Some of the Western experts say that the prime reason of Pakistan’s poverty is its huge population. They may have their own reasons to establish their point of view but many local experts completely disagree with this state of mind. Now there is a growing consensus that a population of 200 million people is country’s biggest asset. At present the country has the largest percentage of youth, which is ambitious and hardworking but needs education as well as vocational training to become productive element in the society.
In the past it was also said that the country is suffering from brain drain, and some of the policy planners were opposed to allowing Pakistanis to go abroad and earn for themselves and their families. The time has proved people of such myopic view completely incorrect. Now foreign remittances have the second largest share in total foreign exchange coming into the country. Over the years the annual inflow under this head has increased persistently and substantially. The monthly quantum of these remittances now exceeds one billion dollars. Had these amounts not there the country would have remained submerged in serious balance of payments crisis.
The significance of Pakistanis is evident from large number of people working in transnational and multinational companies, besides hundreds and thousands of skilled, semi skilled and unskilled working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). These educated people and hardworking labor compete with people belonging to all races and countries. Despite 9/11 and its impact on Pakistanis working in the US and European Union, the growth in remittances coming from these countries clearly suggests that people having the required skills are still welcome and can earn respect in those societies by working hard and proving that they are normal persons, not the militants or extremists.
For nearly six decades the West has been telling us to opt for reducing family size. Pakistan has been spending millions of dollars annually, though coming as grant and assistance, on creating awareness about benefits of smaller family size and sale of contraceptives rather than spending the same amount on education and healthcare of Pakistanis. The number of educated people has remained low only because of lack of facilities at the government institutions and high cost charged by the private schools, colleges and universities.
The West created two myths: 1) due to shortage of food people suffer from malnutrition and 2) high unemployment rate is because of fewer employment opportunities. The policy planners were also mesmerized by these mantras and never realized that the fear of food scarcity was created rather than helping the country in increasing area under cultivation, improving production and productivity and constriction of storage facilities to save the produce going stale before reaching the market. In fact the foreign donors wanted to keep Pakistan dependent on aid, grants and their own food grains rather than allowing the country to achieve food security.
The inadequacy is evident from poor yield, loss of nearly 10% of food cereals and 40% of fruits before reaching the market. Partly the successive governments could be held responsible for poor state of economy as they have never been fully cognizant of importance of education. This is evident from paltry spending of around 3% of total annual budget on education. This amount covers education at all levels that include primary, secondary, university and higher studies. The situation would have gone had private sector not established schools, colleges, universities and professional institution to impart education in medicine, engineering and technology.
It can be said without any doubt that Pakistan has never had a comprehensive and fully integrated ‘Education Policy’. Most of the time the policy planners were told to come up with policies that could help the governments of that time to attain political mileage rather than improving the quality of education. The biggest evidence of this lopsided effort is the syllabus followed, which is completely detached from the requirements of the country.
The malfunctioning of education system is also because of distribution of responsibilities among federal and provincial governments. The syllabus followed in different provinces is not the same. Some critics say that educational institutions located in metropolis like Karachi don’t follow the same syllabus. Since these institutions cater to the needs of different income groups, the objective of seeking education is not the same. The rich want to send their children to those schools which can help them getting admission in ‘elite of the elite’ local and international institutions. As against this objective of parents belonging to middle and lower middle income groups is help their children get a degree but not seeking knowledge. Therefore, when these two types of youth enter into job market they are offered different jobs and paid salaries, which have vast difference.
Adding to the insult is following different systems and medium of instructions. Though, it is said that these systems are there to serve the needs of different segments of the society but in fact the education system is widening the divide rather than brining different segments closer. In fact when graduates enter the job, only then they and their parents realize that they chose a wrong institution.
Madarsas system was introduced in this part of the world decades ago to serve ‘haves not’ but it seems that a large number of these institutions has been hijacked by those who aim at fragmenting the society through creation of extremism and militancy. It is often alleged that these Madarsas are being funded by ‘foreign elements’ who wish to attain dominant position in Pakistani society that can help them in achieving their vested interests. It is often alleged that some of these institutions not only offer free education, provide residence but also pay huge amounts to their parents. This make the parents think more about the money being paid to them rather than the education and changing mindset of their children.