Ignorance and education - Dr A Q Khan Monday, April 18, 2011

There are two aspects to ignorance: (1) the person is illiterate and (2) the person is educated but is incapable of using his knowledge, and takes decisions which in the long run are damaging to him. There are also those who are educated and knowledgeable, but who succumb to self-interest and greed and give wrong advice, which results in serious damage to the country. A notable example of this was the nationalisation policy of Mr Bhutto, which he adopted on the advice of such people.

Education can be defined as knowledge, learning, teaching and understanding. British philosopher Thomas Huxley says: “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the things you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learnt and, however early one’s training begins, it is probably the best lesson that one learns thoroughly.” In short, the difference between an educated and an uneducated person is like that between one who can see and one who is blind.

The purpose of this column is to discuss the devolution of the Higher Education Commission. In the developed countries the ministries of education and science and technology are entrusted to highly experienced and qualified experts. We should also have adopted such a system. However, we have a dearth of educated and experienced rulers and our public representatives thrive on fake and degrees or dubious ones from third-rate universities. Their main priority is corruption, nepotism, foreign trips and propaganda in favour of their political party.

After the establishment of Pakistan, we had such educationists as Dr Mahmood Hussain and Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi. Such towering figures are a scarce commodity nowadays. If you question anybody on the street, even students, they won’t be able to tell you the names of the current ministers of education and of science and technology.

Mr Bhutto established the University Grants Commission (UGC) to streamline the functioning of the universities, provide them with adequate funds and raise the standard of education in the country. He was an intellectual, had vision, had studied in the US and the UK and knew the importance of education. He was poles apart from the present mediocre rulers. Realising that the rapid industrial development in many countries was due to their progress in education, the UGC was converted into the Higher Education Commission and my dear friend and scholar, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, was appointed its chairman. In order to give it more weight, the government gave him the status of a federal minister.

For the first time ever, sufficient funds were provided to the HEC once during this period to a maximum of about $500 million. This sounds like a lot of money, but in the developed countries, a single university has three or four times this amount as their annual budget. During the years of its existence, the HEC sent thousands of talented students – many of them poor – for MS and PhD degrees abroad. It was a commendable initiative and it resulted in the increase of qualified teachers in the country.

I had discussed the programmes of the HEC with Dr Atta-ur-Rahman and expressed some reservations about the priorities set by the HEC, and suggested some modifications. I believed that, since we were still an underdeveloped country we ought to put more emphasis on technical education. Setting the goal of establishing six or seven universities with the help of foreign countries was not feasible, and this later turned out to be true. Rather than that, I advised we should concentrate on establishing a federal university with emphasis on engineering faculties.

Not only could we not afford to build and equip six or seven universities, we would not have been able to find enough experienced faculty for them. For one state-of-the-art university we could have requested foreign countries to donate one faculty, complete with equipment and faculty members. I was sure that some countries would have agreed, and with the participation of a number of countries in this project, it would have truly become a multi-cultural, international university. The basic sciences could have been taught on a need-to-know basis, as the existing Quaid-e-Azam University, Punjab University and Karachi University have excellent faculties and teaching staff for these subjects. They could have been strengthened to improve their performance.

We know that thousands of our students go abroad for higher education every year and each student costs about four to five million rupees per year. The HEC was a blessing for poor, talented students because it enabled them to go abroad. With the setup I had suggested, we could have locally provided a good standard of education up to MS level. Students could then go abroad for PhD studies and, within a few years we would have been in a position to initiate PhD programmes. I also had in mind close liaison with local industries, advise industrialists in setting up high-tech industries and supporting them with technical expertise and guidance.

Unfortunately, the HEC has become a chicken laying golden eggs in the eyes of the uneducated and ignorant. After having destroyed so many institutions, our rulers seem hell bent on destroying this well-established federal institution as well and handing over its pieces to the provinces where the ministers are not even capable of running and maintaining primary schools, to say nothing of higher education institutions. Many knowledgeable people have warned the rulers, writing comprehensive articles about this unwise action, but they been deaf to all this advice. People having no advanced education or degrees are telling us that they know more about education than we, the foreign qualified and highly experienced scientists, engineers and educationists.

It is now generally believed that the HEC has become a victim of the fraudsters and fake degree-holders, who want to prolong their rule with their fake degrees in hand. The rulers even went so far as to order the vice chancellors of the various universities not to verify the degrees sent to them by the HEC. Another reason for their interest is the funds allocated to the HEC. The provincial rulers will eat it up in the same way as they are doing with school funds.

My warning to the rulers is: you are not only destroying the HEC, you are murdering the future of Pakistan; you are trying ignorance and you and the country will face the consequences. History will never forgive you and will remember you for what you are – illiterates, ignorant, fraudsters, corrupt, selfish and incompetent. Unfortunately, ignorance is being disseminated from the top.

Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=42325&Cat=9

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