Taking Pakistan a level ‘up’!

“Good Afternoon, sir! Can you please let me know the research opportunities available in your department (The Institute of Clinical Psychology) for students aged 18?” – I asked curiously.Sorry sir, but we offer this facility primarily to students who have completed their masters or are doing a Ph.D in Psychology.” – responded the receiver.“But sir, I am a student of great academic interest. Being passionate about doing some research work in my favorite subject Psychology, I’m sure there must be some space for me!”“Sorry, we can’t help you in this matter. Thank you for calling Institute of Clinical Psychology, Karachi University.”

Alas, the hope dies (again). This is not the first time someone has tried not to offer me assistance pertaining to doing a major research work in my subject in Karachi. The past few days I have mastered the skills to convince people of my academic ability and enthusiasm in carrying out a research work, but, apparently like other students of my age, all attempts have ended up becoming a mere failure.Do I attribute the reason of not ending up doing a research work due to my age (because I’m just 18?), or towards the strict policies of the institutions I am calling, or I attribute it to the government’s inept of not providing research facilities to young enthusiasts who are passionate in brain-storming their ideas and want to do something beyond the ‘texts’ of their course books? I will attribute this reason to the government failure of not taking seriously the growing interests of youth in Pakistan.

I admire quite a few of the latest policies of government when it comes to education (such as building of more schools in rural areas, allocation of more funds to government schools, stricting policies with regard to drop-out rate and other malpractices etc.) but I am far from admiring the ‘lack of innovation’ in the Pakistani Education System.One such innovation failure, as said above, is the lack of basic and professional research facilities for teenage students in Pakistan.

It is reported that the research output by universities in Pakistan in terms of number of research publications as against the total faculties of universities is not more than 13 %. My personal opinion is that these teenagers which comprise of 24 % of the total population in Pakistan, on average, are  more satiated with zeal and zest in pursuing their academic interests than people in their 30s, 40s and higher doing their Ph.Ds’ and thus, can yield an exalted productive output from their research work, when given the opportunity.

This research will not be only useful to the students themselves in terms of learning more, as an add to their CV and of getting an early-age rich research experience but will also be healthy for the image and economic growth of the nation in the long-term as these very teenagers, with their innovative capabilities, will build new, efficient, cost-effective models of products as they progress on with their age. It is not uncommon to find young students in developed countries such as United States, Portland, Norway, Singapore etc gaining a research experience before going to college. This is the reason why these countries are far ahead from many nations, including Pakistan, in innovation, R&D and creativity.

Another highlighting lack of innovation in Pakistani education system is the lack of ‘say ‘of students in the formation of educational policies. Although international development agencies and active NGOs consult government on educational policies – as required by National Education Policy (1998-2010) – but it is far from obvious that any concrete, viable policies have been implemented so far. Like politicians know best about the politics in their countries and therefore are thought to be ‘relevant’ when it comes to forming government policies or making amendments, students are best aware of education system in their countries and thus SHOULD be thought as best consulting source when it comes to reforming educational policies.

I agree that students can lack experience and every one of them can come up with their own reforms and problems, but we can at least put few best policies forward and work on them. In this way, the students will feel a part of decision-making process in educational sector and will be motivated to work harder for boosting the image of the country that gives them a right to contribute in the process that affects them directly.Similarly, there are other countless innovations that can be done in education system in any country. Such innovations, although associated with high costs in the initial stage, can ensure long-term massive benefits to the country. Also, the need for such innovations have become an immediate demand of the nations including Pakistan today because of the growth in the number of students who want to take their own initiatives and get exposed to things before they actually enter into their practical lives.

The government of Pakistan should take this matter seriously and agree to the fact that lack of innovation in education system is a significant hurdle in the progress of nation. In this regard, the government of Pakistan should establish more research institutions in Pakistan for youth, (with an ability to carry out advanced forms of research such as ‘Action Research’ and ‘Program Evaluation’) starting off with initial pilot-institutions in the main cities of Pakistan such as in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. For less well-off students, some sort of research-grants/scholarships must be introduced so that research institutions are accessible to students from all walks of life. Secondly, creativity and independent thinking should be encouraged amongst students from the day they join school and emphasize on critical thinking should be exerted.

The teachers should come to realize that the cognitive development of child is what gives oneself a peace of mind and a ‘job-well-done’ satisfaction, and not the monetary gains. The teachers, by forming a liberal-thinking approach, should also create a space in their schedule to welcome academics and personal problems from students on a one-to-one basis and solve it maturely and skillfully. Lastly, the Pakistani government should welcome students from different educational institutions and backgrounds so that they can give their say in the educational policies whenever they are formed. After keeping in view the contributions retrieved, the government can then select a few of them which it thinks are possible to be implemented in the mean time and can yield the best possible outcome.

With such measures taken by the government, we will, assuredly, be able to see a marked improvement in the education system of our country, and see most of the problems that arise from the lack of education such as extremism, poverty and divide between the rich and poor being curbed. Along with this, the youth of the country will get an accessible opportunity to develop their initiatives whether it is carrying out an empirical research on the ‘effects of gun-violence on children’, starting an NGO that provides a cost-effective health insurance to poor-stricken people or joining a local student government body to work for the development of the community. The tip is to just come forward and ‘do’ it! – Born This Way