What’s Wrong – Pakistan’s Higher Education System

Issues in Pakistan’s Education System: A Focus on Higher Education

Scientia Potentia Est, or “For also knowledge itself is power”, is a very popular Latin maxim that all of us will have heard or read quite a few times throughout our school days. In the fast-paced, rapidly growing information age, it could not be any truer.

The concept of knowledge economy hovers around the utilization of knowledge and information as a productive asset. All the sectors, be it services related or manufacturing related all rely on knowledge and information for productivity; be it a groundbreaking piece of code for a software, or the schematics of a new prototype car.

Knowledge is gained through two methods; one is experience, the other is formal education and training. Experience can only come with time; however, we still need to understand our experiences. That is where education comes in.

Education is a building block of life as we know it, without which, we would not have the world we see now. It is widely understood that a country with a good education infrastructure has everything it needs to become a successful, highly developed nation. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll try to see where Pakistan’s education system stands, what challenges it faces, and what possible solutions we might have.

The Current System:

Pakistan’s education system is split up into five levels. The first level starting from grade one and going up to grade five, is Primary Schooling. This education varies from school to school with some private schools offering exceptional schooling but at a very high price, and public schools often being termed mediocre; we’ll talk about the issues later on through this article.

The second level, Middle Schooling, starts at grade six and continues up to the eighth grade. Again, the curriculum and schooling criteria varies from school to school, but the same conception applies here as well. Public schools are generally considered lackluster as compared to some private schools and the elitist schools offer the best schooling, at exorbitant fee structures.

The third level consists of grades nine and ten, and is called Highschooling. This level is followed by Matriculation or Secondary School Certification (SSC) Exams. These exams are conducted on a provincial or district level. Once again, the quality of schooling varies from school to school with some schools following the Cambridge system of education.

The fourth level consists of the eleventh and twelfth grades, and is called Intermediate Level Schooling. These two years of schooling are offered at several schools and also at several colleges, and are followed by Higher Secondary School Certification (HSSC) or Intermediate Exams. Like the SSC Exams, these are also conducted at the provincial level, as well as the federal level.

Though these two years are the foundation for students as they determine a direction that they take for their career, students often change their career paths after their intermediate education and certification. There seems to be a growing need for student career-path counseling.

The fifth level is composed of Undergraduate and Post-Graduate degree programs. The Undergraduate or Bachelors degree programs range from a Bachelors’ in Arts to Bachelors’ in Law, covering several different programs. The duration of these programs varies according to the nature of the specialization or course, from two to four years. There are several private and public universities spread out across the country that offer such bachelors degree programs.

The Undergraduate or Bachelors’ programs are of two types; Pass and Honors. The Pass system comprises of twelve subjects, ranging from compulsory Language, History, and Religion based courses, to optional courses that cover specific areas with a duration of two years. The Honors system constitutes specialization courses in addition to select compulsory courses over three to four years.

The Post-Graduate degree programs consist of Masters and PhDs in various subjects, ranging from philosophy and education to business administration and engineering subjects. The Masters programs are of around 2 years, and consist of specialization courses in a chosen subject. The PhD programs are a further extension of specialization and are of around three to five years.

With several public and private universities and degree awarding institutes offering these programs, the quality of education varies profoundly, with select institutes given preference over others. The reason for such a vast difference in the quality of education is primarily the curriculum used, and the faculty of that institute. Once again, we’ll talk about the issues in more detail a little later on through the story.

The Issues:

Though Pakistan has a very high number of private and public sector schools, the quality of education leaves a lot to be desired. Some private sector schools do offer excellent quality, but have such a high fee that the lower middle income group can hardly afford them. Additionally, most public sector schools lack enough competent teachers to cater to the high demands of this age group.

The most critical aspect of the earlier stages of formal education is the development of an inquisitive and active mind. If a child is encouraged to think out of the box from such an early age, not only would his learning experience be a lot more productive, he would grow into a prodigious professional.

Additionally, another common complaint of parents of public-sector school students is poor English vocational skill. This once again, falls under the umbrella of ineffective and unskilled teachers.

A very critical issue our intermediate level students face is a feeling of general mayhem and incertitude of their direction in life. Though some students have a fairly good idea of where they want to go, most do not, and this is why they end up changing their career paths during their higher education.

Analysts and critiques argue that the reason for this irresolution lies in the fact that our current education system does not seed curiosity nor does it encourage further research. The reason behind this, they point out, is an ill-planned examination system that is graded according to a student’s ability to memorize selective topics in their curriculum, and to rewrite them onto paper. Our education system is in dire need of rejuvenation, and though it has already started, there is still indeed a long way to go.

Also, another reason for this uncertainty is a lack of guidance and counseling. Due to our social setup, most students need constant feedback and guidance to steer themselves into the right career. This can only be done if all schools set up student counselors who would help students decide a particular field they wish to enter.

At the university level, a major challenge is the lack of skilled and competent teachers. According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, “There are far too few qualified Pakistanis who can teach modern engineering subjects at an international professional level. There may be no more than two to three dozen suitable engineering professors in all of Pakistan’s engineering universities.” He further points out that the current number of engineering professors is minuscule if you look at the number of professors needed by the several international engineering universities being set up throughout the country.

Another very major concern is the development of a suitable curriculum and examination system. Though the Higher Education Commission is currently developing a standardized curriculum for all public and private sector universities and institutes, the development of existing and new faculty will take quite some time.

Possible Solutions:

One possible solution to these problems is already under way. The restructuring of the entire system has already started and it is gradually being reworked into a more coherent and encouraging system for all. The system needs to be transformed so that it cultivates curiosity and research, instead of just going through a selection of notoriously irksome books.

Moreover, we need to train our teachers to be more receptive of their students, instead of just being receptive of the books of their curriculum. With formal training, teachers can improve their language skills, as well as their direction and teaching skills. In simple words, we need to train them to be more open-minded and curious, so they in turn pass on that trait to their students.

As for the lack of qualified Pakistani teachers and professors, one possible solution is to set up mandatory training courses for all teachers, as well as suitable experience and educational qualifications before allowing them to become teachers at higher education institutions. As for the immediate need, we need to hire foreign faculty for all our educational institutes while the currently employed teachers undergo mandatory training.

As said in the beginning of this story, education is a building block of life as we know it and it is the primary thing that makes us human. As a child grows, he learns, and what he learns, he must be given the freedom to practice, and to grow. Without this freedom, he will confine himself to a cocoon, yet he will not transcended beyond that stage, and he will not turn into a butterfly.

A child’s mind is like a blank canvas; use the right combination of colors, and it turns into a Van Gogh or a Michelangelo, use the wrong combination and it turns into muck. The development of a child determines his outlook and standing in life.

I came across a very famous dialogue from a blockbuster Hollywood movie, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is”, and it truly is!

Retransforming the Education System

There are certain set of moral values and traditional beliefs that are passed on from older generations to newer generations. These values and belief now however are falling short of the latest trends in the education system. We all now that change is inevitable. Based on this theory the education system also needs to undergo tremendous change so that it can cope up with the fast changing times. The old standards of reading, writing and learning have to be left behind in order to put new methodologies to use. The world today is a global village and the education system of today revolves around this thought.

The subjects whether related to academic topics or with social concerns are being talked about at international level and not at national or regional level. The schools today are not teaching the lessons of patriotism. No one wants to limit their child’s thought to the borders of a country. The teachers of today teach the lesson of unity in diversity. Instead of teaching “God bless America” teachers are emphasizing on “We are the world”. The lessons that even give a single hint of racism or traditionalism have been chucked out of the text books. The text books have lessons which are compatible with the whole world. The social issues also are related with issues like global warming and other environmental issues.

The question that arises is that is all this that is happening for the good? Are we sure that this transformation of the education system will not have any wrong results? It is high time that we the people put on our thinking caps and take hold of this situation. All the things that are happening are having a politically correct angle attached with them. The upcoming generations are becoming dumber. We are sending our children to schools to make them even dumber. The moral values are running the lowest with the youth of today.

Children find it very hard to respect their elders and children can not be blamed for this. They are not being taught that paying respect to elders is important.

The children today are more impatient and lack common sense. The only good thing that they see in the whole world is their video game console. They are free to play whenever and wherever they feel like. The interest from studies is also diminishing as there are many governments across the globe which have banned the concept of giving failing grades to children up to a particular age. This was done as a step to improve the education system but the irony of the situation is that the standard of education has fallen even lower than before because the children have stopped taking studies seriously.

Giving the children modern day education is a good thing happening around but this modern age education must take along with it the old morals, values and beliefs in order to achieve over all improvement t of the society. A perfect blend of the old and the new concepts will not only make excellent professionals but will also make good human beings.

Understanding the Education System to Study in New Zealand

Primary School Education

Schooling is available to children from age 5 and is compulsory from ages 6 to 16.

Primary education starts at Year 1 and continues until Year 8, with Years 7 and 8 mostly offered at either a primary or a separate intermediate school. Most schools teach in English medium, but some schools teach in the Maori medium.

Some schools in New Zealand are Kura Kaupapa Maori in which the principal language of instruction is Maori and education is based on Maori culture and values. Most Kura Kaupapa Maori caters for students from Years 1 to 8, and a few (Wharekura) cater for students up to Year 13.

Secondary School Education

Secondary education system in New Zealand covers Years 9 to 13, (during which students are generally aged 13 to 17). Most secondary students in New Zealand attend Government-funded schools, which are known variously as secondary schools, high schools, colleges or area schools.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the national senior secondary school qualification to study in New Zealand. Students are able to achieve the NCEA at three levels via a wide range of courses and subjects, both within and beyond the traditional school. The three levels of the NCEA correspond to the final three years of secondary schooling (Years 11-13). The student must achieve 80 credits on the National Qualifications Framework, 60 at the level of the certificate and 20 others to gain an NCEA.

Tertiary Education

The tertiary education to study in New Zealand is used to describe all aspects of post-school education and training. There are 36 public tertiary education institutions, including eight universities, twenty-one institutes of technology and polytechnics, four colleges of education, three wananga (Maori tertiary education institutions). There are also 46 industry training organizations, and approximately 895 private training establishments, which include private English language schools, registered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Tertiary education in New Zealand offer courses at widely different levels, from transition programmes to postgraduate study and research.

Technical and Vocational Education

Technical and Vocational Education to study in New Zealand is mainly offered at institutes of technology, polytechnics, private training establishments. Some programmes are also available in secondary schools, wananga, government training establishments, one college of education and several universities.

Higher, or Degree-level Education

Universities usually offer higher, degree-level education, but institutes of technology, polytechnics, wananga and colleges of education, and at some private training establishments also offer higher degree programmes.

Summary: School Education in New Zealand is divided into Primary and secondary education. Post school education is covered by tertiary education. Technical and Vocational Education is offered by institutes of technology, polytechnics, private training establishments. Higher education to study in New Zealand is provided by Universities and other institutes.