Higher Education and its impact on Pakistan

By Humzah Haroon

Recent studies have repeatedly highlighted the significance and impact of education on not only the economy but also society. Demo (2001), referred to education as the synopsis of both social and human areas of the country; at the same time emphasizing that the achievement of ‘quality’ can only be derived from education.

If we take the statement written before, into perspective, than we know that there is a direct relation between the introduction of quality which leads to the improvement in education and the improvement in education, only being achieved as a result of the involvement of quality into the prevailing system.

Therefore Demo’s reference, in the context of education, can be broadened to include several societal, political, financial and economic factors that give a holistic view and provide a total improvement of the prevalent systemization of the education system.

Hence, it is safe to say that, if there is a proper implementation of an education system, with the necessary quality that is needed to ensure that there is a productive outcome, then the road towards economic development will be easier to achieve and sustain; which is just one of the many areas that are positively affected.

In the path towards economic development, education has become a central element in a countries growth strategy. In their study Sivakumar & Sarvalingham (2010), added structure to this ideology by defining education as a basic need for human development and as a means to escape poverty, therefore, it is necessary to help achieve the goal of a prosperous society. Education acts as a bedrock for future growth prospects but, often times, its value is undermined and because of this very reason many developing countries have a hard time in attaining social prosperity.

The fact of the matter is that developing countries, have poor educational systems in place, as stated by Ghulam Rasool Memon, due to some of the reasons mentioned above, and also because other institutions are given merit above educational institutions, which hinder their tendency for growth.

Another issue that halts the progress of education quality, is physical infrastructure. An article covered by Business Recorder (2016) cites Pakistan Education Statistics (PES) data, which states that the condition of almost 9% of school facilities and infrastructure is very poor, with most of these schools not having any type of buildings or physical infrastructure around them. This is not a conducive environment that encourages positive learning.

Coming back to the point mentioned above, historically, Pakistan has also had its own struggles with higher education or just education for that matter, but let’s focus on higher education which is the purpose of this article. The crisis for higher education was identified as early as 1947, followed by several policies and commissions which tried to improve the standard for higher education.

It was not until the creation of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), which marked the successive growth within its education systems. According to a UNESCO (2016) report, the gross enrollment ratio had increased from 5.59% (2008) to 9.73% (2016); by comparison only 2.6% of university-age students were attaining higher education in 2001. With the improvement of the education sector, Fred Hayward claimed that the increased momentum in education will be a driving force towards growth and national recovery.

Deliberations such as these gave importance to education in a country where higher education had suffered from decades of neglect, financial inequality and lack of state/government support. Pakistan is at a very critical junction in its history at the moment. The population of youth out numbers all other population divisions, and therefore, it is more important than ever to make sure that the country capitalizes on the future of the youth so that the future of the country is not at stake.

Political instability, security threats and budgetary situations are major issues facing Pakistan and as a result of which, education suffers, mentioned by Fred Hayward in an article published in International Higher Education, South Asia. Internal hitches like lack of academic cohesion, inessential faculty distribution to specific courses not catered to their respective fields, lack of faculty training and an unorganized and varied education system amongst the different schools and institutions, all contribute to the absence of progress and quality within the education system of Pakistan.

The fact remains, that the quantity of schools is already in place; the solution, however, lies within the improvement of the quality in education; and quality can be improved through academic and social cohesion of courses/subjects (as mentioned before), adding value through better examination and learning processes, providing faculty training, especially in rural areas, implementing the proper pedagogic practices and assigning teachers to teach according to their fields of study.

And finally, it teaches people about, perhaps, the most important aspect of all. A fundamental and rudimentary concept of economics. It teaches people about scarcity. It is actually undeniable to admit how many people are unaware of this concept, especially in a developing country such as Pakistan, where there is a prevailing water crisis with 10 trillion gallons of water being wasted annually.

If we take, into context, the example of Pakistan, a developing country, the education sector has, often than not, been very neglected due to various reasons such as the misallocation of financial resources, the inability to implement the proper education standards and the lack of action from the relevant authorities or sources. However, it is safe to say and assume that it is never too late to take the appropriate action and approach the problem with the means to counter these issues.

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