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Education revolution in Pakistan

Time for an education revolution
Education revolution December: Sustainable, quality education that is accessible to the masses is one of the most vital issues that cannot be ignored any longer. Unfortunately, neither the government, nor the private sector is doing enough to promote access and provide assistance to the needy to attend schools, especially institutions of higher learning.
The fact that a majority of people in Pakistan (63 per cent of the population) is currently under the age of 25 years, makes the availability of affordable education and training opportunities an immediate need or the country risks a very bleak economic and social future.

It is crucial to the survival of a healthy economy and society that everyone becomes aware of the critical role of education in society and participates very actively in bringing about an education revolution in Pakistan. Education concerns and affects every aspect of society. It is time that every teacher, businessman, professional, worker and parent realises that education must be made available to every citizen. The consequences of not doing so are severe and impact everyone's life. It must become the concern of the whole society to provide each and every student with the opportunity and support to succeed.

Education is not only a basic human right, but also a necessity for a functional modern society. Education is the engine of economic prosperity for the individual and the nation. It is a major factor behind improved public health and high quality of life, and a tool of achieving great intellectual discoveries, democracy and world peace.

Even in developed countries, education is continuously considered as one of the pillars of economic development and prosperity. In the United States of America during the entire week of September 26, education made headlines in the media in a concerted effort to restore its status as a national priority and a key for the country's success. In the interactive summit "Education Nation", teachers, community leaders, governors, students, philanthropists, and parents were brought together in a "Learning Plaza" to discuss and find solutions to improve one of the most advanced education systems in the world.

Unfortunately in Pakistan, the news headlines are mostly about severe budget cuts for education, especially higher education and the critical situation of the education system that is failing its clients and its purpose.

This is the time for us to change the outlook, perspective and understanding of the role of education and what it means to everyone personally as well as collectively. As an organised society with clear goals on how to improve education, an education revolution must be called for and must be carried out to reclaim the position of education as an engine of progress, prosperity and well being for the people of Pakistan.

Education is everyone's bank
The increased value of human capital makes educational attainment and success not only vital to the financial well being of individuals but also of the nation. It is especially critical for developing countries to use human capital resources for their benefit and not carry the much heavier burden of uneducated citizenry. Wide access of the masses to quality education is a powerful catalyst that can bring broader economic and social benefits to a developing nation like Pakistan. It is a part of education's role in Pakistan to produce professionals, scholars and leaders who can lead the country out of the poverty into an economically sustainable nation.

Currently educational institutions, especially those in higher education, are suffering from severe cuts in their existing budgets and the lack of a sustainable financial future that can provide resources for their needs. Financial resources and independence from the uncertainty of public funding affect the ability of an institution to function efficiently, attract and retain qualified faculty, offer modern technologies and laboratories suitable for training bright students to their fullest potential, and offer financial support to needy talented students.

The availability of more funds for financial assistance to students can not only improve the reputation of an institution, but also have a positive impact on its quality and ultimately achieve the goal of serving society. As seen during this very tumultuous financial year, the finances of educational institutions are quite variable in nature and public or foreign funding are not always available, even to sustain existing programmes.

Thus, the pressing issue of financing education, especially higher education, must be a great concern to everyone, and everyone must contribute financially to secure an improved education system. Institutions of education must become aware of their fragile financial future and put every effort into increasing the awareness of the public on this matter.

Endowment funds in perpetuity for different purposes can ensure that an institution continues to receive the financial support it requires especially during times of financial austerity. Establishing different types of endowment funds, such as scholarships for the needy, new programmes, supporting chairs and professorships, not only helps to reduce the negative impact of economic crisis but also ensures the long-term support of the institution as well as allowing donors to choose programmes that they might like to contribute to. In order to increase the base of donors, educational institutions must become creative and resourceful and most importantly, must continuously emphasize the goal of their programmes: improving education access, quality and sustainability.

An "Education Revolution Week" can be organised each fall to become a national engine for public awareness and nationwide fundraising campaigns. While efforts to keep education on top of national priorities must be made continuously, the Education Week, much like Education Nation, can become a platform for educationists, talented students, concerned parents, challenged teachers and everyone to have a voice in the discussions of how to improve education.

By increasing awareness of what education can achieve and how to best achieve its goals, everybody is included in the debate and has a much clearer picture of why it is important and how it can make a difference. A community that has an appreciation for the important role of education in improving the quality of life is more eager to contribute financially or by other means.

Assistance can come in the shape of donations, establishing or contributing to an endowment fund, or just by allowing students to practice their trade in local businesses through internships, or in community service programmes concerning the elderly.

If educational institutions work hand in hand with the community, they can secure a better future for themselves and for the newly-empowered community. Easy access to schools, affordable tuition fees, available scholarships, and relevant training courses translate to future employment of the students, who are the current children, the future parents and the future professionals that local communities are made of. If these opportunities are not available locally, young people have no alternative but to leave for another city that offers some employment or education opportunities or find work as an unskilled

worker and perhaps even seek other ways, not always legitimate, to generate income.

An Education Revolution would be incomplete if no changes were made to prepare the best faculty and teachers to educate young people. Faculty is important not only to the reputation and the quality of an educational institution, but is critical to inspire and prepare students in their educational endeavors. To supply the demand for quality teaching, a great difference in the existing system and in education can be made by effectively training new teachers and young faculty. Starting now, the new generation of faculty can bring new energy, knowledge, effective teaching methods and improvement in the curricula - changing the way education is delivered. Thus, it is crucial that the next generations of teachers and faculty be equipped with the most updated methods of teaching and critical thinking skills.

In addition to the new supply of teachers, a meaningful pedagogical training that is comprehensive, thorough and more intense has to be offered to all existing teachers, to review and update their teaching strategies, skills and methods. Such advanced training must be provided on a regular basis and on a variety of issues for the development of faculty at all levels, especially in higher education. This training in new teaching and learning methods must become mandatory for all faculty immediately.

A grassroots movement
Bringing about an education revolution requires drastic changes in the attitude toward education management, financing, curricula reform, academic flexibility, research collaboration, delegation of authority, training of young people in fields that are needed in the community and much more. It also requires a long-term commitment of the stakeholders, which is everyone in the community, to make education a priority and make every possible effort to improve its status. A long-lasting partnership with strong ties between educational institutions and the community must take place. Educational institutions that subscribe to a partnership approach have better relations with industries, local businesses and local communities. Close ties with communities will not only enable students to research local concerns, but the relationship also offers an opportunity to the local communities to better identify the needs of their educational institutions and assist them to expand programmes as needed.

An effective reform of the education system in Pakistan requires a bottom-up approach. Pressure and support from everyone in the community can initiate much-needed changes and become a powerful tool for progressive reforms. It can also serve as a support base where educational institutions tap into resources to develop financial independence, purposeful programmes and fulfill their goals of serving society. While the education revolution must become a part of everyone's vocabulary and a very important part of each and everyone's life, it is the duty of the educationists to make this revolution meaningful, effective and inclusive.

A public platform
The Third International Conference on Issues of Education: a National Education Forum, to be held on October 21-23, 2010 at University of the Punjab, Quaid-i-Azam Campus in Lahore, is part of this bigger plan supported by the newly-established Pakistan Education Council and Sughra Begum Centre for Education Policy and Development (SuBCEPAD), at the University of the Punjab, Institute of Education and Research. The National Education Forum (NEF) will establish a much-needed platform where primary stakeholders of various levels of education will meet and discuss the educational path in Pakistan, identify its needs, develop a response to the new budget crisis, and bring recommendations to the attention of policy and decision makers. The conference theme "Issues, Challenges and Reforms in Pakistan" aims to gather the education community in Pakistan at the national level to have a greater voice in shaping national procedures and policies with the ultimate goals of improving the quality of education in Pakistan and increasing the participation rate, especially of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds at all levels of education.

The more we participate, the faster we can expect results.

By Rudina Xhaferri and Khalid Iqbal - The writers work for the Promotion of Education in Pakistan Foundation, Inc., USA (Dawn)

Your Comments
"A very good article but what we need, is some practicle actio"
Name: Tahir
City, Country: nsr, Pakistan

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