INTERVIEW WITH DR. KHALID PASHA, CHAIRMAN DEPARTMENT OF TEXTILE ENGINEERING NED UNIVERSITY OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY, KARACHI

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Mar 7 - 13, 2011

PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.

DR. PASHA: I am a textile expert and an educationist. I did my PhD in textiles (precisely, textile chemistry) from University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), United Kingdom in 2001. My masters and B.Sc.(Hons) degrees are in chemistry. I joined teaching as profession after my PhD and I am currently working as professor and Chairman, Department of Textile Engineering, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi. I also got various trainings and certificates including "Auditor/ Lead Auditor ISO 9000:2000 course certified by IQCS Singapore with IRCA (UK), a course on ISO 17025 Lab Management System and a four months course on "Certified Quality Professional" organized by Pakistan Institute of Quality Control. Last but not least, recently I got a rare chance of attending one of the most valued course offered by National Management College, Lahore called "National Management Course". This was quite comprehensive and lasted for 22 weeks and after successful completion, I recently came back.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT TEXTILE EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN.

DR. PASHA: As far as our past is concerned in one word I would express my view as "negligence". See, you do not need to do some serious data collection and indulge yourself into numbers to come out with this conclusion. It is straight and simple. Since independence and even till today, textile sector is the economic backbone of our country. How many institutes were available in all those years to train the workforce for this very important sector? I am sorry to tell you number that is only one. The first institute to offer textile graduate degree program in Pakistan was established in Faisalabad in 1959 and then, we have witnessed a long gap, perhaps we thought that we have already done enough. Then in 1990's textile education institutes have started emerging and now we have universities and institutes offering textile education in almost all the provinces except for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, if I am not wrong. But, hold on, this was all about quantity, the numbers.

Regarding quality of textile education, it will take some more time. I am not saying that all the institutes are providing substandard textile education. What I mean is that comparing at international level you may include a few Pakistani universities/ institutes offering textile education of some standard otherwise most of them have to go a long way.

PAGE: WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO PROVIDE QUALITY EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN?

DR. PASHA: Commitment and commitment at highest level. This is the only requirement to have quality education. You may have heard about curriculum, faculty, computers, internet, evaluation process and so on. All these factors individually and collectively do have their role in providing and establishing quality education. But, without adopting a holistic approach our dreams of having quality education will never turn into reality. You may find a university or an institute providing best quality education in some part of Pakistan, just like brightening star here and there but to have sky full of glowing stars, a comprehensive, well structured, long term and focused strategy is required and prerequisite for this is commitment from top. Take my words, bring the best curriculum of the best university, college or school of the world in Pakistan or bring the best faculty from MIT, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge or you name it. Even then, until the commitment from top will be missing all these measures will fail to deliver and quality education will remain a dream. Further to this, I would like to add that in 21st century if any nation will not be able to provide quality education to its masses it will not be able to compete in any way in today's competitive world rather its survival will become questionable.

PAGE: WHAT STEPS, IN YOUR OPINION, SHOULD BE TAKEN BY PAKISTAN TO STOP SKILLED WORKFORCE FROM LEAVING PAKISTAN?

DR. PASHA: There are two aspects to this side. First of all, export of skilled force is not bad itself. Rather, surplus workforce should be exported to countries where their skills are in demand so that not only they establish themselves but they help Pakistan in earning foreign exchange. But, the big question is that what our requirements at national level are. Are we producing enough workforce having skills required by our local industry. Unfortunately, no such reliable data is available based on that sound conclusion and recommendations can be made. Interestingly, Pakistani skilled workers are in high demand around the world, but question is why they are not so successful while living in this country and serving for local organization. We have to find out the reasons and address this issue seriously. Organizations in developed countries realize the importance of the updated and knowledgeable workforce and they institute training programs to ensure that the service they are providing to their client remains flawless, reliable and effective to their maximum.

PAGE: WHAT INCENTIVES EDUCATION SECTOR NEEDS FROM THE GOVERNMENT?

DR. PASHA: With more than 68 million children under the age of 15, Pakistan needs to consider seriously the challenges and opportunities to alleviate poverty and create paths for improving the life of its citizens. First, we have to realize the potential we have in the form of young generation. If properly educated and trained, this human capital can create wonders for our country. On the other hand, if these youngsters will not be educated and provided with resources to develop and use their skills, they can become a serious threat to the country. What I am trying to emphasis is that Pakistan has no other option but to invest in education. Education needs to be the top priority of government of Pakistan. With education budget of almost two per cent of GDP and massive cuts in funding of higher education sector, how any sensible person can think of even sustainability what to talk about progress. Government as per his promise, which he made through millennium development goals and world declaration of Education for All (EFA), should enhance education budget to minimum of four per cent and gradually take it up to seven per cent of GDP by 2015. Furthermore, massive reforms are required in bringing our whole education system at par with international standards. Another important aspect in running and managing this very important educational system in country is that education has to be provided a separate management cadre in government. Devoted, committed, and qualified professionals are required to run and manage the education system of Pakistan. I would sorry to say that till then, no incentive or initiative will work.