In today’s globalised world, what is more important for a country or nation to succeed: capital, leadership, education or better institutions and governance? I hope most of our answers will revolve around education.
Education is the key to success for most developing democracies, such as Pakistan. Former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt famously declared that ‘the real safeguard of democracy is education’.
But what sort of education? Does the traditional system work? Our traditional educational system still has many problems, and we are even unable to demolish the line between those who can study in English versus Urdu, which separates classes and produces distinct sets of ideologies and personalities.
But perhaps one of the greatest challenges we are facing today is ‘enlightening the minds’ of our youth and engaging and creating the new sets of skills needed in the contemporary world. So far, our institutions and teachers have been preoccupied with enhancing students’ cramming abilities which are specifically designed to promote the get-a-job mindset rather than one prompted to create a new ventures.
Considering the current levels of unemployment in Pakistan, it seems that our institutions are providing data but do not provide practical exposure to entrepreneurship. There is a big gap between capacities, interests and creativity.
Various experiments employed by different actors have failed to create any success because there is no engagement with students or young people and industries, and such programmes, policies and curricula are designed in isolation.
There are great debates over education reform, but do we have any institution providing skills in communication or leadership? Do they teach us values and the world is outside the classroom? Do we consider socialization and citizenship while formulating policies for education? We either produce saints or robots, secular or radical but not leaders with vision and creativity.
Therefore, even our democracy didn’t succeed since we aren’t taught to choose wisely and express our choices. What is needed to revamp this whole system? I myself hail from a rural background and graduated from Sarkari (public sector) university without any aim but to get job in the civil services to rule over the deprived and serve the parochial and invested societies of elite in the country.
However, by being a part of international society, foreign services and consultancy, I have had an opportunity to experience various practices in education, politics and governance from its social, human and economic aspects in different countries. I found it quite eye-opening.
Take the example of developed countries like Germany or Korea, which share a common feature of miraculous development: both built their human resources from ashes and raised their economy with promising and compelling research and development and educational institutions.
What are the reasons for these countries’ success? The significant factor was how their institutions nurture young people through a dynamic curriculum specifically designed with industries in mind, keeping the market at the heart. Programs from engineering to social sciences are designed to foster creativity, conceptualization, collaboration, communication, and computation.
There is a dire need to revamp our educational system in Pakistan and enable youth to learn beyond classrooms. By engaging them with industries and markets to ignite their potential, it will not only reduce the unemployment rate but will be helpful in countering extremism in long run.