Our Educational Peril
Lack of Diversity in our Higher Educational Institutes is hindering our progress
By Umer Raza
When you hit the search button at Google to know about the top ranked universities of the world you get the following list.
|1||Harvard University||United States|
|2||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||United States|
|3||University of California–Berkeley||United States|
|4||Stanford University||United States|
|5||University of Oxford||United Kingdom|
|6||University of Cambridge||United Kingdom|
|7||California Institute of Technology||United States|
|8||University of California–Los Angeles||United States|
|9||University of Chicago||United States|
|10||Columbia University||United States|
Source: Washington Post (Errors and omissions are regretted. There are many other sources and lists with different rankings, however, this article is not about ranking list)
For the purpose of this article and space I have listed only top 10. While it is no surprise and we know that US & UK are leaders in Educational Universities. The more we hate this to be true and acknowledge the more we want to go there to study, provided we get the chance (money, admission, luck all are different forms of chances). This list indeed goes on and includes more universities and countries where they are situated.
The list also reflects as to more you have high-ranking educational universities/standard the more developed or world leader you are in all the significant spheres of the world including and not limited to politics, influence on economy and other matters of life.
There is much of course written on the poor standard of universities in Pakistan and overall educational standard. There are some brilliant pockets of success and stories, at the same time, within Pakistan of students who actually go to study in these universities and prove their worth globally. There are also some isolated examples of some good research universities, faculties and teachers in Pakistan. However, these are examples of individual brilliance and not part of any systematic or process driven effort or endeavor. Since these are individual cases therefore they are hard to replicate anywhere else within Pakistan. Though such examples do rise, their heads occasionally from different corners of the country, but as I said earlier that they are not product of a system or process, that’s way one cannot sustain this product nor their next packaged delivery can be guaranteed.
Now I would not like to further depress the situation by pointing out that if we go down the list of top ranked universities we find some Indian universities as well. But to our satisfaction or consolation first Indian University (University of Dehli) comes at number 316. And to our dismay (but to somehow satisfaction as well) first Pakistani University (Quaid e Azam University Islamabad) comes at number 496. This data is available on the Washington Post website. Well, you may like to disagree with this or you may have some other source of data, where the numbers might be somewhat different or Pakistan might have another university in top 500 ranked. But my assertion is not to argue about, which number and which list. The situation might remain the same. So let’s move on and argue for the purpose of this article, any possible way forward and the role of government in this highly significant matter.
For this argument, I would borrow another line of data and research. This is Global Innovation Index (GII). GII was started a decade ago and it is done by Cornell SC Johns College of Business in association with World Intellectual Property Rights Organization. According to GII of 2019, the confidence interval for Pakistan’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index 2019 is between 98 and 108. There are two levels where they judge the innovation capacity of a country, Innovation Outputs and Inputs.
In 2019 Pakistan (as country) ranked 113th in Innovation Inputs. Innovation Inputs: measured by fiscal policies, other policies and innovation environment. Hence government has to improve the fiscal policy and innovation environment.
As for Innovation Outputs, Pakistan ranked 89th. The Innovation Output measures the extent to which ideas from innovative sectors are able to reach the market, providing better jobs. Hence government has to work on creating market for innovative products not services.
And the overall Innovation Performance is measured by R&D results, business performance, and public impact of innovation.
Switzerland is ranked number 1 in Global Innovation Index and at the same time it is one of the most business friendly country. When I looked at the same list of top ranked universities I found a Swiss University (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) at number 26.
Going a little in the past, the global innovation index of 2015 placed Pakistan at 131 ranked out of the 141 countries. So in 2019 we have improved on this. At that time the National Assembly asked the ministry of Science and Technology for this low performance and they submitted two main reasons.
- Low percentage of GDP for science and development (which of course is not a hidden secret)
- Low standards of science in our educational institutions. (which Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy is crying for years to improve)
Dr. Jamil Salmi (a renowned Morocon born educationist and Tertiary Education Coordinator in the World Bank’s Human Development Network) in a world bank report of 2009 mentioned three important points for the world great universities.
a) Sizable budget (this may not be in our control in Pakistan)
b) Combination of Freedom autonomy and leadership in the education institutes (we can train and teach this in Pakistan, though we may have hard time doing this)
c) Concentration of highest level of talent under one roof regardless of national boundary i.e. diverse mix of teachers, students and management at institutes. (this one is an interesting and doable argument)
Now based on the above pieces of information, where we saw the global university rankings, GII, information by Ministry of Science and Technology of Pakistan and idea by Dr. Jamil Salmi what options do we have.
The Government has at least one thing to manage and look into. While we may not be able to provide or enhance the budget for science and technology in universities. We need to be realistic about it as there are other more pressing issues confronting our governments. We may definitely look at the third option given by Dr. Salmi i.e. c) Concentration of highest level of talent under one roof regardless of national boundary i.e. diverse mix of teachers, students and management at institutes.
When we go back to the first part of this article and see that only one Pakistani university is in top 500 rank and that is non other than QAU we need to dig as to what makes QAU land at 496 rank, while other very good universities like LUMS, NUST, GIKI and IBA has more recently grabbed a lot of national attention but not in the top rank. While there might be other factors as well but we may need to attach this 496th rank with point c of Dr. Salmi.
QAU can be considered as a university of Federation. It has a very healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) mix of diverse cultures. Students, teachers, management and others are from different parts of the country making this university a truly national one. Other universities may need to provide such diversity in their departments, while attracting students, faculty and management from diverse backgrounds. This point by Dr. Salmi is not expensive and we may relate to this in order to make a positive headway and avert our educational perils.