“Education system in Pakistan is as unstable as the overall political and economic situation of the country. It is not necessarily underdeveloped or bad, it is just unstable and inconsistent,” said Adam Weinstein, an American scholar at Quincy Institute in an exclusive interview with Academia Magazine.
‘Pakistan has some of the best educational institutions in the world or the region, at least. But it has these wide gaps in education that need to be improved,’ he asserted while talking about his perspective on the education system of Pakistan.
He believes that private universities like LUMS and public universities like Quaid e Azam are as good as other universities in the world. Talking about them, he said he is impressed with the faculty and students of QAU.
However, he expressed his disappointment by stating that access to education in Pakistan is dependent upon the class you belong to. ‘Particularly, the pre-university education is inconsistent depending upon class and geography and this is where Pakistan is lagging behind the most’ he added.
The research scholar has a great interest in the foreign policy of Afghanistan and Pakistan. When asked about his research interests in Pakistan, he keenly responded, ‘Pak-US relations are dysfunctional and they have enough potential to make it interesting.’
Both of these nations without a doubt have a great potential for relations considering the history of co-dependency in security programs and multiple development programs. These relations, along with a strong foreign policy, can be affected greatly through the student exchanges that are currently happening and can be increased.
Currently, after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the region also faced a great deal of instability. Pakistan had a huge influx of immigrants and many students from Afghanistan started taking admissions to Pakistani institutes. This is definitely a great step to accommodate these students, but does Pakistan have enough resources for that? Adam Weinstein stated that our government has not cared about it enough. He explained that Pakistan can take a lead from a human rights perspective to particularly supporting the education of Afghan girls who have been excluded from high school. ‘That’s a good opportunity for Pakistan to assert itself as a leader.’ he expressed.
Weinstein has also been a member of the American-Pakistan Foundation’s leadership, which he thinks is working effectively bridging the gap between the youth of both the countries by providing opportunities like fellowships and scholarship programs to Pakistani students.
Thousands of Pakistani students are currently studying in the US. Some are studying on scholarships and exchange programs and others are self-supporting their studies by working there. Weinstein spoke about the keen interest among Pakistani students to acquire higher education in the US. ‘There is immense potential in the exchange programs. Pakistani students go to the US and study at elite institutions and the American population is exposed to them in a way it has never been before.’
He smiled as he said, ‘You see the vlogging videos. Those do nothing. These exchanges do something.’ Moreover, he thinks that Pakistan needs to develop to increase these exchanges to Pakistan too.
He is of the view that the students from the US and Europe should also study in Pakistan.
Do we have enough resources or a good infrastructure to offer international students from countries like the US some exchange programs? Weinstein believes that this is indeed possible, and that Pakistan has a lot to offer to these students. ‘It can be a six months exchange. The students can study language, climate research, research related to irrigation, water tables, and other agriculture programs,’ he further added. “Pakistan is faced with issues like climate change, drought issues, irrigation, air quality, etc. It should be selling itself for these issues, he stated.
But does Pakistan have enough resources for an endeavor like this? “Funds for this can be generated by requesting investments from private investors or international bodies.”
When asked about the resources Weinstein said, ‘It does not have to be detrimental if you do it in a more intelligent way by seeking funding from the UK, US, UN, and the private philanthropists.’
This won’t be the first time a third world country will offer exchange programs to international students. India is an example of one such country.
The scholar raised the question as to why people are studying Urdu in Lucknow and not in Karachi or Lahore.
‘Pakistan needs to create conditions for academic exchanges and must take the lead. A lot of this doesn’t have to do anything with security but just with feeling organized’, he said.
The discussion moved to analyzing the education system and the drawbacks in it. ‘Pakistan needs to have consistent high-quality education at the lower level for the younger ages that isn’t class dependent and isn’t geography dependent,’ he commented.
According to him the biggest issue facing education in Pakistan is not in the education system itself, it is in the job market.
“Pakistan is developing these educated youth who have master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and PhDs, and what is waiting for them when they graduate?”, he asked.
‘No society can remain healthy if they have an educated young population that has no prospects. That is a recipe for disaster, it is a recipe for political unrest, and it is a recipe for dissatisfaction’, Weinstein asserted.
What happens to the talented people who graduate with a high skill set but are not welcomed by the market because there are not enough avenues where they can apply their skills and earn? The result is brain drain which is what Pakistan is currently facing. The brightest people want to get out of this country. They go to get master’s degrees and never come back. Do they not like living in Pakistan? Talking about this issue Adam said, ‘This should be considered almost a national security crisis for Pakistan to have this kind of brain drain.’ He is of the view that the state should create incentives for youth emergently because there needs to be a payoff for education.
Another important concern to Pakistan is to earn a place in the global knowledge economy. But why is Pakistan lagging in the knowledge-based economy? Pakistani students either want to be bureaucrats or leave for another country where there are better prospects.
‘This situation is not good for business. Without indigenizing its education, it makes Pakistanis go abroad and never come back. It should allow them to flourish in Pakistan. The Pakistani education system needs to have value in and of itself inside the country. It should not be seen as a pathway out of Pakistan.’ he emphasized.
Moreover, there is a huge British influence on the curriculum or the overall education of Pakistan. ‘Students are studying for British tests and you have to think if that is what the education system should be focused on. All of this money and all of this focus is going to a UK-based test, how does it even make sense.’ Adam examined while cross-questioning the situation.
When asked where does he see the women in the education system of Pakistan, he was more hopeful, excited, and satisfied than anyone in the country itself. He believes that Pakistani women are everywhere in the government. “They have and are serving as the Prime Minister, ambassadors to the UN, in foreign services, leaders in political parties, and the military.” he added.
According to Adam, Pakistani women are quite educated and a part of public life. ‘This is what Pakistan should be proud of but it doesn’t brag about it enough. Pakistan should be talking about it all the time but they don’t’ he expressed.
He concluded the interview commenting on an important problem but with a positive statement, ‘Freedom in Pakistan depends upon where you are and who your relatives are. That could be improved but Pakistan should be proud of what it has achieved thus far.”