EDUCATION EMERGENCY NEEDED TO SAVE SOCIOECONOMIC STRUCTURE
INTERVIEW: PROF. DR. PIRZADA QASIM RAZA SIDDIQUI, VICE CHANCELLOR ZIAUDDIN UNIVERSITY
July 9 - 15, 2012
Prof. Dr. Pirzada Qasim-a renowned educationist and the Vice Chancellor of Ziauddin University and a man of manners adorned with knowledge-though looked perturbed over deterioration of quality of basic education essentially important for building up social and human values and the society in general, yet confident that time has not slipped out of hand if the serious and concerted efforts are made to catch up the pace of growth elsewhere in the world.
Focusing on significance of basic education to achieve the desired goal of sustainable socioeconomic and political growth, Dr. Pirzada Qasim regretted that we failed to give due attention on basic education especially in the countryside or less developed areas, which offered a walkover to mushroom growth of Medarssah and other institutions, which obviously worked without a direction for knowledge based growth and human resource development in the country.
There is an urgent need for declaring education emergency to correct the direction of our education first at school level and secondly for higher education development. However, he said, this would require a consensual approach of the government and the society. The government has earmarked merely 1.6 percent of the GDP for education, which is obviously not an indication of seriousness for using education as a source of sustainable socioeconomic growth of the country.
Besides the allocation of the resource for education, there is also a need for effective follow up of the policies and expenditures to ensure that things are in the right hands and moving in the right direction. It is a matter of fact that majority of our teachers association with basic education have not joined this profession by choice or because the urge of their passion. They have joined this noble profession because they had no alternative hence their primary interest is to get their salaries at the end of the week. This is something horrible and needed to be corrected for which we would have to launch a comprehensive plan for hiring people having a passion to devote their time and efforts for the cause of education and for having job satisfaction. In this regard, a comprehensive teacher-training program is required to develop a strong faculty base that is vital to achieve the goals and hopes attached with the upcoming generations.
He cited the example of Malaysia where the leadership had a focused direction to develop the society and knowledge based economic growth through education for which they placed education on top priorities for a genuine socioeconomic and political growth. It is torturous to see that today the salaries paid to the schoolteachers are even less than what an unskilled worker is getting. The infrastructure of a government school providing a quite unseemly environment is not compatible to the required atmosphere necessary for imparting education or gaining knowledge. The nation paid billions and billions under Iqra surcharge for over 22 years but unfortunately, due to lack of an effective follow-up, a huge fund was misused and did not help improve literacy rate in the country.
When asked how to make a good use of the available universities to address the critical issues like energy crisis, unemployment, poverty and declining per capita income, Prof. Pirza Qasim was of the view that our universities and institutions for higher education are quite capable to find workable solutions to the problems confronted to the economy or the country. However, for the desired results people at the helm of affairs should assign mission oriented tasks to the research departments, teachers, and the students. Pakistan on the back of enormous resources and human capital is quite capable to cope with the situation and resolve all critical issues with the support and patronage of the government.
NO WAR PACT WITH INDIA
When asked to comment on the ongoing talks between India and Pakistan for promotion of trade and bilateral relations between the two countries, Dr. Pirzada said that accepting the reality or the facts is the best attitude or behavior of an individual or a nation, which never betrays the confidence of the beholder. You cannot deny the fact that the neighboring India has achieved excellence in economic growth and has emerged on the global landscape as one of the leading economies. That is the reason for an influx of global economic players towards that part of the world called India.
Pakistan and India have a history of uneven and strained relations primarily due to unresolved Kashmir dispute that is the real bone of contention between the two states. However, living like brawling neighbors, the people of the two countries suffered a lot economically as well as socially over the years as a major chunk of the national resources used for defense purposes on both sides which would have been used more productively to improve the lot of the people on both sides. It may be because of the leadership that India has succeeded to build up its economy on sound footings besides managing a huge population, which is more than five times the population in Pakistan.
Although there was a time when Pakistan was used to be known as Asian tiger, as stellar growth took place during Ayub regime. This was the time when the economy of Pakistan was enviable for the regional countries which used to visit Pakistan to find out the secret of growth and some of them including Korea, China, and other countries took advantage of Pakistan experiences. However, after the war of 1965, things started taking a bad shape and gradually reached to a point where corrective measures are needed on war footings to avert a total economic collapse.
In this backdrop, it would be wise to accept the reality that economically our neighbor has an edge and there is no harm in it, rather it would help addressing various economic and social issues besides interaction in education research to apply for economic benefits of the two countries.
Prof. Dr. Pirzada Qasim suggested that we should enter into a 40-year no war pact with India with a view to focus our uninterrupted attention to steer the economy out of trouble. This would also be beneficial for the Indian economy of course.