Ahsan Iqbal,The Federal Minister for Planning, Development and reform recently shared the most important initiative taken for promotion of higher education in Pakistan.Its a one of a kind project developed in decades-long strategic relations between US and Pakistan.
This initiative was proposed as a “US-Pak Knowledge Corridor” last year, under which 10,000 PHDs are to be produced by 2025 at different institutions of US particularly in science and technology.
This knowledge corridor has been proposed keeping in mind Pakistan Government’s vision 2025 for sustainability and development. Education plays a vital role in development of a country and educational system of USA is considered to be the backbone of their economy and sustainability.
The corridor has been a hot topic since last year during the bilateral development programs, meetings and events. At embassy meetings, US delegation visits, working groups, and USAID programs, a pathway for Knowledge Corridor has been a major priority of Pakistan Government.
In March 2016,Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs Richard Stengel and Pakistani Minister of Planning & Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal chaired the second US-Pakistan Education, Science, and Technology Working Group in Washington, D.C. prior to the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue Ministerial.
During the meeting Minister Ahsan Iqbal signed a statement recognizing the commitment by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission to fund scholarships for an additional 125 Pakistani PhD students in the United States through the Fulbright Program over the next five years, complementing the U.S. investment in the Fulbright Program in Pakistan.
Both sides discussed how their country’s cooperation in education, science, and technology through the “U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor” can provide a lasting foundation for US Pakistan ties and serve as an engine for long-term economic growth.
The working group held in 2015 also brought great educational and economic benefits to Pakistan in the form of joint funding for collaborative science and technology research grants; launching US-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in energy, water, and agriculture/food security (part of the 23 total US-Pakistan university partnerships); and the announcement of the joint Let Girls Learn initiative to expand educational opportunity for adolescent girls.
This Knowledge corridor with US is of greater importance due to the following facts:
•In the last decade HEC has produced a large number of PhDs but the quality has been compromised over quantity.
•Ongoing educational partnerships with US (ex: Fullbright Scholarships) have produced quality researchers.
•Availability of advance facilities for Science and Technology at Universities in US.
•Lack of Faculty having international exposure to cater the need and demand of growing educational institutions in Pakistan.
Though the idea seems great but it also raises the following questions:
•Will the scholars after getting PhDs come back? And if the government forces them to do so by an agreement, will they stay after the agreement ends?
•Will any institution hire faculty with a local PhD if there is foreign PhD holder available, (isn’t this going to devalue our own educational system)?
It maybe safe to assume that If the scholars are provided with handsome salaries, secure future and job opportunities , there is no reason they wouldn’t come back to serve Pakistan.Similarly, the government should also develop its own educational infrastructure by providing facilities to the researchers in Pakistan and by providing them funds to structure their research experiments.Government should also support foreign degree programs and invite foreign researchers at institutions to build research partnerships and capacities of local institutes.
About the Contributor:
Murtaza Ali Baig is a young IT researcher, entrepreneur and a social worker.He is currently working as a researcher at LUMS, where he is also pursuing his MS in computer Sciences. Apart from the research and academia he is working with different tech startups in various capacities. He is also member of Board of Directors at Pakistan Citizens Alliance welfare organization.