Pakistan higher education special significance
Higher education: failure to invest will be fatal
Sept 28: The world is witnessing the emergence
of a knowledge-based economy where the role of knowledge is recognised
as critical input to economic growth and development. Higher education
indeed is critical for acquiring knowledge and joining the league of a
Education in general and higher education
in particular is of special significance for Pakistan to live as a
civilised society in the comity of nations. At the time of independence
in 1947, Pakistan's population was 32.5 million. By 2009-10, the
population is estimated to have reached 166.5 million. Thus, in roughly
63 years, or in two generations, Pakistan's population has increased by
134 million or has grown at an average rate of 2.6 per cent per annum.
today has more mouths to feed, more families to house, more children to
educate and more people looking for gainful employment with millions
migrating from the countryside to major cities in search for jobs. The
large population on the other hand also provides an opportunity for
Pakistan to fuel its economic growth for the next fifty years by reaping
Pakistan is witnessing changes in the age
structure of its population, with the proportion of working-age
population (15-59 years) increasing and offering a window of opportunity
to turn this demographic transition into a demographic dividend. As a
result of a decline in the total fertility rate down to 3.6 per cent
from as high as 6.3 in the 1970s, the share of working-age population
has increased, while the share of young (0-14 years) population has
witnessed a decline.
Pakistan is a young country with a median age
of around 20 years. It is estimated that there are approximately 104
million people below the age of 30 years; 90 million below the age of 19
years; and an approximate population of 40 million between the ages 10
and 19 ready to enter universities in a few years time. This 90-million
young population in general and the 40 million youth in particular are
of critical importance for Pakistan's future as a civilised society by
actively participating in the knowledge-based global economy.
to convert demographic transition into demographic dividend is the real
challenge for a Pakistan going forward. This transition to dividend will
not be automatic. Massive investment in people -- health, education,
vocational training will be vital for achieving the dividend. East Asia
successfully converted demographic transition into demographic dividend
by investing in people in the 1970s.
For Pakistan, this is a
time-specific window of opportunity. This opportunity is not going to
last forever. Pakistan has no option but to grab this opportunity by
investing in its people. If we fail to transform the 90 million young
people in general and the 40 million youth in particular into productive
citizens by investing in them, the future of Pakistan would be bleak.
Could we afford that?
It is in this perspective that investment in
education and health is important. Unfortunately, whenever the country
faced budget constraints, spendings on education and health became
victims of financial indiscipline. The recent stalemate between the
misguided finance team and the respected vice-chancellors is a classic
example. It is the university which, by imparting quality education not
only produces high-quality manpower but good-quality graduates to teach
school- and college-level students. Hence, the quality of teaching would
depend on quality of graduates graduating from universities which, in
turn, would depend on the resources made available to the universities
by the government.
The importance accorded to higher education in
Pakistan is still at the age of infancy. Pakistani universities have
always been starved of resources until the establishment of the HEC in
September 2002 by the previous government. Substantial resources were
provided to the universities and as a result both the quality and
quantity of university graduates increased tremendously. The enrollment
to higher education more than tripled in just eight years; the number of
universities more than doubled; the number of PhDs produced by
Pakistani universities almost quadrupled; nearly 4000 students were sent
abroad to complete their PhDs and almost an equal number are completing
their doctorates in Pakistani universities. Most importantly, teaching
in universities has emerged as a prestigious and prized profession in
Instead of further enhancing the quality and quantity of
university graduates by allocating more resources to them, the present
government began to cut their budgets even before the adverse effects of
the floods. If we do not invest sufficiently in education, higher
education, health and training, we will not be able to transform the
millions of youth into a productive and responsible citizens of this
country. Failure to invest is not an option. Pakistani universities
desperately need financial support from the government.
required from the misguided economic managers is to re-prioritise their
expenditures. Before lecturing the vice-chancellors r on the need for
them to prioritise their expenditures, they should first set an example
themselves. After all, charity begins at home.
-Dr Ashfaque H Khan. The writer is director general and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (The news)
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Saarc Youth workshop
Islamabad: Three-day Saarc Youth workshop started on Monday with the aim to promote regional harmony among young generation.
Saarc countries-Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and
Pakistan-are participating in this workshop. Ministry of Youth Affairs
in collaboration with Saarc Secretariat had planned the workshop, which
would conclude on September to 29. Five-member youth delegation from
each country is participating in the workshop.
Secretary, Ministry of
Youth Affairs, was the chief guest while Joint Secretary Sohaila
Mushtaq also attended the inaugural session of the workshop.
of Youth Major (r) Iqbal Ahmad in his welcome address said that "youth
is a key to our future, also active partner of the present and therefore
demand our special attention. "We need to create such a supporting
environment for our youth where they can polish their mental, moral,
social, economic and spiritual faculties and where they can contribute
freely and positively towards peace and the societies they live in", he
He said that there is an increasing focus on youth at
international and national level by the policy makers in Governmental
and non-governmental organizations to ensure a bright future for the
piece and betterment of the society.
"As far as the youth of Saarc
region are concerned, I think this region has a largest cohort of Young
people in the history" said Iqbal Ahmad. He said that the youth of this
region is confronted with multifaceted socio-economic problems. He said
that the prominent among them are un-employment, under-employment, lack
of guidance and counselling, increasing violence, terrorism etc, adding
that there is a strong need to address the youth issues on war-footing
"We need to work together to cope with these problems and
promote the ideas of peace, mutual respect and the understanding between
the people of the region", he said.
The initiative of government of
Pakistan and Saarc Secretariat will help to promote regional harmony
among the youth of the region, he said.
He hoped that the
participants of this workshop will discuss the ways and means of
promoting regional harmony among the people of region specially the
young generation and recommend the steps for governments, civil
societies and media etc.
He assured Saarc Youth of Pakistan's full
support to all the initiatives undertaken by the Saarc Secretariat,
hoping that such workshops will enable us to better understand the
issues relating to youth and their solution.
representatives also gave their suggestions, one from each member
country. Later the delegation members also visited Taxila Museum and
Gallein sites. The news
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