY?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: The world has left cyber age behind and entered into 'knowledge era'. According to late Peter F. Drucker, "The next society will be a knowledge society. Knowledge will be its key resource, and knowledge workforce will be the dominant group in its workforce". We have not understood technology. For one centimeter size stent to be placed in the clogged artery of heart, imported from Germany, we need to export one truck load of cotton. A stent costs only a dollar and produced 1000 in an hour; a truckload of cotton costs 1000 dollars and produced in six months. A knowledge workforce is borderless, have access to 'means of production' and highly competitive.
If you wish to bring economic prosperity which is an essential prerequisite to political and financial stability of the country, you will have to revert to technology i.e. knowledge work force. I would not like to mention the names of the countries but you know who have achieved technology based in recent past. However, the problem in having technology base is again of the basic infrastructure. Knowledge workforce can only be raised through formal education. We need to increase rate of literacy where even informal education model can be used and then we need to have a universal "ONE FOR ALL" formal education system.
PAGE: WHAT SHOULD PAKISTAN DO FOR HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: This area has remained neglected for decades in Pakistan. Psychologists and social intellect agree that total personality is developed before a child reaches the age of six. I am tempted to narrate an anecdote here about the basic personality. Three years ago two Professors from Japanese Universities were delivering a presentation on 'education system in Japan'. After the presentation in Q and A session, one of the audiences questioned 'how did you tackle the problem of corruption in education and elsewhere. The answer was eye opener. The professor said: "We don't have problem of corruption so we don't need to tackle it". After a small pause the professor added we work on corruption with our children when they are very young, when they start uttering words. The lesson of corruption is learnt in home and not anywhere else. I have worked in private and government organisations and know what corruption is. What should we do? Educate the mothers, strengthen family unit, and strengthen the school system doing away with caste system from school education.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE OUR NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES WITH PAKISTAN IN TERMS OF SKILLED AND UNSKILLED WORKFORCE?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: We have not yet realised the problem. Our neighboring countries China and India worked since independence. Now, we need to work on war footings but again that needs political will and sincerity.
PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT EDUCATION SYSTEM IN PAKISTAN?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: Education system in Pakistan has remained orphaned since the very creation of the country. The system we inherited was very good for our colonial rulers but was not I repeat was not appropriate for a free nation and its future generations, for the simple reason that the system was established and strengthened (after 1957 war of freedom) by the invading rulers for their specific objectives to perpetuate their rule. The system we inherited at freedom in 1947 was very conducive to produce 'baboons' in the required quality and numbers for our rulers.
That system we inherited was a class based system one for the commoners and other in the form of Lawrence College and Aitcheson for the rulers and landed aristocrats. Few selected from this class used to be sent to Oxford and Cambridge to be trained as rulers. This class and caste system of education not only continued rather becomes more complex with the passage of time. The truth is that nobody in policy corridors ever bothered to see the relationship between the education and the nation building. Not that we do not have good educationists, without any fear of refutation, I aver that we have first class educationists and thinkers. The irony is that they are helpless and are not of much help because that thinking is not institutionalised. There is not one single education policy forum in the country. During the last 60 years, bureaucracy and autocratic governments gave the nation about ten education policies. Albeit almost every education policy was fine but none could be implemented even fractionally because there was no strong institution behind its implementation.
Political instability- frequent change of governments and perpetuating military interventions played havoc to every sphere of life including education. The justice and the education delivery systems the very roots and stem of any nation were the most affected and hence deterioration all around. A class based justice and education system will never build a society to be called a nation.
PAGE: DO YOU FIND ANY POLICY FAILURE AND LAPSES IN OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM? WHAT REMEDIES WOULD YOU SUGGEST TO AMELIORATE THE SYSTEM OF EDUCATION?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: In recent years, a number of initiatives taken for the improvement in all the three segments primary, secondary, and tertiary education could not bring the desired results. This failure can be attributed to three factors; (1) the problem of failure in education is more complex than considered by many; (2) political intervention and caste and party affiliations could not be eliminated from the initiatives (3) all of these initiatives were either politically motivated like National Commission of Human Development etc. or based on the flow of foreign aid.
The solution also lies in the proper identification and definition of the problem. I will suggest handover the education to the educationists who do not have a party affiliation and above the caste system. In recent past almost all of our universities were headed by retired bureaucrats or military generals. The situation is no different today, unfortunately vice chancellors are not appointed on merit, despite a system created by Higher Education Commission that is being conveniently bypassed. Political interventions will remain there till we find out the party-less educationist.
Comprehensive definition of the problem will put the things in proper perspective. Depoliticising education system is a very difficult job until we have turnaround like in judiciary. Even after that turnaround sometime, may be three to five years will need to be allowed to settle down the chaos created by the turnaround. However, without depoliticizing and doing away with caste and discrimination we will not be able to achieve desired results in the next say 100 years. The nation is in the state of war. The government is distraught with all sorts' problems relating to internal stability, international relations, budgetary finance, balance of payment, huge unemployment, and handling natural disasters.
Education is expected to remain on back burners. This situation is only aggravating the problems in education sector. I wish all the political forces in the country could unite on one point of 'no intervention in education' and no corruption. A one-point solution is handover the education to educationists the people who have no political affiliations, agenda and aspirations.
PAGE: WHAT STEPS, IN YOUR OPINION, HAVE BEEN TAKEN SO FAR BY PAKISTAN TO DEVELOP HUMAN RESOURCES?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: As I said earlier, steps taken for development of human resource in Pakistan were either politically motivated or imposed from outside the country, foreign aid driven. The steps based on these factors can only bring cosmetic change. All the microfinance institutions without any exception have failed to achieve their stated objectives. We have initiatives and incentives for poverty alleviation and imported brands of 'entrepreneurship' to address the problem of unemployment. These initiatives and models will not produce the desired results. We need to develop our own model through our own resources.
PAGE: WHAT INCENTIVES SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN GIVE TO THE EDUCATION SECTOR FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF SKILLED WORKFORCE?
NISAR AHMED KHAN RAO: All the provincial governments should take back all vacant and illegally occupied lands in rural and urban areas from the land mafias and land grabbers. High courts of all the provinces may be requested to throw out all the land grabbers from government lands. Through a well-documented system, all these lands be given to government educational institutions for playgrounds and educational institutions. Every male and female between 4 to 24 years of age should have open playing space. Provide cheap playing equipments to each school going age, may be a football only.
Some of the NGOs are doing very good work without any corruption they can be involved. However, a strong teachers training program for all levels is still needed. There should be no political intervention in teachers' appointments, in selection of vice chancellors, curriculum development, and management of educational institutions. The nation will have to decide for life or death now for itself and for all the times.