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EDITORIAL: President Arif Alvi has rightly stressed that the youth could change the fate of the country through a “combination of education, intellect and morality”.

Addressing the convocation of Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), the president said that human resource, more than indigenous resources, was needed to steer the country in the right direction.

Giving the example of China, he pointed out how the neighbouring country grew from one of the poorest in the region to the second biggest economy in the whole world “on the basis of education and health”, lifting a record 700 million people out of poverty and enabling them to create better lives for themselves and their families.

It’s often cited, as the president also did, that 44 percent or 26 million Pakistani children are still deprived of education in a region that boasts 98pc school-going children. Yet this is where this debate ends.

There’s a need to understand that a country with the fifth highest population in the world has a potential demographic dividend because most of its people are very young – between 18 and 30 years of age. Yet it is precisely because of lack of education and vocational training that this dividend turns into a demographic disaster because a very large number of uneducated, unemployed people are then forced to turn to crime, even terrorism, just to survive.

There’s also the fact that much of the small percentage of schoolgoing Pakistani children receive substandard education that pushes them out of the progressive job market at home and abroad. And they, too, are unable to provide for their families and the frustration often pushes them to corruption and/or crime as well.

And this cycle continues. To make things worse, the only attempt to create a single national curriculum, which took a lot of time and money, turned out to be a politically motivated attempt to steer national education to the extreme right and, not surprisingly, got rejected by all premier education bodies. And so, all the time and effort were wasted and we are back to square one with the same problems magnifying with time.

The president called AIOU graduates the country’s “elite”, because they have the privilege of graduate education. Yet while it is true that they are far better off than their friends who were deprived of such opportunities, it is still open to debate how far they will go with their degrees because most of our national education institutes are not at par with 21st century standards.

He should have followed, if not preceded, his talk to the students with a lecture to the country’s political elite. How ironic that despite being a nuclear power Pakistan is at the bottom of the list in the whole region when it comes to such basic things as education and health services.

So, while it is true that “education, intellect and morality” can equip the youth to turn the country’s fortunes around, it will first have to be ensured that the right kind of education is imparted to a far bigger chunk of the population. And that will take far more than inspiring speeches from lofty platforms.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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