MISSING NATIONAL AGENDA FOR EDUCATION

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

June 27 - July 3, 2011

Thousands of Muslims of the subcontinent laid down their lives and left behind every thing to migrate to this part of the world that we call Pakistan now to lead an independent life. The reason for seeking independence was to ensure prosperity for Muslims.

Even to create awareness among the Muslims, people like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan focused on education. Over the last six decades, Pakistanis have forgotten the basic objective for the creation of Pakistan, mainly because the focus has shifted away to money minting from education.

Now, any person is respected not for the education he has received but by the wealth he has accumulated and the power he has attained to usurp the rights of others and his skills to buy out the 'loyalties' of others.

Most of the parliamentarians have tons of money but are devoid of education. Many of them had submitted fake degrees to qualify for the participation in the general elections and the biggest disgrace to the education is that those disqualified for submitting fake degrees have won the by-elections again. This is the reason federal and provincial governments make paltry allocations in the budget for the education. One only feels hurt that the country spends less than three per cent of its total annual budget on education.

It may be unavoidable that bulk of the allocations goes towards defense expenditures, debt servicing, and taking care of ministers and ministries and other paraphernalia. It is true that the borders of this country have to be guarded but it is also a fact that the biggest damage has been caused by the enemies 'within' and not by the external forces. India caused the biggest dent to 'two nation theory' by helping those seeking independent Bangladesh. The seed that was sown in sixties is yielding fruits now as other groups are demanding 'Independent Balochistan' and 'Greater Pushtunistan'. The Sindhu Desh slogan or 'Pakistan na Kaphay' has been temporarily replaced by 'Pakistan Kaphay', maybe because these groups are now the government.

All this happened because of the sense of deprivation created by certain groups and fueled by those having the vested interest. This became possible because most of the Pakistanis, though termed literate' can at the best write and read basic Urdu or their regional languages. Even those who have acquired degrees are equally bad because they could hardly contribute towards nation building even as 'skilled worker' as they have never acquired any vocational training.

Those nations which wish to achieve pre-defined objectives first of all prepare their curriculum and estimate the number of doctors, engineers, and business managers etc. to be produced. They keep on updating their curriculum to suit the 'need of the time'. Decades ago policy planners discontinued the practices of preparing 'five year plans' and focusing on 'annual development programs' to achieve the political mileage rather than achieving the national objectives.

Pakistan's education system is divided clearly between one for masses and other for the elites. This is typical of the colonial rule that rulers and commoners have to be imparted different type of language so that the class difference can be maintained and ruling dynasties remain in power irrespective of the government run by any dictator or the elected representatives.

The basic purpose of education is to let every individual know his duties and rights. However, the prevailing education system grooms those who demand their rights but never bother to think what their duties are? Elected representatives are bothered about their 'prerogatives' but hardly participate in the legislative process. On the floor of the houses they talk about strengthening of the institutions but consider head of these institutions their personal servants.

Some of the academicians are of the view that like 'adult education program' there should be 'literacy programs for the elected representatives'. The 'fuss' created during the budget speech of the federal finance minister was a disgrace for the house. Budget is a national need and it is the collective responsibility of all the elected representatives to make contribution to get rid of those proposals which are anti-masses and make effort to get those proposals approved by the house which can improve condition of the masses.

The education helps in achieving higher production and improved productivity. A farmer can improve yield when he has the appropriate knowledge about the crop to be cultivated, dosage of nutrients to be applied and appropriate crop management. With higher yield, the cost of production is optimized and returns to the farmers are improved.

It is education that has allowed deployment of technology in banking. Branchless banking has reduced the time per transaction and also the cost and the added advantage is convenience. An accountholder may be in any part of the country but can deposit and withdraw cash. One may say that there is a cost but is it not worth paying keeping in view the convenience. This has become possible because the agenda was set, supporting policies were introduced and above all the right type of 'human resource' was developed.

If Pakistan can achieve excellence in banking by developing the right type of human resource, it can also improve crop yield by preprinting experts for developing high yielding varieties, save the standing crops from the possible attacks of pests and viruses and achieve higher yield by applying appropriate dosage of nutrients.

Most of the objectives can be achieved simply through imparting right type of education. This can be made possible only when the national agenda is prepared and executed in letter and spirit. People from outside will not do this; the nation has to this at its own. However, it goes without saying that higher allocations have to be made for the education. Basic education is the right of every Pakistani, no matter how rich or poor his/her parents may be.