Friday May 20, 2022

Education for growth

January 30, 2019

Socio-economic development and poverty alleviation are the key focus areas for our government. In the same spirit, the CPEC base has been broadened by promoting these sectors to facilitate residents in terms of employment and exchanges.

To give practical effect to these plans, China and Pakistan will make efforts to carry out vocational training and improve higher-education resources to carry out design and R&D activities besides ensuring cooperation in various sectors. The newly-established Joint Working Group (JWG) on Socio-Economic Development has been tasked to identify and ensure the implementation of pilot projects in education by setting up smart schools and knowledge-sharing in faculty development.

Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that we should seek knowledge, even if we have to go as far as China to gain it. Therefore, we ought to learn from China’s journey to become one of the world’s most influential economies. The same can be said about China’s robust and evolving education system, which is the largest in the world.

As per China’s national statistical yearbook for 2018, over 5,944,950 regular teachers are contributing to the most diverse education system in the world, with a focus on tertiary education. In the last 20 years, China has been able to build specialised higher-education institutions (HEIs). In order to give education and academia the respect that it deserves, Teachers’ Day has been observed on September 10 since 1985.

I realised the gap in our education system when my two children faced enormous challenges in terms of creativity and technical knowhow in their Chinese school during my four-year stay in China. Therefore, I believe that as Pakistan embarks on the journey of industrial rejuvenation by encouraging foreign investment and joint ventures, there is an urgent need to reform the education system. This will enable us to produce human resources that are suitable for the envisaged industrial growth.

There is a growing need for a clear and correct diagnosis and the importance of education in economic reforms needs to be re-emphasised as it is believed that knowledge and the economy are closely interconnected. By narrowing down the causes and realising the long-term impact of such disparities, the process of reforming the education sector would be more effective.

We cannot expect to improve economic growth with an old education system as the increasing disparities would further delay development. Much has been said and written about the systemic issues in our education sector, with experts viewing it as a hurdle to sustainable economic growth. In order to cater to the needs of accelerated industrial development on an immediate basis, we need to reform our curriculum and increase accessibility to higher technical education.

Following in China’s footsteps, we also need to start institutions such as a vocational technical college for the light industry, a petroleum college and a railways university on the basis of a public-private partnership. The National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (Navtec) also needs to be improved to maintain its quality and relevance, and must introduce online courses to provide technical training in rural areas. In the short to mid-term, specialised teacher education programmes in modern technical and vocational areas need to be introduced. The HEC must develop professional development centres (PDCs) in all HEIs across Pakistan to train faculty and students in specific knowledge and skill domains within the spheres of coastal and harbour engineering, tech textile, aerospace, supply chain, industrial and logistics zone planning, railways, tourism and urban planning.

The youth has been defined as an asset and the educational system is a means to leverage this asset. If we don’t develop our educational system, we may fail to become the leading economic power, with a promised GDP growth rate of around seven percent.

Our regional competitors have prepared well in developing human resources. With growing connectivity and Pakistan’s role in the region, we also need to capitalise on the increased demand for skilled workers in both domestic and international markets, especially in new technologies. However, this will require immediate measures at all levels from the government and private sector.

Thousands of years ago, Confucius said that: “education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope, and hope breed peace”. To cultivate hope in our next generation, we must develop an education system that is tailored to face the storm of new technology while developing creativity as well as cross-cultural understanding and acceptance.

The writer is a project management

specialist and a faculty member at various universities.