Pakistan's higher education system is facing a crisis that threatens the future of its youth and the country's development. In a candid interview with Dr. Yaqoob Bangash, a distinguished professor, researcher, and historian based in Lahore, Pakistan, the alarming state of higher education in the country is unveiled.
Dr. Yaqoob highlights the exponential growth of universities in Pakistan, both in the private and public sectors, over the past few decades. While the intention behind this expansion was to increase access to higher education, the consequences have been dire. Many of these institutions lack the necessary quality standards, with some even having inappropriate names and locations. This proliferation of substandard universities threatens the credibility and value of education in Pakistan.
The statistics corroborate this concern. The number of universities in Pakistan has quadrupled in the past two decades, indicating a quantity-over-quality approach. The focus on expanding numbers rather than ensuring educational excellence has led to a situation where graduates may possess degrees but lack the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the job market.
One of the central themes of the interview is the ongoing debate between quantity and quality in Pakistan's higher education system. Dr. Yaqoob emphasizes that while increasing access to education is crucial, it should not come at the expense of compromising the quality of education. The interview underscores the need for a balanced approach that ensures that higher education institutions genuinely contribute to knowledge and skill development. In many cases, the rush to establish new universities has resulted in the creation of institutions that are little more than degree mills. This emphasis on quantity is concerning, as it may devalue the worth of a degree obtained from Pakistani universities, leading to disillusionment among graduates.
Dr. Yaqoob's interview raises a red flag regarding the implications of the higher education crisis on graduates. With the current trajectory, there is a significant risk of rising unemployment among graduates who possess degrees but lack the necessary skills and knowledge to secure meaningful employment. This situation has the potential to breed resentment among the youth, a demographic that makes up a significant portion of Pakistan's population.
Unemployed and disillusioned graduates could become a ticking time bomb, as they may turn to extremism or other negative outlets due to frustration and lack of prospects. The higher education crisis, if left unaddressed, could have severe social and political consequences for Pakistan.
Another critical aspect discussed in the interview is the issue of fake knowledge generation and publication within academia. Dr. Yaqoob points out that some professors engage in publishing low-quality research in questionable journals. This not only tarnishes the reputation of higher education institutions but also hampers genuine academic progress and research.
The prevalence of fake knowledge generation reflects a deeper problem within Pakistan's academic culture, where the focus has shifted from the pursuit of knowledge to meeting quantitative targets. This trend undermines the credibility of Pakistani academia and further erodes the quality of education.
Dr. Yaqoob calls attention to the role of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in addressing these challenges. While the HEC is intended to be a regulatory body, it has often focused on numerical expansion rather than ensuring educational standards. There is a pressing need for the HEC to refocus its efforts on quality assurance and evaluation of higher education institutions.
To combat the proliferation of substandard universities and fake knowledge generation, the HEC must take a more active role in monitoring and regulating higher education in Pakistan. Stricter oversight and quality control measures are necessary to maintain educational standards and ensure that degrees earned in Pakistan are valued both nationally and internationally.