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research education pakistan

Written by Duaa Ayaz 8:29 pm Articles, Pakistan, Published Content

Enabling Innovative and Research-Driven Education for All in Pakistan

Duaa Ayaz discusses the need for Pakistan to revamp its education system and adopt a research and outcome-oriented hybrid educational model to bridge the gap between the curriculum and 21st century demands. The education system in Pakistan is outdated and fails to equip students with the modern requisites, subsequently increasing unemployment. The state must enable education by fostering public-private partnerships, increasing vocational training, and promoting mental health initiatives at school level.
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About the Author(s)
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Ms Duaa Ayaz is a graduate of Economics and Social Sciences. She is currently working as a freelance writer on Fiverr. Her sphere of interest includes international relations, geopolitics, foreign policy, security, and socio-economic issues of Pakistan and the world.

Introduction

It is an adage, old as creation, that no man is born wise; he learns to unlatch his loftiest potential through a rigorous process of observing and understanding, acquiring and applying knowledge. In a progressive society, this process is catalysed by factors that enable acquisition and application of quality education. However, in Pakistan, education and research are trifling matters that often get disregarded due to other socio-political problems in the country.

As the world prepares itself for the post-pandemic order, it is imperative that Pakistan revamps its substandard education system and adopts a research and outcome-oriented hybrid educational model that bridges the gulf between curriculum and 21st century demands. With the evolution of societies and advancement of technology, the institution of education must evolve or modify itself so as to cater to the requisites of the contemporary world.

Today, education must not only ensure survival in a fiercely competitive world but also nurture a sustainable and inclusive learning haven for generations to come. It must enable knowledge-economy and promote research and development. It must create leaders of change that lead in innovation. Education must enable an individual to innovate solutions from the recesses of his mind.

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Many countries across the world, therefore, have joined the race of building the most equitable, sustainable, ICT and research based modern education model. This, unfortunately, is not all plain sailing for Pakistan where enabling purposive and research driven modern education is as elusive as having consensus on an education policy.

Lacunae in Pakistan’s Education System

The education system in Pakistan is mired in obsolescence and certainly fails to equip students with research, critical thinking and problem solving skills. As far as the mode of assessment is concerned, students are assessed on a benchmark of who can parrot facts better. So to put in perspective, a child in Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education may be pursuing Higher National Institute of Technical Education  in AI applications, getting hands-on experience through industrial placements, whereas a Pakistani college student would be memorising formulas to ace the test that would, in couple years time, render him unemployed and distressed.

According to Human Capital Index 2022 report, 30% of the youth in Pakistan are not in employment, education, or training. It is clear that our education system has failed to enable all students to become productive assets of the economic workforce. Besides its backwardness, the education system in Pakistan is deeply polarised and stratified along socio-economic and ideological lines. Not a single model—madrassa, public, or private—is at par with other education systems or models worldwide.

Many attempts have been made in past by pedagogical and education policy makers to address this stratification in education. One such attempt was made by the Imran Khan-led government that pitched the idea of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) that aimed to address apartheid in education. Although a well-intentioned proposal, the three-phased SNC fails to cater to the core issues of the education system of Pakistan as evinced by the first and second phase of SNC’s published content.

Eminent physicist and scholar Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy has expressed his deep concerns about implementation of SNC as according to him, ‘SNC massively prioritises ideology over education quality and acquisition of basic skills’. Furthermore, a uniform curriculum plays no role in ensuring the implementation of Article 25A of the constitution that makes incumbent upon the state to ensure free and compulsory education to all children of the age 5-16. Ironically, as reported by UNICEF, approximately 22.8 million children aged 5–16 are out-of-school.

So to sum up, the education crisis in Pakistan does not only have a problem of a curriculum alone but also of gender disparity in education, flawed teaching methodology, dilapidated classroom infrastructure, ghost schools, teacher absenteeism, poor assessment model and redundant information profusion. 

Supporting A Culture of Research

In the wake of Covid-19 and transition to online classroom learning, online tools and applications became readily available and accessible for students and teachers alike. Today, students can access any publication easily through online means. This has catalysed research potential in Pakistan where students are adapting to online research methodologies. More students are collaborating with international research think tanks to carry out independent research, which otherwise isn’t facilitated by universities in Pakistan as there is a dearth of strategic culture of research here.

A majority of undergraduate and graduate students shy away from research and would rather choose extra courses to meet their credit hours. Perhaps a significant element in enabling research would encapsulate the way research is carried out, collaborated, disseminated and commercialised. As per WIPO Global Innovation Index Report, Pakistan ranked 116 and 118 in education and tertiary education respectively. The report stresses that Pakistan must establish focused research institutes and ensure mission-oriented funding. Furthermore, international partnerships should also be fostered and the skill gap be narrowed in order to enable innovation in education and learning. 

It is also imperative that Pakistan enables research culture not only in academia but also in agricultural and industrial sector, as the former forms the backbone, while the latter would revolutionise Pakistan’s economic landscape. For this, one must question why Pakistan’s agricultural output isn’t at par with its neighbours despite having suitable climate, quality soil, and a vibrant canal system. Although a namesake Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) exists, agricultural output hasn’t been enhanced, owing to the lack of a research mindset of mediocre professionals.

A primary lesson of innovative thinking and problem solving comes from Pakistan’s South Asian neighbour Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh is a non-cotton producing country, its industrialists came up with a solution of processing imported cotton into textiles and garments. Today, Bangladesh exports garments worth $35 billion, much greater than Pakistan despite Pakistan being a top cotton producing country. 

Educational Reforms

Educationists and policy makers must closely study education models across the world, extract the most suitable components and bring necessary reforms so as to build Pakistan on a strong educational foundation where each individual grows to become an asset to the society and a harbinger of socio-cultural change. In this regard, the government has forged public private partnerships (PPPs) so as to enable education for the out of school children.

A success story comes from Sindh where Sindh’s School Education and Literacy Department (SELD) (public) partnered with  Education Management Organizations (EMOs) (private) such that the EMOs independently managed school operations and administration. As per data, a 28% increase in school enrolment was recorded in the province.

Another success story is of the prestigious Narayan Jagannath Vaidya (NJV) public school that regained its lost glory after Sindh government collaborated with Akhuwat Foundation to enable quality education free of cost, in addition to providing state of the art labs and interactive facilities to all students. 

Pakistan’s education system must also incorporate changes at national and provincial level besides focusing on evolving global trends and scope such as job market, sustainability, and human resource. Moreover, it should include areas of understanding global issues such as population trends, gender, and climate change. All stakeholders at federal and provincial levels must build consensus and contribute their ideas in formulating an education system that would empower the current and future generations.

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) must verify affiliation criteria of universities and promote institutions with high education standards and transparent assessment systems to prevent production of mediocre graduates. Furthermore, progressive ethos of change must be promoted and a culture of awareness must prevail amongst population to promote social change in education. In this regard, late Amjad Noorani’s book ‘Agents of Change: the problematic landscape of Pakistan’s K-12 Education and the people leading the change’ proposed the establishment of an International Coalition for Education Reform in Pakistan (ICERP) to promote reform in education.

In the book, he also celebrates success stories coming from the non-profit organisation The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF), a change enabler in education that follows the student-centric pedagogical model and reduces gender disparity by empowering an all-female teaching team to deliver free of cost quality education. A placement-oriented higher education model based on short certification specialisation courses over degree would also revamp the education landscape of Pakistan.

Pakistan can adopt the German education model that is well known for its academia-industry liaison model. With changing global trends, close academia-industry linkages would propel curriculum development in line with changing industrial trends. Another key takeaway from Germany would be its dual apprenticeship system that gives students the option to either excel in academia or shift to vocational and skill building after school.

Although early vocational education followed the lock and key mechanism and was limited to the lower class, today vocational training is equally important for the upper class. Hence, Pakistan needs to enable vocational and skill-based education, similar to Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education to meet the demand side of the cutting edge competition in 21st century global market.

Pakistan can also learn lessons and adopt ideas from the Finnish education model. Having earned a high reputation, the Finnish model is a social welfare based, cooperation and not competition-led unconventional model that caters to the basic needs of a school going child. However, the most important takeaway for Pakistan is the Finnish system’s pupil-teacher dynamic that focuses on student-centric learning. 

Due to the stigmatisation of mental health disorders in Pakistan, many special needs students are often neglected or abused in education institutions. Such students need special care and attention from learning support specialists to prevent them from dropping out. In Singapore, learning support specialists called Allied Educators are assigned this task. A recent spike in suicide rates also hints the need for such initiatives that enable an all inclusive learning experience where nobody is left behind.

Pakistan’s formal and informal institutions of learning should promote art and social sciences as academic discipline as they are among the most neglected and stereotyped disciplines to exist in Pakistan. Analysing Pakistan’s subject ranking, unfortunately, merely 13 Pakistani universities made it to the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University (subject) Rankings. Additionally, no Pakistani university secured a spot in subjects including Arts and Humanities, Development Studies, Data Science, Social Policy, etcetera. Hence, it is necessary to promote and enable arts and humanities alongside STEM education. 

A Blueprint

To enable education in Pakistan, the concerned stakeholders and policy makers must follow a 7-step implementation model:

  1. Relocation of Out of School Children (RoOSC): To relocate the out of school children and end gender disparity in education through incentives, mass media campaigns.
  2. Knowledge-economy and Research-based Education Infrastructure (KEREI): To promote ICT integrated education model and a hybrid mode of learning from primary level. Both students and teachers to be trained to use digital technology by tech industries apprenticeship so as to fill the material and non-material culture lag, with research incentives given to aspiring students and researchers.
  3. Teacher Training in Dissemination of Knowledge (TTDK): Empowering trainers and teaching faculty to disseminate knowledge in a sustainable manner and to enable interactive learning environment in classroom. A transition from content based education to OBE or outcome based learning model which functions upon a student centric teaching and learning methodology.
  4. Multidisciplinary Courses at Elementary Level (MDCEL): Introducing basic coding, leadership, AI learning electives alongside core subjects at elementary level.
  5. Institute of Vocational Training (IVT): Singapore-based model to provide skill based learning to college students. Industrial attachments to equip students with hands-on practical experience on a symbiotic relationship model.
  6. Special needs based student-centric learning model: Mental health counselling initiatives, allied specialists for assistance Improving teacher–student dynamic through personalised learning.
  7. Public-Private Partnership infrastructure (PPPI) for Tertiary Education: Deal with operations, management, and funds required for running educational facilities.

The most practical education model for Pakistan would be a hybrid educational model or the blended learning model where digital tools are amalgamated with traditional learning. A complete digital based education system would be difficult to implement now as such an advanced and unconventional education system may create roadblocks for the rural communities.

The state must enable hybrid education in the rural population by providing them digital training opportunities free of cost. Once the country is set on the digital revolution track, it may slowly transition to a complete and inclusive digital mode of learning.

All in all, the state must provide an enabling environment not only in the centre but in the peripheries too. Enabling an all-inclusive quality education is the need of the hour as the true purpose of education is replacing an empty mind with an open one. It isn’t filling a vessel but kindling a flame, one that would change the destiny of a nation. 


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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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