PAKISTANIS HAVE been ranked 4th most intelligent people across the world in a globally held survey. “Pakistanis are equal to people of developed and industrialized countries when it comes to intelligence,” quoted the survey held by the Institute of European Business Administration in 125 countries. The survey quantified various aspects of brilliance and intellectual work in the nations of surveyed countries. “Pakistanis outshine in field of intelligence despite dearth of required resources and opportunities,” the survey commented.

Pakistan is a developing country and youth in Pakistan makes up about 35 % of its total population. In the midst of crunching times, when the country is facing severe issues such as water and energy crises, terrorism, economic crisis, target killings and disunity, the burden to take the country out of the whirlpool is upon the institutions to properly guide the youth and channelize their intelligence/talent for development of the country because talent is like electricity, it cant be preserved and is wasted if not put to a right use.

Various countries have adopted national talent schemes for capacity building and skill development of their students. India has started National Science Talent Search Scheme for identification of the talented students from 10th grade and awarding them with scholarships and arranging capacity building programs for their skill development. Since 1963, hundreds of thousands of students have benefitted from the scheme. Similarly, Indian Jagadis Bose National Science Talent Search Scholarship is one among the most prestigious scholarships awarded in the field of Basic Sciences (hons), Engineering and Medicine.

Singapore has initiated Science and Mathematics Talent Program to harness the talent of young students in science and mathematics. The program is supported by a group of teacher mentors and consultants from various institutions of higher learning and research.

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is another important program initiated by the United States and partners to measure 15-year-old students reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years. PISA is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries.

The most exciting program of this kind was initiated by Nobel Prize winner Georges Charpak and his colleagues. They put forth the idea of Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) “La main à la pate-LAMAP” for primary and lower-secondary schools in 1996. Based on ten principles of IBSE, the LAMAP approach is now part of the national system of education in France. In addition, the approach has been initiated in more than 45 countries by LAMAP Foundation with the support of Academy of Science, Paris.

Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF), a premier institution for promotion and popularization of science in the country, has launched various programs for young students to provide them opportunities for expressing their talent and innovative ideas. These programs include students participation in London International Young Scientists Forum, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Inter-/Intra-Board science exhibitions and project competitions etc.

Realizing the importance of Purposeful Science Education, the present Government has launched “Science Talent Farming Scheme”, as part of “Pakistan Vision 2025” with an initial funding of Rs.1.3 billion. The scheme is envisioned to be implemented through the collaborative efforts of relevant existing institutions and science enthusiasts in the public and private sectors. Through synergies the scheme will benefit from several small scale programs already in place in different parts of the country that have a definite contribution but because of their limited capacity are not geared up to generate the desired large scale impact.

Pakistan Science Foundation, which always has been on the lookout for ways and means to nurture and use the talent, is playing a major role in this regard. After a number of meetings at various levels, a PC-I titled “Science Talent Farming Scheme for 1800 Young Students” amounting to Rs. 1.3 billion was prepared and submitted to the Planning Commission. The project has been approved in a CDWP meeting held on 9th June, 2015 under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal.

The various aspects of the project were appreciated by the honorable members of the CDWP. The Minister also desired to establish a scientific learning institute having boarding facilities in the limits of Federal Capital. The name of the institute was proposed as “National Science School”. The project envisages support to 1800 students selected through specialized tests for their grooming up to higher level. The project will sow a crop of young students having aptitude towards science, which will be a full lot of Productive Scientists after completion of their studies.

The project is focused on capacity building of the young students through additional interventions in their formal education and developing critical thinking instead of rote learning. A total of 1,800 students will be selected during the implementation period of the project by the 3rd Party Evaluation. Each year 300 science students passed from the Government high schools with 60% marks in general and 70% and above marks in Science subjects offered in matriculation examination will be selected for their college studies. These students will carry out their college studies along with the special interventions designed under the project.

After completion of the FSc studies, out of the total 300 students only 150 students will be selected by the PSF for the BSc studies through specialized tests /activities on merit. Similarly after completion of the BSc studies, out of the 150 students only 75 will be selected by the PSF for MSc studies through specialized tests /activities on merit. Finally out of the 75 students, 40 potential students will move for the Ph.D studies both for domestic as well as foreign universities.

Monetary benefits (including tuition fee, hostel fee (if applicable), books/ notebooks and some personal allowance) will be provided to selected students.

The government is very keen to successfully launch this project and Pakistan Science Foundation under the guidance of Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, has taken it vigorously. The Foundation is very active to purchase land for establishing the National Science School within two years, while simultaneously the National Talent Farming Scheme will be carried on without wasting any further time in order to meeting the targets of socio-economic development through self-reliance in SandT.

The author is Chairman at Pakistan Science Foundation.

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