January 05, 2013
DR ZAFAR ALTAF
January 05, 2013
Ever since HEC was created and even before that I have been wondering as to what is in essence the issues that confront our education. In fact my love lost for the HEC is there from its inception. It is nothing personal but it is on ideology and equity that I fight this losing battle.
It was and is customary to agree with the power bloc and another thing to take them on when they are running their gumboots on everyone. Reason has it that the minority though reasoned will never win the argument with the powers that be. What is higher education for and what and why do we have our universities the way they are. Have we lost the ability to think and steer a new course or should we be dictating 1930 notes to our students and give them worthless degrees? The ancient designation of a universal school of learning was ‘Studium Generale’. This implies an assembly of strangers from all parts of the world in one spot -from all parts; else how will you find professors and students for every department of knowledge. Rudimentary as it may seem a university is a school of learning. In the case of Pakistan does it give the philosophical requirement to students in the university and do they come out well versed with not only knowledge but also skills in communication and do they circulate their thought to their colleagues in the university?
Does this mean that there has to be a way for mutuality of education and not only whose flow is from teacher to student but also from student to student. It seems to me that both formats of communication are now stagnant. There are very few occasions where this incessant education is continuing. Agriculture and hikmat were the two areas where this mutuality was passed on from one generation to another. Modern times make this interaction through the media easier and the written word though important has been more or less overtaken by the electronic situation. The danger is that there will be times when the electronic media knowing its strengths does perform irresponsibly. The values and cultures can be changed as has happened elsewhere in terms of deprived and depraved have been led astray by suggestive and hidden persuasion by the media.
Education of the formal or of the above mentioned informal kind can have any kind of effect on the younger generation. There is then a flip side to what electronic media and the various kinds of knowledge are generated on the young minds. The face-to-face contact still has the greater power than any or all these kinds of new interventions that have come up. This puts greater pressure on the teaching class and the universities where these minds come for getting a more mature education. I have always wondered why one can graduate with a paper roll in one hand when the world of universal education says it’s a different ball game. How does one then worry about the intellectual education of the humanity that lives in Pakistan? Specifically, how would one like to attack the issue of rural education? By focusing on the cities we have robbed the rural areas of their rights.
Political power can be ruthless as we have seen in the recent events in Pakistan. Take any power segment of this society, analyse it, and you will find out why the system does not work. Is universal education being practised by Pakistani universities? Do they send out citizens who will deliver for this state? Has modern civilisation created fabulous fecundity for the younger generation? Will the computer serve the purpose of creating an intellectual giant in this country or will this be part of the ‘fabulous fecundity’. You see school after school trying to say that the computer is magic and that the school will create computer literate. Fine. The student who uses this for plagiarism still gets to cut-and-paste system without really understanding what has happened while arriving at a conclusion. In actual fact the HEC-supported universities are now offering PhD degrees through this art of taking mutual knowledge of others and showing them as their own. Primary data is seldom used. The tragedy is that the intellectuals that are supposed to create more intellectuals are found wanting.
The university is where the development of the mind takes place through interaction with a more intellectual individual. No book and no computer can provide the delicate peculiarities of the subject with that rapidity and certainty which comes with the sympathy of mind on mind. In the process of resource bribery by the HEC we seem to have lost the ability to stay and fight for the truth. The ease, the self possession, the power of conversing, the power of delicacy of thought and many more skills that come from a giant intellectual are missing. We are at the moment given to borrowing from the West and doing as to what they have stated in the books that are in our universities. We have not a single book written by any teacher that is relevant to Pakistan in any subject. The teachers exercise of mind is so demeaning that if we were to go to the functional universities (agriculture or medical or engineering) we would find a woeful lack of knowledge. This means that we will never be able to come to grips with our standing in the comity of nations.
What then is character and what are the values that we are developing in our society? Is it not visible to all of us that the country is not governable? That we lack the ability to foresee and the ability to determine what is happening to us? Is the education system responsible for this lack of abilities? So by working the elite system the HEC has erred and one is not surprised for if ever a social audit is done of the HEC a can of worms will come out. It was one of the ways to siphon off resources that rightly belonged to the poor masses in the country. Higher education was also a place where the self-censorship system was developed. Talk to anyone that has committed the grossest of crimes and he will justify his actions. In all personalities there is a bit of antagonism that is positive in its format for it enables an individual to see right from wrong and gives him the ability to keep a direction that is desirable. Have we developed that in any segment of our society and if the bureaucracy and the political system are from this part of the country are they delivering?
Does that mean that the university is to be a school for manners so that one unlearns the various personality kinks that come up with the passage of mutual interactions with the other members of a society? Have we not developed hate in our country? Have we not taken to a level that nothing is relevant except the ability to abuse the system till one is in power? Is our National Assembly a symbol of fair and equitable discussion and a mutuality to take the country forward? Are we not caught in a web where the life of the ordinary citizen is at stake? So what have the power elites done about it? The high offices are unimportant in the final analyses. Can we hope that the HEC will produce by its largesse to universities the kind of policymakers that will make Pakistan proud? There is more to say but that has to wait for another time.