Education in Pakistan: Issues and Perspectives

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Rauf Parekh

“Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in afterlife—save only this—that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education,” once said J. A. Smith, professor of moral philosophy at Oxford University.

Ours is a country where an alarming number of children, both male and female, are out of school and what the successive governments during the last 65 years or so have been doing or talking about education might sound “rot” today, though many of us may not be able to detect it. Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed in his new book ‘Taleem: masail-o-afkar’ (Education: issues and reflections) does not exactly tell us who is talking rot these days, but he has an insight and a different perspective that can help us understand what ails our educational system and how to approach the related issues.

The book is divided into five sections and has an appendix. The third section relates to the election manifestos of our political parties publicised during the 2013 general elections. It reviews the manifestos of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party.

He finds every party’s manifesto lacking in one way or another, though Dr Ahmed has very delicately balanced his criticism with carefully worded praise. Most of the articles included in the book were published in an Urdu daily. In fact, in the very first article of the series, he has summed up the whole issue.

In the opening paragraphs of the article, Dr Ahmed says: “Keeping in view the record of the elected governments in our country, these manifestos are nothing but a ritual. Rarely do the political parties look back to their manifestos once they are brought into power. It has also been noticed that political parties usually do not do any homework before forming the government nor do they study in what way they are going to implement the manifesto and how long it will take. The political parties, as a result, after coming into power find themselves forced to depend upon the bureaucracy”. But still Dr sahib painstakingly goes on to review the manifestos with a faint hope that gradually things will improve and political parties would learn from their mistakes. How much they have improved, this we can find for ourselves as we have been able to see two budgets tabled by the newly-elected federal and provincial governments and the funds allocated for the education sector.

Dr Ahmed is cautiously optimistic in the articles included in the first section of the book, reviewing the movement and speed of the journey of the education that we had initiated after the independence. Though he does not sound pessimistic while tracing our educational history, he makes us realise that much is to be desired. The second section discusses some theoretical issues concerning education. The fourth part highlights some personalities and their role in promoting education in Pakistan. The last section appreciates the educational, literary and cultural activities in the city of Karachi.

Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed is the director and a professor at Karachi University’s Pakistan Study Centre and has a doctorate from Cambridge University. He has a large number of books and research articles to his credit and is respected for his in-depth knowledge on history, politics and constitution of Pakistan. Another aspect of his personality is his commitment to human rights and peace. Published by Lahore’s Fiction House, the book is a successful endeavour to look at Pakistan’s educational problems and presenting them in a light, readable and non-pompous style.

What one concludes after studying Dr Ahmed’s book is that the successive governments have been very ‘honestly’ trying to keep the nation uneducated so that nobody detects what rot they have been talking and doing. But scholars like Dr Ahmed are trying their best to make us realise what governments have been up to, albeit this naive nation is still waiting for the arrival of a messiah—with or without a container—from a faraway land, promising them heavens. What the education has taught scholars like Jaffar sahib and what they are trying to disseminate is that what matters is making sure that the politicians do deliver. And if they don’t, they do not deserve our votes in the next elections, that is, if and when they take place.

Rauf Parekh, ” Literary Notes: Education in Pakistan: issues and perspectives,” in Dawn, June 16, 2014. Accessed on March 1, 2015, at:

The item above written by Rauf Parekh and published in Dawn on June 16, 2014, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on March 1, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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