ISLAMABAD-The youth of the country is hellbent yet helpless against the status quo of clandestine leadership. Appallingly, the partisans in Pakistan form a touring circus, with eccentric and erratic theatrical performers of self-professed prophetic saviors of the realm. In the tent are the age 60+ ring leaders of deceitful master planning, age 40+ class of attention diverting hecklers, age 30+ league of radical gymnasts hopping from stance to stance, and age 20+ confederation of boxed up party-political contortionists. The collective communion of which becomes a sentiment stimulating political party and the public their victim. If this is the leadership of men, then democracy is a sham, the law is an obstacle, development is a money-laundering, politics is corruption, media is hypnosis, the military is an intimidator, and finally, orange is the new black. Quaid’s Pakistan has become tribal warfare, and Iqbal’s imagination a hallucination.  

Leaders are no godsent avatars of purity, and leadership is no god-gifted inheritance. Leaders are birthed in a folly culture of their predecessors, influenced through principle teachings and personalized through a life riddled in action. The community defines the contours of society through its morals, activities, and commandments. The society determines the cerebral physiognomies of its populous, and the inhabitants reflect their idiosyncrasies in their political discernment. Through this intonation, we select leaders as a reflection of ourselves; that is precisely why the waling prayer for a saint never comes to a pass.     

A country’s nationalistic trajectory is conscious decision-making, based on the information we possess to make the determination we believe we need. The current state of Pakistan, left by our leaders, implies that the knowledge powerhouses are not only inept but also substandard. As of the 2018 census, the literacy rate of Pakistan stood at 62.3% (Male: 72.5%, Female: 51.8%), with 24% under poverty and 2.9% of GDP expenditure on education, in comparison to the global average of Male: 90% and Female: 82.7%. The government defines literacy as a shallow boundary, “ability to read and understand a simple text in any language from a newspaper or magazine, write a simple letter and perform basic mathematical calculations.”

The hierarchical schooling structure is complex, with parallel regimes at every stage. In the public sector, the primary/secondary level education is divided into English and Urdu mediums, whereas higher/intermediate education is in English.

The government employs the teaching staff in the public sector, and the salary structure is nominal but secured with lifetime perks, pensions, and benefits. Subsequently, all levels of the affluent private sector are English based with contractually hired high salaried academics.

The curriculum for public schools is modeled on the pre-partition British era education with timely inclusions of modernity, history, and religion. The private sector runs on a contemporary format in compliance with the British universities. The university-level education is mostly inclined towards the American model. Therefore, a child transpires from the British into an American system over their academic lifecycle.

This disparity between the public and private systems has played havoc with the young mindset. From childhood, parental financial standing determines a child’s mental signature and academic roadmap. The rich brats flaunt to Aitchison colleges, the barbies to Grammar schools, and bourgeois to Beaconhouses.

The monetarily deprived working-class venture through government model institutions with meager academic standards. The curriculum and the quality of service sculpt not only the intellectuality of a child drastically differently but also their future positioning in the global market.

The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training with all stakeholders should conduct system-level reforms rather than cosmetic initiatives at every level. These changes must include:

Unified governance – An autonomous centralized body should be established for administrative management, fiscal funds, human resources, and curriculum setup. The required regulatory and enforcement frameworks, authority and accountability hierarchies, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should be chartered and implemented by having a single regulator in a corporate structure with its spread from federal to provincial to district/tehsil levels. Education to be treated as a strategic issue of national importance with enforced national policies.

Madrassa integration – All religious schools to be standardized under the single syllabus program with the exception of religious studies.

Standards of excellence – A pre-defined set of performance indicators and control measures should be set to keep abreast with international standards. Best practices to be imposed, reviewed regularly and monitored strictly.

Academic training – A point-based criteria, including academic standing and teaching experience, should be set as a pre-requisite to position allocations. An array of training institutes should be established across the country. Refreshment courses to be made obligatory to receive promotions and pay rises.

Ranking and promotion scheme – A title and ranking system similar to the military and judiciary for promotions. Perks, privileges, and responsibilities to append with titles and honors.

Fee and salary caps – A national-level cap to be introduced on both the fees charged and the salaries paid. Incentives such as index-linked pensions, medical benefits, and allowances to substitute for current pay structures.

Single curriculum – The syllabus should be based on conceptual and scientific learning to enlighten minds rather than rote methods. The use of ICTs/IoTs and educational programs on media to be made an integral part of the amalgamated learning regime. 

Student streaming – A single standard national examination for aptitude testing and university enrollment to replace individual college/university-based scrutiny. Point-based ranking to allocate pupils to universities in subjects with the most promise. Low scoring individuals should be directed to vocational training. Career counseling to be obligatory at all institutes. 

Scholarship/loan program – A standardized performance ranking performa to be made mandatory for every pupil from higher education levels. This would select the brightest minds to attend local and foreign courses with monetary incentives.

Through these reforms, the institutional structure would be uniform, regulated, evolve dynamically, and run professionally. The aspects of improved performance, structured taxation, and incentivized development would solve the discrepancies within the current system. The value-added service, economic prosperity, and trained manpower export would add foreign remittances to the national exchequer. Education is not a collection of certificates but a broadening of the human intellect through knowledge transfer that allows for informed decision-making and reformation of societies. Pakistan can emerge as a knowledge Mecca with our future leaders an offspring of the much-needed reform. 

- The writer is a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cambridge, UK. He is an expert in emerging technologies and currently serves as the Vice President of Core Group in Pakistan. He can be reached at ahmed.kiani@coregroup.com.pk