TECHNICAL EDUCATION NEEDS RESOURCES
Jan 16 - 22, 2012
For Pakistan, where growth is essential, education is particularly important, if the country is to climb out of poverty. For several decades, the country has placed great emphasis on primary and, more recently, secondary and higher education but has neglected technical education as a means to improve economic growth and mitigate poverty.
Technical education can create greater tax revenues, increase savings and investments, thereby leading to a more entrepreneurial and civic society. It can also improve a nation's health, contribute to reduced population growth, improve technology, and strengthen governance.
In Pakistan, education in a college can roughly be segregated into two categorize i.e. i) a liberal education implies training in the fine arts, the humanities (MBA etc), cultural patterns and behavior, and aims at developing a man's personality and ii) technical education aims primarily at equipping a person with skills.
Liberal education is more popular than technical education as it, in origin, is older than later.
People somehow started realizing importance of technical education with the advancement of industrialization in the country back in 60s'. With the passage of time, the increasing use of machinery has compelled all of us to feel the necessity of technical education.
No reasonable person can deny this fact that Pakistan is deplorably backward in technical education. It is the foremost reason of our low standard of living. Pakistan is short of doctors, engineers, and skilled workers to serve the society and run our factories profitably. Around the world, with the passage of time, technical education has been given a new dignity and status to the labor class and lower class.
However, situation is not that encouraging. Most of our labor class working in Middle East in particular are categorized there as semi-skilled works. We have to look at the world to provide us work force so as to implement medium to big sized projects.
Whenever the issue of educational system is raised, the first sets of thoughts that come to mind are decline in standard, deterioration of facilities, examination malpractices etc. This requires an in-depth study aimed at analyzing how actions and inactions of each and every stakeholder in the education system have individually and collectively contributed to the collapsing state of education. Technical education, particularly technical and engineering education, is critical to realize the Pakistan's dream of becoming a competitive player in the global economy.
The economy is heavily dependent on the import of finished goods, thus the country's economy is primarily a trading company, which creates less employment opportunities and lesser revenue generation for the government as compared to the industrial economy. In an endeavor to improve employment prospects and to lessen the gap between import and exports, the government should introduce technical education program. The objectives of the program should include providing open access to vocational education and training programs and easy loans to the pass out students to establish their own small and medium sized businesses.
As a matter of fact, the private benefits of technical education for individuals are well established including better employment prospects, higher salaries, and a greater ability to save and invest. These benefits may result in better health and improved quality of life. Whereas public benefits are not widely recognized, this best explains why governments' neglect technical schooling as a vehicle for public investment. However, individual gains can also benefit society as a whole because of higher earnings for well-trained individuals raise tax revenues. Government can also translate into greater consumption, which benefits producers from all educational backgrounds.
MAJOR ISSUES IN TECHNICAL EDUCATION
Despite the efforts of various governments, several weaknesses have occurred in the system. Some of these are:
a) Continuous rise in cost of living forces people to increase sources of incomes. Financial constraints have forced people to take out their children from schools and use them for earnings.
b) Lack of good governance, lack of focus and different sets of priorities have badly damaged the education system especially technical education.
c) Resource constraints, low efficiency of utilization of existing resources and lack of mechanism for sharing physical and human resources of different institutions have led to large scale obsolescence of physical resources, deterioration of quality of teaching/ learning processes and lowering of competence of teachers.
d) Low internal efficiency of most institutions due to large dropouts and failure rates of students.
e) Rapid obsolescence of curricula and course contents due to infrequent revision and much delayed response to technological advances and consequent market demands.
f) Failure to attract and retain high quality faculty due to less pay and benefits and promotion procedures, absence of incentives for quality performance, and nonexistent staff development policies in most institutions.
The ongoing efforts are not adequate to meet the requirements of the community. Technical education system is driven by the demand, which requires relevant courses in new and emerging technologies with adequate infrastructure resources, competent faculty, and effective teaching-learning processes.
The quality of education and training being imparted in the technical education institutions varies from excellent to poor, with some institutions being the best in the country while others suffering from different degrees of faculty shortages, infrastructure deficiencies, curricula obsolescence, lack of autonomy in academic, financial, administrative, and managerial matters, poor involvement in knowledge creation and dissemination, and poor interaction with community and economy.
In late 80s' and early 90s', we saw a lot of computer training institutes but unfortunately, government didn't regulate and we could only produce good computer operators instead of capturing a reasonable portion of world software and hardware industry.
Recognizing that skilled manpower of high quality can play a major role in economic development and in export of technology and services, and observing the growing demand for professionals particularly in the area of software engineering in all parts of the globe including the highly developed countries, the government should take steps to give very high priority to human resource development in engineering and technology.
One of the factors, which has and will keep on affecting growth, is the hate of learning English language. There is no harm in learning English. However, one can speak local language at home and work place.
By learning English, a semi-skilled worker is categorized as a skilled worker in Middle East and Far East Asia. That means better salary package and better foreign remittances for the country.
In addition, technical education should not only be confined to the industrial training only. Training should also be provided in the agriculture sector, where knowledge of new technology can help the country in increasing its yield.
Government can take corrective measures by establishing training institutes with the help of private sector, get them affiliated with international renowned schools, give those institutes grants, make transparent and regulated facility inductions, and provide reorganization to the degrees.
The prime example of our lack of interest in nation building is the fact that we have Allama Iqbal Open University duly recognized by Higher Education Commission (HEC) but in individual capacity most of us don't recognize its degrees.
Government should take serious measures in further improving the standard of education provided by Allama Iqbal Open University. Work can be done by giving the management of the university to the private sector while government keeps on supporting its financial requirements. Private sector can collaborate with the international institutes, upgrade the curriculum and make best efforts so that its degrees are recognized nationwide as a first step and internationally later.
Hence, to successfully confront the challenges of development, Pakistan must undertake at least three following major tasks:
i) Acquire global knowledge and create knowledge economy.
ii) Invest in human capital to increase the ability to absorb and use knowledge; and
iii) Invest in technologies to facilitate both acquisition and the absorption.
The most important and urgent reforms needed in the education is to transform it so as to make it the powerful instrument of social, economic and cultural transformation necessary for the realization of the national goals.
For this purpose, education should be developed to increase productivity, achieve social and national integration, accelerate the process of modernization, and cultivate social, moral and spiritual values.
There is a huge potential in exploring and doing work in technical training, if it is taken seriously. I do not blame political instability and lack of funds for the poor infrastructure in the sector of technical education but entire blame goes to lack of interest and lack of ownership.