Are Pakistan's 'legitimate' degrees any better?

Published May 29, 2015
All past efforts focused on sending children to schools, instead of educating them. —Photo by Mahrukh Mansoor
All past efforts focused on sending children to schools, instead of educating them. —Photo by Mahrukh Mansoor

An investigation into a fake degree business in Pakistan is currently ongoing. This is a good time to take up the side-topic and ask ourselves some questions about the dire state of education in our country.

After all, the amount of shady dealings in our education 'industry' has been increasing manifold, of late, and its causes merit some investigation. Pakistan's position in terms of its education models is 133 in the world.

Know more: State of education not any better this year

Here is what happened:

Confusing 'literacy' and 'education' — the start of a great downfall

In the mid-90s, the media and the civil society venomously criticised the low literacy rate. Everyone was fond of cursing the low literacy rate and stressed on improving the infrastructure of public schools.

When the governments were moved to act upon it, they took the term 'literacy rate' a little too literally. 'Literacy' was defined as the ability to write one's own name, and all efforts were directed just toward improving results for this basic metric, rather than imparting proper education to the next generation.

The model focused on sending children to schools, but compromised on their education. Teaching quality was still miserable, and meaningful education suffered badly.

Explore: The rise of unreason

No one quite knew what the aim of our national curriculum is, and how the content taught at schools and colleges served its purpose, if any. A random collection of different material was put together and tagged as subjects, without any research going into its impact on young minds.

Meanwhile, every government found it easy to claim that literacy rate has improved remarkably.

Demand of literacy met supply of degrees

In this case, the legitimate degrees were often as useless as the illegitimate ones. A burgeoning student population fueled the new education industry; a horde of degree-awarding institutions creating a culture focused on exam-passing instead of learning.

Guess papers for board examinations still exist. These papers, supplied one or two days before the examination, have always been highly awaited by students and parents alike; they play on the probability of possible questions to give a sense of what to expect in the paper.

Over the years, guess papers have all but replaced books, as has the mindset that a shortcut is all you need to make it in life.

Take a look: From kindergarten to CSS: The 'cram to pass' model abounds

To put it briefly, supply met demand, in what perverse way, nobody cared.

Multiple streams opened up

With the failure of the public education system, private education system emerged, and God knows how many streams we have open today. What else do you expect in a country where many different curricula run in parallel?

In the public sector, we have city examination boards and a federal board. We have multiple types of schooling in the public sector. In the private sector we have category “A”, “B”, “C” along with a recently emerging “D” category of schools, which are a blended shake of madrassah and liberal educational system.

Private colleges and universities distributing degrees without any recognition is another topic altogether, and no one dares to stop them.

Morality and ethics were discarded

If you have been following the actions of our so-called scholars, you will be aware of this. There was a time when Bachelors' degrees were regarded as an authority on their subjects. But today, even “Doctors of Philosophy PhD” do not know the basics of their subject.

The HEC took action against many PhD pseudo-scholars who were professors in public universities but were involved in plagiarism, fake research data production and generally, the crime of intellectual dishonesty.

Education has lost its sanctity and a collapse is inevitable.

The final word

There is a connection here, between every new corrupt entity in the state and between our near-collapse education system: one is the cause of an ethics failure, and the other a symptom of it.

It is time to realise that with certain things, we may not have room to mess up any more – education being one of them.

Also see: Uniform curriculum to be introduced

An aimless literacy model can be more lethal than terrorism. The authorities must start a dialogue to determine at least the common core of our various assortments of curricula. We need a focus on an education of ethics and honesty, not of shortcuts and exploitation.

The nations that address the roots of its problems, progresses for splendour, while the fanatics die in obliviousness because they insist on ignorance and love it blindly.


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