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Secret to success?

Karachi, July 28: Farwa Kamal, an 18-year-old-student of Foundation Public School, is faced with a predicament - most of her classmates are going abroad to do their Bachelor's this summer. However, owing to financial constraints, she had to abandon her dream of studying in one of the most prestigious universities of London.

The question is, what compels Pakistani students to opt for a foreign university? What makes them look up to foreign universities? This need to study abroad, though it has been 60 years since independence, makes it obvious that we still feel inferior to our colonial rulers. Be it education or medicine, we prefer to go abroad to learn what they study because we don't seem to trust our teaching system.

Owais Jafer, 17, appeared for his O-Level exams this session. He says that he prefers a UK university over a Pakistani one because he thinks it will provide him with better career opportunities. "I want to end up somewhere great - a place that has a good reputation and background - a college that will have the potential to open up new avenues for me," he says. His friends couldn't agree more. Yusra Imtiaz 17, who also appeared for her O-Level exams this summer, believes that a foreign degree is imperative for success. "True, studying abroad has some difficulties associated with it, but no pain, no gain."

It is no secret that Britain is expensive. So it is not that surprising that not all parents can afford it. They need at least a million rupees to finance their studies and daily expenses every year. And even with some financial aid, the cost might be still too high for most parents. But is this investment worth it? Not necessarily, it seems. Most Pakistani students who make a journey to the UK are not able to sustain the enthusiasm and eagerness that is imperative for success at any university.

Mohsin Sadiq is one example. Though he went to study, he now mops a McDonald outlet in central London. "It is useless to come to London. Had I been in Pakistan, I would have been living a respectable life. Here, I am forced to work because I am not used to starving. Those lads who come here without any prior arrangements for money end up here. Most of my Pakistani friends who came with me now either work with me here or stand at a petrol station instead of attending classes," he laments.

Studying in a foreign university is considered to be a privilege. "Studying abroad costs most families a fortune and not every other student from Pakistan gets a scholarship or financial aid. There are a lot of students vying for every penny in UK," says an analyst. According to her, our students unnecessarily degrade Pakistan's universities. "For many young people, London is at the top on their priority lists. They believe that London holds the key to success. This is an absolutely false notion as the chances for success for a LUMS or IBA graduate are equal to that of an LSE graduate," she notes.

However, there is a vast majority that believes in studying in Pakistan, at least up till graduation. Maryam Baqir, an A-Level Karachi Grammar School student, feels that there is no pre-defined criterion for success. "It all depends on the individual. Not every one is guaranteed a place at the most prestigious university in the world. We must be able to cash in every opportunity that comes in our way," she adds.

Zarish Rasheed, another Grammar School student, says that four years of college and university from England is a waste of money. She says that if one wants, they can do their post-graduate from a prestigious university, because while at work, no one cares about the place where one studied from. "You must know how to talk to people and make good decisions. That is all that counts when one goes out to work. A British university cannot guarantee this. They can make us excellent decision makers, but not excellent speakers. The most important ingredient of success is self-belief," she explains

There are numerous universities in Pakistan that provide the same level of education as those in the UK, and an equal opportunity to succeed. Higher studies in fields such as Literature, Engineering, Medicine, Law, Business, Architecture or Arts have a strong structure in Pakistan, even the best in the region. The Indus Valley and NCA in Lahore have produced many good young artists such as A.R. Naeem, Ali Kazim and Amna Hashim who have had the honour of holding many exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad. Sajjad Kausar a famous architect is yet another graduate of a Pakistani university.

In the field of medicine, Pakistani universities have a solid reputation and have stood the test of time by having educated some of the best doctors. Also, they take less time and less money but demand work, as tough as any foreign university.

On the flip side, those interested in subjects such as Archeology, Anthropology or Music, may have a harder time finding teachers since it is in this area that Pakistan doesn't provide a strong forum. These candidates do have a good reason to pursue their studies in another country. A foreign education will raise their chances of success in Pakistan and internationally.

There is no doubt about the fact that universities in Pakistan are indeed doing a good job in producing many young, brilliant professionals in several fields. It seems that it boils down to an individual's decision to study in Pakistan or not. Going abroad may cost more, but it cannot assure success. One has to decide what it is feasible and how to make the best of one's available resources. That may end up being the secret ingredient for accomplishment.

By Rabab Z. Naqvi (The news)
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