IT is pointless to expect our public-sector colleges and universities to produce well-rounded graduates when the state has failed to offer quality primary and secondary schooling to all. Although there are some slivers of hope, these do not reflect the real picture of the decades of neglect that Pakistan’s education sector has been subjected to. As reported last week, the National University of Science and Technology was ranked 431 in a global listing of 500 top varsities in the QS World University Rankings. Making this list, alongside six other Pakistani varsities, is an accomplishment for a university that also won a prestigious award for design technology at the Stanford Centre in April. Yet, its inclusion in the list does not obscure the abysmal state of learning at most other universities in the country. One of the criteria for evaluating universities globally is a sound academic reputation — grounded in the efforts of an expert faculty that stresses on quality learning. Unfortunately, in this country education is so neglected that only 2pc of students sitting the CSS examinations passed in 2016; 92pc failed the English exam. It is pertinent to note that appointments are made to the bureaucracy, judiciary, Foreign Office, police and other government departments based on these exam results. Moreover, intellectual vigour is critical for high-level appointments in these services. However, when the system is based on rote learning and poor science and math teaching, independent thinking eludes the students.
Only a holistic approach applied from the primary level up, and one that makes learning accessible and affordable, can reform the crisis at the top of the education ladder. For the large out-of-school population to be enrolled and retained, education investment and political commitment are prerequisites. Training teachers to improve learning outcomes and encouraging intellectual curiosity will catapult students towards progress. Our government needs to comprehend why a system based on quality education leads to a tolerant, inclusive and economically stable nation able to stand its own globally.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2017