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April 16, 2019

Redoing the education model


April 16, 2019

Over the last few years, we have witnessed protests by unemployed PhDs. Their protests have not amounted to much. The incumbent prime minister, known to be a supporter of academics and human development, too has failed to address this problem.

The protestors have a single-point agenda: jobs for unemployed PhD scholars so that they and this nation can benefit from their knowledge and academic expertise. After their recent protest outside Bani Gala, some of them were detained allegedly for not obeying the law.

However, the current government cannot be blamed solely for this problem. It is our partially adopted Western education system, specifically higher education system, that needs to be blamed the most. First, we need to practically implement the cobweb model, a demand-driven education model which helps identify the market demand for different fields, and ultimately make us take a wise decision, as adopted in many developed countries.

Second and the most important reason of our rotten higher education system is that we adopted the Western education model without proper homework and without meeting the prerequisites of that model. For instance, in the model, all universities should be autonomous bodies, without intervention from the government. Now obviously who wouldn’t want this. But my question is: do we really have autonomous educational institutions in Pakistan? Do we really have no interventions from any tier of government? Are we prepared enough to take-on this relatively modern and technical educational model? Do we really have an effective check & balance system in our institutions to ensure merit? And the most important question: are we, as a nation, mature enough to be given this much autonomy and discretion? The answer to all these questions is a big NO.

In this article, I try to explain the disadvantages of this poorly adopted education system. First, if we look at the induction process in universities across Pakistan, it is solely done by universities, involving different bodies like syndicate and selection board which again is constituted by the university through different process. The intention behind this relatively non-complex but autonomous selection process was to ensure no intervention from the outside and also to ensure merit. But in reality the institutions are not autonomous and there is intervention by different government agents from the outside.

For example, if you have a PhD degree, which in some cases is not a big deal in this poor education system, and you know a local politician, then you can get a grade 19 permanent job so easily that one who is out of this system can’t even imagine. It would not be unjust to mention that the selection process of a grade 19 officer in university is far easier than the process of a grade 8 or 9 office clerk inducted through the Public Service Commission. And once you are inducted in grade 19 in a university, you will then be promoted, through the same process, to grade 20 and so on.

Second and the most worrisome problem is that very recently we witnessed cases of suicide attempts by students of different educational institutions who could not handle the stress of this system. There are various teaching issues in this too. Strangely, a faculty member after being awarded an offer letter is directed straightaway to take classes without taking basic training courses, which in my opinion should be a prerequisite to join any public office so that you can efficiently and productively perform your duty and serve your nation.

Now a teacher’s role is very important in constructively building a society because they are the ones from whom the future generations get inspiration and they are the ones whom students followed the most. Without prior teaching experience and career-building training, faculty may not be successful in putting across their point of view.

It is very clear that the disadvantages of this modern education model outweigh the advantages in case of Pakistan because we haven’t done proper homework before adopting this model. One of the solutions to the above mentioned problems is to at least take the authority of induction from universities and give this responsibility to the Public Service Commission. Along with the responsibility of induction, the responsibility of making an efficient, quality based rather than quantity based service structure for university employees can also be handed the commission. Furthermore, proper training programmes need to be launched for faculty members.

The writer heads the department ofeconomics at the University of Swabi.

Email: [email protected]

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