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Higher education: Challenges and opportunities

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By Sheikh Abdul Rashid 

Pakistan has been hit hard crisis after crisis ever since it came into being almost seven decades ago. Our society has neither been able to overcome its problems nor the state could muster up its resources to use them for public welfare due to myriads of issues −extremism, social disintegration, economic woes, global interests, and our own inadequacies − which left us holding the short end of the stick.
At this critical juncture, all we need is a concerted effort to deal with the challenges posing a serious threat to our country’s integrity. It has become our collective national responsibility that each and every one of us should rise to the challenges facing us as a nation and play our pragmatic and role as true Pakistanis.

At times, we seem to have achieved considerable progress in steering ourselves out of the gulf of crises, though momentarily. A permanent solution to our woes − largely seen as the consequences of our own ignorance and the prejudiced and fundamentalist views holding a sway over a large majority of the population − is surely in making viable policies and setting up new benchmarks to upgrade our higher education system with a view to achieving sustainable socio-economic development.

Our prosperity, future development, and even survival utterly depend on higher education. It is quite encouraging that even the most adverse circumstances could not shake our belief that we still have a chance to go up the world.

We can definitely catch up with the developed countries by making higher education figure high on our list of priorities for at least a decade. We all must know that higher education is the only key to the solution of our individual, social and national problems. A well-developed higher education system, no doubt, will guarantee more progress, productivity and prosperity for us all.

The role of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), the fountainhead of tertiary education largely credited with first setting up a network of public universities across the country in a short span of time and then introducing and successfully promoting a culture of research and innovation at all the higher seats of learning, has been phenomenal. However, it will have to step up its efforts aimed at boosting the promotion of higher education in the country. It must also look for new ways and means to further the cause of much touted linkages between various seats of higher learning and the local chambers of commerce and industry bringing them to a successful fruition. The process may involve refurbishing and updating of HEC policies with a view to finding more viable solutions to various problems threatening our social coherence and development goals.

In developed societies, higher education is not viewed just as a means to a life of comfort and ease. It also encompasses the ability to take stock of our intellectual needs and identify gray areas impeding our progress. Thus, one of the leading roles it plays is the development of an individual’s personality so that he could actively contribute towards building a progressive and healthy society. Our higher education institutions must ensure conformity to global standards of quality education and should not confine their role to mere degree awarding institutions. They must produce experts fully equipped with the latest trends, research and development in their areas of expertise and who should be able to rise equally to any challenges threatening our social and national identity.

(The writer is Director Press, Media & Publications at University of Gujrat (UoG). He cab be reached at: sheikhrashid.uog@gmail.com

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