History of developed civilizations teaches a lesson to humanity that education has a vital role not in development of societies rather it engender memories in form of knowledge for coming generations which cannot be effaced. In modern world education, science , technology , intellectual development etc., have roots in education system. In contemporary global world economic development is reflection of quality education especially concept of knowledge base economies purely relies on innovative approach of institutions of higher education. Pakistan has produced a large number of scholars after establishment of higher education commission but irony of fate is, its reflection is not satisfactory in socioeconomic development of country. It is scientific approach that if results of an experiment are not appropriate than change the procedure. In developing world, there are many examples to be followed but Chinese miracle is inspiring. The reason is, it has close relationship with Pakistan and it’s plight in the 1980s was identical to ours.
Chinese Education Miracle (vision of Deng Xiaoping)
Chinese cultural revolution(1966-1969) culminated into a big jolt for University education because students left the institutions to propagate Maoism. Deng Xiaoping who succeeded Mao as a Chinese leader, realized the fragile conditions and laid the foundation of modern China by introducing four modernizations. Scientific development and transformation of society was impossible without modernization of education system. In 1985, major reforms were announced in field of education. Aim was to enhance number of enrollments and nine year education (6 years primary and 3 years middle) was made compulsory and rating of schools was monitored on their ability to provide enrollment of graduates for universities. Poly-technical colleges admitted students with exposure in the field of agriculture, business and industry. Uniform curriculum was designed for schools with centralized control system.
Deng wisely opted policy of decentralization and autonomy for colleges and universities. In 1985, State Education Commission was formed which almost abolished ministry of education for higher education and it remained functional until 1998. Institutions of higher education directly coordinated with Planning Commission. Universities were autonomous in development of their curriculum, staffing and engagement with other organizations.
Development of Higher Education System
Priority was again enhancement of enrollments. Natural sciences were promoted instead of social sciences because communist party thought that apolitical nature of science and technology will not create political challenges and on the other hand will provide impetus for promotion of industry. College entrance exams were introduced but government realized that rural area student could not compete well so should not be ignored for enrollments. Chinese, foreign language( mostly English) and mathematics were major subjects for entrance exams. Following important steps were taken by government.
• Universities have to provide force for production based economy and after achieving goals they will promote knowledge based economy.
• State owned enterprises , organizations and individuals were encouraged to pool for reforms in education. Universities were autonomous to coordinate with them.
• There was no appropriate budget for development of universities . Endowments , allocated budgets and fees were not enough so two steps were taken.
A- Low interest rate student loans from banks and degrees were offered for employees of organizations. Employer paid to universities and five year payroll deduction plan was for graduates.
B- There was shortage of trained staff. In 1990s only 15% students studying abroad were graduates. Mid career professional (aged 35-45) were sent abroad as visiting scholars who had to occupy responsible positions in universities in future.
• In 1998 China was able to develop its higher education infrastructure with trained professionals and now economy was able to pool for innovation era.
Present plight of higher education
Chinese universities are grabbing enrollments from third world countries now and reason was their autonomy though a communist regime is ruling country with iron fist.
• China is heading for knowledge based economy after surpassing stage of production based economy.
• There are more than 3500 universities out of them almost 500 are private institution.
• Innovative universities are being developed now to produce scholars. These universities are of two types
A. Carrier of innovation (researchers of creative abilities)
B. Centers of innovations (owned research centers)
( Remember, researchers are those who can integrate innovative ideas and product)
• President Hu popularized knowledge and innovation economy after 2005.
Reforms in Exam system
• Chinese University intellectuals soon realized that exam system cannot judge creativity of student rather focus should be on learning process.
• Researchers need attitude and approach towards creativity and traditional exams cannot judge it.
• Gaokao, is entrance exam which is still under some criticism. It has 3+X ( Chinese, mathematics, English and one elective subject)
• Creative approach is being judged by essays and short questions like
Write an essay on Edison , how will he react to mobile phone on visiting 21 st century ?
Write letter to 18 years old people in 2035?
• OECD comprised of 37 leading nations have average of 8 researchers out of 100 students. Finland is on top with average of 15 leaving behind Sweden with 13.6%. China has an average of 2 and is improving itself means going towards knowledge based economy with high number of patents.
• Important lesson to be learnt is, Chinese students have highest percentage in Swedish Universities as foreign scholars.
• Chinese universities have piloted this project to enhance enrollment, grab more job for their graduates in market and to surpass universities of Hong Kong & South Korea which may attract chunk of foreign students from China.
Model is based on academic studies with clusters of vocational certificates .
• Hybrid model of studies, universities are inviting the professionals to join faculties and administration to materialize the effort.
• On completion of pilot project, University will be declared applied University and later on policy will be applied in all provinces.
Lesson for Pakistan
1. Pakistan has some commonalities with Chinese like, dual nature of society( rural and urban) , need of graduates for production based economy, shortage of trained professionals, shortage of budgets etc.
2. Second thing is we have close ties with China. There are seven proposed Economic zones with CPEC. China had announced four economic zones in 1979 before reformation of education system.
3. Governments and universities should focus on existing sustained sectors like agriculture, livestock, food industry, pesticides, textile, sugar industry, etc. to commence the journey. There are following steps important with reference of China.
• Decentralized and autonomous structure for universities.
• Mid career University employees should be sent universities abroad as visiting scholars for short periods.
• Universities should autonomously enter into agreements with public and private organizations for education and training of their employees to generate own extra budget.
• Micro projects for researchers with private organization in sectors mentioned above.
• Foreign Pakistanis and Alumni should be engaged voluntarily.
• Maximum level of enrollment achieved with collaboration of school and colleges.
• Change in examination system and entrance of exams is a must. Exploitation of set patterns by cramming cannot judge behavior and approach of graduates.
• Foreign language and creative subjects should me made compulsory.
• Language software should be developed for translation of research papers especially from Scandinavian languages (having highest rates of innovative scholars).
There are other examples like South Korea and Malaysia which are inspiring. South Korea has huge investment in education and most of it’s universities are in private sector so we cannot follow them. Malaysian higher education system supported nation’s production based economy because Mahatir Mohammed remained Education minister himself. It is not progressing towards knowledge base economy.
In Pakistan , we don’t have umbrella of true autonomy around universities and lack of nexus with economic sectors is creating gulf between higher education and economic growth. Reforms of micro level are always done by institutions themselves. Reformation in traditional systems of exams and change in environment in faculties is the need of hour.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.