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Higher Education Woes | Editorial

Individually, Pakistanis manage to accomplish great things but collectively we are not doing that well, especially when it comes to education. A British university ranking agency, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), has placed Pakistan at the very bottom of a 50-country listcomparing their higher education systems. Unsurprisingly, the US and the UK took the top two spots while China and India made it to the eighth and 24th positions, respectively. Given the chronically low levels of spending on the education sector, Pakistan’s place at the tail-end of this list is not unexpected. Our education budget is spent mostly in covering administrative costs while developmental initiatives are few and have been slow to yield results. The Higher Education Commission has been trying to kick-start quality higher education by funding PhD programmes for several years but that does not appear to be making much difference if one goes by the QS statistics.

Meanwhile, our education system is failing students at all levels. There does not appear to be a culture of inquiry and critical thinking at our universities, leading to graduates finding it difficult to adjust to the needs of the competitive job marker after they are done acquiring mediocre degrees. At the same time, our industries and businesses bemoan the lack of skilled workers. It would be infinitely preferable if the unemployed or underemployed graduates had had their talents redirected towards technical education which could land them better paying work and not force them to look to other countries for a good life. The government has been spending millions on subsidising higher education through public universities but this has only produced graduates who are failing to improve their own lives or do anything worthwhile for the economy. Our higher education policy is in dire need of being reviewed at all levels. Simply subsidising educational institutions or handing out scholarships for PhDs has not done much good. It’s about time we went back to the drawing board and looked for a more sustainable education policy that benefits all.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2016.


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