Dilemmas of Higher Education and Research in Pakistan

Higher education is integral for prosperity of a country. It aims to produce intellectual beings who can become useful members of the society thus contributing towards progress of their country. Sadly, very less attention is given to the significance of higher education in Pakistan. This is mainly because our country still has the most absolute number of children out of school anywhere in the world, with 5.6 million out of primary schools and around 5.5 million out of secondary schools. According to a recent report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country is due to report on the Sustainable Development Goals to the UN in 2018, however, it is no nearer to meeting the deadline of 2030 for ensuring that all children receive primary education.

Research and development is the backbone of an effective higher education. Unfortunately, R&D is not much encouraged in Pakistan. Quantity is more emphasized than quality. This results in scholars producing a large number of publications regardless of quality research material. It is clear from the fact that hardly any research journal has received global recognition. While thinking about the condition of higher education in Pakistan, a quote of J. Michael Adams (former president of the International Association of University Presidents) comes to mind. He said, “A PhD does not automatically denote wisdom. Merely perseverance.”

Another major hurdle in the way of R&D is the unfriendly behavior of supervisors. This problem is faced by majority of the students who want to pursue higher education.  Higher education is very different from primary or secondary education. It requires a lot of guidance from supervisors. Also, MPhil scholars are largely dependent on their supervisors. Sadly, favoritism and nepotism are significant factors contributing to the timely completion or delay of research work and its publication. Unfriendly behavior of supervisors either demotivate the students or they entirely loss their interest in the field of research. This problem is probably one of the major reasons of reduced number of scholars in the country. Yet, not much attention is given in this regard.

Higher education system in Pakistan is also marred by various financial restraints. In the financial year 2017/18, authorities in Pakistan again failed to fulfil their promise of allocating at least 4–6% of their GDP to education. R&D cannot be done without money. Monetary incentives are significant to enhance the quality of research in higher education sector.

There are a lot of governance issues in higher education sector in Pakistan. Recently, a huge number of irregularities in the appointments of Vice Chancellors of various universities have been observed. Such irregularities indicate the presence of political influence in academic institutions. This is a serious impediment to independent working of higher education institutions. HEC should ensure that the induction of VCs and other critical administrative positions at academic institutions are filled on merit.

All the above mentioned issues often leads to brain drain in the country. Students are more attracted towards foreign countries for the sake of higher education. Most of the foreign countries understand the significance of an effective higher education system. That is why they offer better research facilities, economic incentives and healthy research environment.

There is no doubt that a lot of work needs to be done in primary and secondary educating sector but higher education sector should not be ignored. It has become a necessity of current era to produce intellectual beings who can think and work for the betterment of humanity. The high ups of higher education sector in Pakistan needs to realize that not enough is being done for the betterment of this sector. The sooner this realization prevails, the better. Serious, immediate and effective measures are need of the hour. We should not forget the quote of Quad-e-Azam about the importance of education of our country. He said, “Education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan. The world is progressing so rapidly that without requisite advance in education, not only shall we be left behind others but may be wiped out altogether.”

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