In Defense of Pakistan's Higher Education Reform

Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy is a vocal critic of Pakistan's Higher Education Reform initiated by Dr. Ata ur Rahman, adviser to President Musharraf, in 2002. This reform resulted in over fivefold increase in public funding for universities, with a special emphasis on science, technology and engineering. The reform supported initiatives such as a free national digital library and high-speed Internet access for universities as well as new scholarships enabling more than 2,000 students to study abroad for PhDs — with incentives to return to Pakistan afterward. The years of reform have coincided with increases in the number of Pakistani authors publishing in research journals, especially in mathematics and engineering, as well as boosting the impact of their research outside Pakistan.

Reacting to the recent publication of a report on reform by Dr. Athar Osama, Prof. Adil Najam, Dr. Shams Kassim-Lakha and Dr. Christopher King published in Nature Magazine, Dr. Hoodbhoy wrote a letter to the editors of the magazine that was highly critical of the HEC under Dr. Rahman. Here is Dr. Rahman's response to Dr. Hoodbhoy's latest criticism:

There are four aspects of the comments of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy that need to be considered:

1. Firstly, Dr. Hoodbhoy himself admits that there has been a huge increase in international publications at QAU after HEC came into existence when he mentions the number of international publications in the two time periods. Strangely, he picks a six year period, 1998-2003, and then compares it with the subsequent 4.5 years (?) , 2004 to mid 2008, (the correspondence occurred in August 2008, so he could not possibly have had access to the figures for the entire year) I can only assume that he has mentioned 2003 by mistake in the second “5 year” period as there is no reason to include the publications of the year 2003 in both time periods, which he has done. It is clearly unfair to take two time periods of different durations and compare them.

2. In the first 6 year period (1998-2003), Dr. Hoodbhoy admits that there were only 631 research publications from QAU, but in the second 4.5 year period these had risen to 1482 research publications, a tripling of publications on average per year, even by his own estimates.
3. As the HEC programs began in 2003 and their real impact occurred 2-3 years later, a year-wise comparison is far more relevant than an average over a 5 year period as the dramatic change that has occurred gets partly masked when a 5 or 6 year average is taken, though it is still very visible. Dr. Hoodbhoy ignores the figures that Dr. S.T.K. Naim had worked out that in the year 2004, there were only 84 research publications from QAU (an average of only 7 publications per month), but by 2008 they had increased many fold.
4. The citations argument used by Dr. Hoodbhoy is invalid as citations increase with the passage of time. Dr. Hoodbhoy, therefore, wrongly compares the citations of papers of an earlier period with those of a later period. To clarify this issue further, if two papers of equal quality and in a similar field are published, say in 1998 and 2007, and the citations of both are counted in 2008, then the paper which was published in 1998 will have accumulated more citations by 2008 because of the much longer 10 year time period, than the paper published in 2007, as that would have had only one year for the citations to accumulate. Dr. Hoodbhoy is therefore comparing apples with oranges when he tries to compare citations of papers published in an earlier period with a later time period. In order to fairly compare citations, the same duration of time period must be taken. Thus if one takes 1998 publications and counts the citations till 2008, then one will need to take the 2008 publications and count their citations till the year 2018, before one can compare the figures for the citations of the two sets fairly.

The undeniable fact is that the total number of research publications from universities in Pakistan was only about 600 per year till 2001 but then started rising rapidly, and by the year 2008 it had increased to over 4,300! Brazil achieved such an increase over a 35 year period between 1960 to 1995, which Pakistan achieved in only 6 years. After my appointment in March 2000 as the Federal Minister for Science and Technology in Pakistan, I convinced the government to enhance the budget for science and technology in Pakistan by 6000% between July 2000 to October 2002. After my appointment as Chairman, Higher Education Commission (Federal Minister) the budget for higher education was similarly increased by 2400% during 2003 to 2008. Major achievements during these periods were:

1. Establishing 51 new Universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008,
2. Tripling university enrollment (which had reached only 135,000 from 1947 to 2003) to about 400,000 in 2008,
3. Establishing a powerful Digital Library which provides free nation-wide access to every student in every public sector university to 45,000 textbooks/research monographs from 220 international publishers as well as to 25,000 international research journals,
4. Establishing video-conferencing facilities in most public sector universities that allow lectures to be delivered live and interactively to students in Pakistan from technologically advanced countries
5. Enhancing salaries of academics so that salaries of University Professors were increased to a level about five times the salaries of Federal Ministers, with a corresponding reduction in tax from 35% to only 5%, in order to attract the brightest young men and women into academia,
6. Promoting research through a massive research grant program which resulted in a 600% increase in ISI abstracted publications from about 600 per year in 2001 to 4300 research publications in 2008, accompanied by about 1000% increase in international citations in the same period,
7. Placing a satellite in space (Paksat-1) which is now used for distance learning by the Virtual University,
8. Establishing video-conferencing facilities in most public sector universities and initiating a lectureship program, allowing live interactive lectures to be delivered from technologically advanced countries,
9. Providing free access to scientists/engineers anywhere in the country to sophisticated instruments installed in any institute in Pakistan.

The Bottom Line: In the final analysis, it is not what I or Dr. Hoodbhoy think about the developments, but what is the opinion of neutral international experts who have carried out detailed year-long reviews of the developments during the period that I was heading the Higher Education Commission. A few extracts are given below:

1. Prof. Fred Hayward (independent international educational consultant from USA) carried out a detailed analysis of the developments and published an article entitled “Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability,” Date: Number 54, winter 2009 Source: International Higher Education Quarterly. I quote: “The news about Pakistan over the last few years has been dominated by reports of political turmoil, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, economic decline, and the Afghan War. What has been missed is the phenomenal transformation in higher education over the last six years, which represents a critical development for Pakistan and a potential engine for growth and national recovery.”
2. Report of US-AID about HEC states that “We are very impressed with the breadth, scope, and depth of the reforms implemented by the HEC since 2002. No other developing country we know has made such spectacular progress.”
3. World Bank Report is very complimentary of many excellent programs introduced.
4. British Council: The report states: “I have worked in many countries in South America, the Middle East, North Africa, and in Russia and India, over the last six years. None in my view, with the exception of India, has the potential of Pakistan for the UK university sector, largely because of the dynamic, strategic leadership of the Chairman of HEC”.
5. Nature: Several articles and editorials have appeared in the world’s leading science journal “Nature” (the most recent in the issue published on 3rd September 2009) in which the very significant progress made by Pakistan in the higher education sector has been applauded and the need for the new government to built on the solid foundation laid has been stressed.
6. Science Watch (Thomson Reuters) has ranked Pakistan as a rising star in five disciplines, more than in any other country of the world.


Riaz Haq's Note: For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. According to Sciencewatch, which tracks trends and performance in basic research, citations of Pakistani publications are rising sharply in multiple fields, including computer science, engineering, mathematics, material science and plant and animal sciences. The number of papers published by Pakistani scientists reached 4300 in 2007 (For comparison purposes, India-based authors published 27000 papers in 2007, according to Science Watch). Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are actively working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics. Pakistan now ranks among the top outsourcing destinations, based on its growing talent pool of college graduates. According to Pakistan Software Export Board, Pakistani IT industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. As evident from the overall results, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of universities and highly-educated faculty and university graduates in Pakistan. There have also been some instances of abuse of incentives, opportunities and resources provided to the academics in good faith. The quality of some of the institutions of higher learning can also be enhanced significantly, with some revisions in the incentive systems.

Admission meritocracy, faculty competence and inspirational leadership in education are important, but there is no real substitute for higher spending on higher education to achieve better results. In fact, it should be seen as an investment in the future of the people rather than just another expense.

Of the top ten universities in the world published by Times of London, six are in the United States. The US continues to lead the world in scientific and technological research and development. Looking at the industries of the future such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, green technologies, the US continues to enjoy a huge lead over Europe and Asia. The reason for US supremacy in higher education is partly explained by how much it spends on it. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.

In spite of the new education policy promising to more than double education spending from about 3% to 7% of GDP, uncertainty remains about the budgetary situation. Continuing political instability and the deteriorating security situation have created a loss of confidence in government and new questions about the future of higher education. These factors threaten to reverse the phenomenal gains of the last few years, and undermine the prospects for national development toward a knowledge economy. In addition, there is growing uncertainty about the future of the Higher Education Commission, including its administrative and financial autonomy. Thus, one of the few hopeful signs of progress in Pakistan appears to be in jeopardy. While there are many claimants on the national budget in this period of economic difficulty, the failure of higher education transformation would be a devastating reversal for Pakistan and make economic growth, social recovery, and political stability even more difficult than at the present time.

Let us hope that the recent appointment of Dr. Javaid R. Laghari as new Chairman of the HEC will help clarify the situation and restore confidence in the future of higher education in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

President Musharraf's Legacy

Education in Pakistan

Reforms? What Reforms? by Pervez Hoodbhoy

India's New Millennium in Science

Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Nature's Coverage of Higher Education Reform

Asia Gains in World's Top Universities

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy's Letter to Nature

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Here is a News report on US Aid for Pakistani universities:

The United States will build new Faculty of Education buildings at six Pakistani universities and renovate a seventh education facility, as part of an agreement signed Wednesday between the universities and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said Karen Freeman, USAID Deputy Director for Pakistan.

She stated this while addressing the signing ceremony of a memorandum of Understanding for construction and rehabilitation of faculty of education buildings, says a press release. The construction will take place over the next two year and the new and renovated buildings will eventually house approximately 2,000 students of two new teaching degrees: the four year Bachelor’ Degree in Education and a two-year Associate Degree in Education in teaching that USAID helped design and introduce in order to increase quality of teacher preparation across the country and 100 faculty members each year.

“Pakistan and the United States have enjoyed a long and productive relationship that spans more than 60 years and covers a variety of fields. Today’s ceremony is yet another expression of the US Government’s long-term commitment to help build a stronger, more prosperous Pakistan,” she added.

“It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to witness the signing of the MoU between the seven of country’s public universities and two of USAID implementing partners for the construction and rehabilitation of Faculty of Education buildings across the country. The contribution to the Pakistani education system is yet another example of the US long-term commitment to helping Pakistan address its development priorities.

“Our collaboration in higher education sector spans more than five decades. One of our first undertakings in this sector was the construction of the Institute of Education and Research at the University of Punjab in 1960s. fifty years later, this institute continues to help the country shape its education policies. Over the years, we have worked together to build more higher education institutions that have since become premier centres for knowledge and learning. I am very proud to list among such the Institute of Business administration in Karachi, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the Faisalabad Agriculture University as well as the Peshawar Agriculture University, and many more,” she said.

Karen Freeman said: “I am happy that through today’s commitment we are continuing this tradition of supporting Pakistan in its efforts to develop strong education institutions.” She said that these new facilities will help attract and train best young minds to teaching profession and will help improve the professional knowledge and skills of many other teachers.

Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Javaid Laghari appreciated the efforts of the US Government for improving the quality of education across the country. The $15 million construction initiative was officially launched today at the Higher Education Commission, where representatives of the USAID signed MoU with representatives of the seven universities. As part of the agreement, the US will construct new Faculty of Education buildings at the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University in Quetta; the Hazara University in Mansehra; the University of Education in Lahore; the University of Sindh in Hyderabad; the University of Karachi in Karachi; and the Sardar Abdul Latif University in Khairpur (Sindh). The US will also help renovate the Institute of Education and Research at the University of the Punjab.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=90967&Cat=6&dt=2/3/2012
Riaz Haq said…
For the first time, nine research papers by Pakistani students have been selected for presentation at the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) Conference.

A total of 11 abstracts were submitted by M Phil students at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) for the 114th international conference scheduled to be held in Boston later this month.

Leading author for the research papers and Head of Molecular Pathology at DUHS Dr Saeed Khan says the study of infectious diseases in Pakistan is critical, “because no one is safe till everyone is safe.”

The areas of research include diseases prevalent in Pakistan such as tuberculosis, HIV and Aids, Hepatitis B, C and D, and auto-immune diseases among other viral and bacterial infections.

Khan’s team comprises Asif Iqbal, Noorulaine, Nazish Haider, Maria Zahid, Zeba Zehravi, Fatin Zehra, Sehrish Mohsin, Noorul Huda, Ayaz Ahmed and Kanwal Niazi.

Khan, who will be the presenting author for his paper ‘Prevalence and drug resistance pattern of TB in different areas of Sindh’ says, “Due to the population not taking proper medication there is a change in bacteria making TB not treatable by drugs that currently available.”

The work is extensive and strenuous especially when researching and studying the pathology for HIV in Pakistan, Khan says. “The stigma attached to HIV and then the changes in prevalence among injecting drug users and sex workers is a challenge to track and document but it is important work which must be properly researched.”

One of the students and presenting author for research paper ‘Genetic diversity and geographic linkages of HIV using bioinformatics tools’ Maria Zahid says she didn’t expect such a positive response to their submissions.

“We had always planned to submit our (research) papers but was pleasantly surprised when almost all were accepted,” she told Dawn.com.

Zahid began working on her research paper in January last year and is analysing the circulation of the virus and which types and subtypes are common in Pakistan. “HIV has two types and 11 sub-types. We can only work on developing vaccines once we know which types and subtypes we are dealing with. Presently in Pakistan we have subtype A of the virus whereas worldwide subtype B is prevalent.”

The research team, which has been unconventionally awarded with grants to support their travel expenses is scheduled to depart for the United States on May 15 depending on the acceptance of their visa. http://www.dawn.com/news/1105040/duhs-students-set-for-unique-distinction-in-us
Riaz Haq said…
#Harvard educated Dr. Tariq Banuri, current professor at University of Utah and member of #Nobel prize winning #UN #climatechange panel, to lead #Pakistan Higher #Education Commission. #HEC

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900020767/u-professor-to-lead-pakistans-higher-education-commission.html

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah professor Tariq Banuri has been appointed chairman of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission.

Banuri moves into the role from his positions as an economics professor and associate director of the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water at the U. He also serves on the executive committee of the U. Water Center.

Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission is an independent, constitutionally established institution with a mandate to finance, oversee, regulate and accredit all institutions of higher learning in the country.

Banuri has requested a leave of absence from his current position at the U. and said he is eager to explore partnership opportunities from his new post.


Banuri previously served as executive director of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre, a dedicated research institute for climate change studies in Pakistan. He was the founding executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Pakistan and founding director of the Bangkok Centre of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Banuri also was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He holds a doctoral degree from Harvard in economics, completed his master’s degree in development economics from Williams College and earned his bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Peshawar.
Riaz Haq said…
Quality higher education
By Atta-ur-Rahman December 08, 2021


https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/915013-quality-higher-education


The landscape of higher education changed dramatically between 2002 and 2008 so much so that Pakistan not only caught up with India but also overtook it in the year 2018. This is no small achievement as India had been investing in higher education since its very birth – this includes the visionary policies of Nehru who established the IITs and other good quality higher education institutions in the 1950s and 60s.

The single most important element that determines the quality of higher education is the quality of faculty. For this reason, when the HEC was set up in 2002 under my chairmanship, the highest priority was given to the training and recruitment of high-quality faculty in our universities.

After a rigorous screening process, some 11,000 students were sent to the world’s leading universities, and to attract them back on completion of their doctorate degrees, several important initiatives were introduced. First, a new contractual salary structure was introduced with the salaries of professors several times higher than that of federal ministers in the government. Second, students completing their PhD degrees could apply for research grants of up to $100,000 – one year before completion of their work.

Third, graduates would have jobs on arrival with the HEC paying the salary. Fourth, an excellent digital library was set up that provided free access to 65,000 journals and 25,000 textbooks through the Pakistan Educational Research Network (PERN) that connected all universities with high-speed internet. Fifth, free access to sophisticated instruments was provided. Sixth, grants were made available through a liberal research grants scheme – National Research Projects for Universities (NRPU) – to help young academics to win sizeable research funding. These and other such measures led to a 97.5 percent return rate of scholars.

To control plagiarism, specialised software was introduced, which controlled this problem to a great extent. However, this issue persists – to a small extent – both in India and Pakistan and other countries. According to an article published in 2019 in ‘Nature India’, 980 papers published by top Indian institutions, including those from the IITs, between 2000 and 2017, were fraudulent or plagiarised and had to be retracted. Between 2005 and 2021, 254 publications were also retracted from Pakistan. This is an average of 15 papers per year (about 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent retractions annually).

To promote blended education, a mirror website of the MIT Open Courseware was set up in 2005 when I was the HEC chairman, and many undergraduate computer science courses were downloaded, copied on CDs, and distributed to all universities. An exciting scheme for live distance education was also introduced by us with top professors delivering daily lectures which were listened to live and interactively across Pakistan. A major programme was initiated to attract our highly qualified Pakistan diaspora back to the country.

Some 600 eminent academicians returned and played a valuable role in uplifting the quality of higher education in the country. Split PhD programmes were introduced so that PhD students in Pakistan could do a split PhD with a part of their time being spent in good foreign universities under the supervision of eminent foreign scholars. Pakistan was soon recognised internationally for these efforts, and glowing tributes were paid in numerous articles written by the world’s leading educational authorities as well as by neutral experts of the British Council, World Bank, USAID, and UN. I was conferred the highest prize for institution-building by the World Academy of Sciences (Italy) and by the Austrian and Chinese governments.
Riaz Haq said…
By Atta-ur-Rahman December 08, 2021


https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/915013-quality-higher-education



Unfortunately, there was a sharp decline in the quality of higher education due to the actions of the former chairman HEC in the last three years which were condemned by 178 out of the 180 vice chancellors of different public and private universities, who participated in a recent event organised in Bhurban.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is interested in the development of science and higher education in Pakistan. This is reflected in several actions of his government to support the efforts of the PM Task Force of Knowledge Economy: First, after years of stagnation, the present government has announced a sizeable increase in the operational budget of universities by a grant of an additional Rs15 billion on top of the Rs66 billion previously allocated – this is an increase of about 23 percent.

Second, after a decade of neglect, the salary structures of the tenure track faculty have been increased by 35 percent for all and by 100 percent for the best faculty members. Third, the Pakistan-Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering has been established which is the only university in the country (and possibly in the Subcontinent) with 100 percent PhD-level faculty. This university has been developed in collaboration with three Austrian and five Chinese universities – its academic session has already started. Two other such universities are now being set up in Sialkot and Islamabad.

Fourth, a huge scholarship programme of Rs13 billion has again been launched. Fifth, the research grants NRPU initiative that had been dropped by the previous chairman has been given a new life and some 1,200 research grants will be given to young faculty members across Pakistan this year. Sixth, centres of excellence in new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, materials engineering etc are being set up across Pakistan, and 26 projects worth over Rs67 billion have already been approved.

Seventh, the development budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology has now been increased by about 600 percent by the Knowledge Economy Task Force projects after years of stagnation. Eight, IT education is being prioritised. The visionary new policies proposed by the IT/Telecom task force of which I happen to be co-chairman have resulted in a 50 percent growth of IT exports from $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion during the last one year, and a huge revival of the IT industry is underway.

A silent revolution is now finally underway in Pakistan. The credit for this goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan and his whole-hearted support to three important task forces – the Science and Technology Task Force, the IT/Telecom Task Force and the Knowledge Economy Task Force – that are being steered by us.
Riaz Haq said…
#Chinese #nanotechnology to help #Pakistan in high-yield #agriculture, increase #food #production, raise farmers' #incomes, solve problems such as abandoned #farmland & the adverse impact of excessive use of #pesticides and #fertilizer. #technology https://www.app.com.pk/global/nanotechnology-for-high-yield-agriculture-promotes-pak-china-cooperation/

China is ready to extend its achievements to the iron-brother Pakistan in the field of nanotechnology to promote high-yield agriculture, said Dr. Wu Zhiguo, Director of Nano Application Technology Research Office of Gansu Academy of Sciences.

Nanotechnology for high-efficacy agriculture will promote traditional agriculture on the road of high-quality connotative development. It can effectively promote farmers increase in production and income and solve problems such as abandoned farmland and the adverse effects caused by excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers.


We tend to extend this achievement to our iron brother Pakistan, he highlighted on a video meeting with Prof. Dr. Muhammad Yaseen from University of Faisalabad (UAF).


Ma. Yutian, Executive Director General of Gansu BRI Technology Transfer Center also attended the meeting, China Economic Net (CEN) reported on Thursday.


Dr. Wu further explained that at present, they have developed a series of nanoparticles, including iron, copper, silicon, zinc, and other series of high-quality nano-micro-fertilizer products.


The proprietary nanoparticles can increase production and efficiency, improve quality, resist pests and diseases and natural disasters, effectively reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and improve soil conditions.


In 2017, Prof. Yan Pengxun, Distinguished Researcher at Lanzhou Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, proposed to use high-quality elemental nano-powders for agriculture and nanotechnology high-yield agriculture.


In the past four years, sufficient trials, demonstrations and promotion of grain, fruits, vegetables, forage grass, and Chinese herbal medicine have been carried out in 23 provinces and municipalities in China. The total trial field has been accumulated more than 4,200 acres.


Prof. Dr. Muhammad Yaseen affirmed the results of Nanotechnology for High-yield Agriculture project and said that at present, 44 percent of the arable land in Pakistan is used to grow wheat, and the production of wheat is related to the food security of the whole country.


However, the yield of wheat per unit in Pakistan is lower than the world average, and agricultural scientists in Pakistan have been trying to introduce higher-yielding wheat varieties and new technologies.


Pakistan’s Faisalabad, a sister city of Gansu, welcomes the results of Nanotechnology for High-yield agriculture project to be tested in Faisalabad and we are looking forward to its success and its expansion throughout Pakistan to increase food production, Prof. Dr. Yaseen stressed.


On this occasion, Ma Bin, Chairman of Pakistan Qijun international Trading Co., Ltd., underlined that over the years, under the guidance of the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the research and cooperation between China and Pakistan in agriculture have been continuously promoted.


The results of Nanotechnology for High-yield Agriculture project will not only benefit Pakistani farmers, but also open a new way for China agricultural science and technology to reach the world.

Riaz Haq said…
Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/920623-silent-revolution-in-education

As a result of numerous projects undertaken by the technology-driven Knowledge Economy Task Force set up by Prime Minister Imran Khan in early 2019 under his chairmanship, the landscape of higher education, science and technology are presently undergoing a major positive change.


There has been a huge 600 percent enhancement in the development budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology over the last three years and projects of over Rs100 billion have either been approved or are in the final phase of approval. I happen to be the vice-chairman of this task force and the members include the federal ministers of finance, planning, education, science & technology, and IT/Telecom.

The fact that the prime minister himself oversees the working of this critically important task force and personally intervenes if matters are blocked by the bureaucracy gives it the political clout needed to forge ahead quickly in our plans to change the strategic directions of Pakistan from a weak natural resource based economy to a powerful knowledge economy. It is only by doing so that we can unleash the creative talent of our real wealth, our youth, through investments in education, science, technology and innovation/entrepreneurship.

It was under the Musharraf regime that the nation witnessed the first major thrust forward in science and technology, when I succeeded in convincing Gen Musharraf that the future of this great nation lay in investments in higher education, science & technology, thereby paving the way for developing a strong knowledge economy. The result was a 6000 percent increase in the development budget for science when I was the federal minister of Science, IT/Telecom. Later, when I became the founding chairman of the Higher Education Commission, a similar budgetary enhancement was witnessed in the budget of the higher education sector.

The programmes launched during the first decade were largely focused on strengthening the scientific manpower of the country, strengthening social sciences and linking universities with industry. There was a complete transformation of the IT sector with thousands of the brightest young men and women being trained at PhD level in leading universities abroad, and over a hundred computer science departments being strengthened with faculty and facilities. The first IT policy and implementation strategy was approved under my leadership in August 2000 which laid the foundations of the development of this important sector.

There was razor-sharp focus on the quality of education in universities rather than numbers during that period with the top priority being given to high quality faculty development. About 11,000 students were sent abroad to leading universities in the US and Europe for PhD level training. To ensure their return, salaries of professors were increased under a new contractual salary structure so that they became four times the salaries of federal ministers. However, to ensure top quality, there were six international evaluations by foreign experts introduced to judge the quality and productivity of the research output of the persons appointed. Each student abroad was offered the opportunity to win research grants of up to $100,000 for which they could apply a year before their return.

The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.

Riaz Haq said…
Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/920623-silent-revolution-in-education

The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.

To boost the IT sector, I persuaded the CEO of Intel to join hands with Pakistan, with the result that some 220,000 school teachers were trained with funding from Intel in 70 districts of the country. To boost mobile telecommunications the ‘Calling Party Pays regime was introduced. Previously subscribers had to pay for receiving calls. The result was an explosive growth in the mobile phones sector from 200,000 phones in the year 2000, now to about 180 million phones. The internet was also rapidly spread across Pakistan and our first Satellite PakSat 1 placed in space, thereby securing the only slot available in space for this country.

The amazing progress made in a short period was applauded by the UN and other experts and Pakistan was considered a model for developing countries to follow. In an article, ‘Another BRIC in the Wall’, the world’s leading ranking agency Thomson Reuters applauded the quality of research publications that were being published in international journals as compared to the four BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and concluded that the highest percentage of good quality highly cited papers was from Pakistan as compared to the BRIC countries. Some pseudo experts have tried to downplay these developments by publicising that some 258 papers have been retracted over the last 20 years. However about 20,000 papers are published annually from Pakistan in international journals and retraction of a small fraction of 0.1-0.3 percent of these is normal and comparable to the retraction rate from other developing countries such as India.

A number of excellent foreign engineering universities are now being established in Pakistan through our efforts. The Pakistan Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering started functioning last year in Haripur in collaboration with eight foreign universities from Austria and China. Two other similar foreign engineering universities are now being established in Sialkot and Islamabad in close collaboration with local industry to help develop a strong knowledge economy. The focus of these new universities is on the new and emerging technologies such as AI, robotics, industrial biotechnology, new materials, energy storage systems, minerals development, bullet train manufacture and advanced agriculture.

The exciting initiatives now introduced by the HEC after three years of stagnation include the magnification of research programmes to support bright young faculty, a huge Rs13 billion knowledge economy task force project to send our brightest students for doctoral level training abroad, introduction of blended education in universities so that excellent online courses are integrated into the teaching programmes and encouraging university-industry linkages so that focus can shift from basic research to industrial and agricultural research.

Thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan, a silent revolution is underway. The declaration of a National Education Emergency is now under active consideration so that Pakistan can tap into its real wealth – the 67 percent of its young population below the age of 30.

The writer is chairman PM National Task Force on Science and Technology, former minister, and former founding chairman of the HEC.
Riaz Haq said…
Science Education in Pakistan to transform as AKU and The Dawood Foundation join hands | The Aga Khan University News

https://www.aku.edu/news/Pages/News_Details.aspx?nid=NEWS-002899

The Dawood Foundation's MagnifiScience Centre (MSC) and Aga Khan University (AKU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in pursuit of their common goal of equitable human advancement by launching projects in teacher training, innovation in science, education, informal learning, healthcare, learning technologies and the environment.

As per the terms of the MOU, both institutions will synergize through knowledge sharing, exchange of students and professionals, provision of trainings, consultations and workshops and implementation of research to foster the development of the youth and advancement of professionals.
“This collaboration will prove to be a great asset for the advancement in science education and environment. Together with AKU, we aim to provide people of our society with platforms where they can learn and prosper" said Syed Fasihuddin Biyabani, Chief Executive Officer of The Dawood Foundation.

Education that fosters problem-solving, creativity, and innovation is known to prepare youth for the fast-changing, increasingly global and technological world. I am grateful to the Dawood Foundation for joining hands with us to achieve excellence in providing such an education." said Dr. Anjum Halai, Vice Provost of Aga Khan University.

Both organisations agreed to designate their institutional representatives to implement programmes through this Memorandum of Understanding over a five-year term, to fulfil their aim of transforming science education in Pakistan.

The MagnifiScience Centre is an inclusive space to provide scientific exposure with hands-on learning experiences to everyone, irrespective of demographics and socio-economic backgrounds.

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