Modernising Pak’s education
AS per ex-HEC Chairman Banuri, the value of Pakistani degree has deterio rated. PML-N has criticized the decision to bring HEC under Ministry of Education and equated it to destroying the universities and future of the youth.
It is a right step due to dismal performance of higher education, corruption and abuse in our educational institutions like the West.
Medical education should also be brought under government control to use mega funds for public use, end seven digit salaries and meet 21st century challenges. If following steps are taken, our education can deliver desired results at all levels.
In higher education, we should adopt 3-cycle system comprising 4-year undergraduate, 2-year graduate and 2-6 years doctoral studies.
There should be 12-year school system. To standardize our admission criteria, we should use international tests/examinations like IELTS and SAT/ACT for undergraduate admissions, MCAT and equivalent for professional education and GRE for graduate and post graduate levels.
Standardized admission tests will open local education to foreign students. The syllabus, books and testing centres are already available for admission exams so it will not interfere in the education of provinces.
It will align admission policy within the country and globally. It will allow our students to win more overseas scholarships.
The model can be used in other examinations at federal and provincial levels. It will improve merit, which is an important social mobility indicator.
For annual national school education assessment, America (NAEP) and UK (Sats) use national report cards.
We can use NRC of education to make our government, federal education ministry and provinces accountable.
NAEP tests mathematics, reading, science and IT annually, and 58 other chosen subjects biannually. It will bring transparency, standardization and accountability at national level and prepare the country to compete internationally.
The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is one of the programs used to evaluate national educations at international level.
The OECD uses it to evaluate national educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science and reading every three years.
It provides comparable data to help countries improve their education policies and outcomes. Our policy makers can use them to compete at international level.
We can shift to single education system as part of one country, one education system. By using standardization, the British Education System (O & A Levels) can be discarded. We can simply use 12-year SSC and HSSC school education system.
By restarting primary and middle board exams, we can align our school assessments with USA (grade 4, 8 & 12) and PISA (15-year-olds).
The UK had three Sats assessments (age 7, 11&14) but in 1988 it dropped age 14. It is below average in PISA (2018).
These national and international assessment platforms have all round importance. When students, their parents, teachers, principals and media participate in them, they can make informed decisions about improving national education system and competing internationally.
The platforms show performance of ministries, principals, teaching staff and students, which is a professional, transparent and democratic way of checking and improving country’s education.
Standardization can also bring our medical education at par with best international standards.
The 5-year MBBS can be brought to down to 4 years by using first two years of 4-year under graduate class to teach basic sciences for medical schools.
The students can join 4-year program after taking MCAT (7-hour CBT) and completing required basic sciences credits from the total credits.
Same policy can be used for other healthcare files including dentistry (DDS), pharmacology (FPGEC), PA, Lab Scientists and nursing (NCLEX), American Medical Graduates have to pass USMLE Steps (1, 2CK & 3) along with medical school education to get Doctor of Medicine Degree in 4-year med school.
Based on their steps scores and degree, they match for 3 to 5-year specialization training.
In Pakistan, specialization exams can only be taken after MBBS. Europe, North Americas and Australia recognize each other’s qualifications.
By using standardization, we can end duplication in professional education, training and standards and become international leaders. Our universities should serve their communities.
Except a handful of pharmaceuticals, the West has been let down by research, education and industry in corona pandemic and making Covid vaccine.
The vaccine nationalism has also increased the importance of self-reliance, public services and indigenous production.
Our education and healthcare failed similarly. Pakistan has to link higher education, technical and vocational training and healthcare with our communities so that they are healthy, educated, employed and prosperous. Corona pandemic has shown that public sector healthcare is best.
Xi also emphasized importance of public healthcare. As per report on WHO Europe, smaller hospitals are better due to patient outcome, affordability and less waiting time as compared to big for profit private hospitals.
The stimulus packages have indebted taxpayers in the West due to failure of for-profit private healthcare and universal health coverage.
We therefore have to expand public healthcare at grassroots, hire sufficient healthcare staff and use locally manufactured medicines.
All it needs is political will because there is no dearth of resources in Pakistan.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.