Investing in higher education

Education is the most powerful weapon and tool that we can employ to eradicate poverty, to nurture puerile minds, to develop ingenious solutions, to banish the scourge of terrorism and the most paramount of all to make us capable enough of standing, with our heads raised, among the comity of nations. Where primary education helps nurture the pre-mature minds; Higher education aides in building economies that control the world.

It is an era of “knowledge-based economy” defined by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) as “economies, which are directly based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge and information.” The term “Human Capital is the core of “knowledge-based economy”. Higher education institutions deliver this “Human Capital”; and thus play a paramount role in the economic development of their countries.

The impact education can have on the economies of countries and its citizens can be seen easily by a mere look on the investment of OECD (a group of 34 countries including USA, UK, Germany) countries on Higher Education and the benefit they procure of such investment. The OECD countries on average, directly invest more than USD 30,000 in public sector funds to support an individual pursuing higher education. But look at the return; these countries get by investing such a huge amount on higher education. For example, the net return on the public costs to support a man in tertiary education is more than USD 91 000, on average across OECD countries – more than three times the amount of the public investment.

Singapore, a small country with a population of just 5.3 million, has exports of $518.9 billion particularly in electronics, chemicals and services; 17 times more than Pakistan. This country has the highest trade to GDP ratio in the world. South Korea with a population of 50.2 million i.e. one fourth of Pakistan has exports of $572.66 billion mainly in semiconductors, wireless telecommunication equipment, motor vehicles; 19 times more than Pakistans export which are just $29.8billion.It is the only developed country included in the group of Next Eleven countries. These awful figures may impress us but there is a lot of investment these countries have made in educating their youth. The budget of a single university in Singapore, National University of Singapore, is 160 billion rupees which is several times larger than the total budget of all the universities of Pakistan In 2010, South Korea spent 7.6% of its GDP on all levels of education – significantly more than the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 6.3%. This is how these small countries have reached to such an astonishing level of development.

The alumni of a single University MIT in USA have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues which is even greater than the GDP of worlds 10th Largest Economy India. A report published by “Universities UK” show that in 2011-12, the higher education sector in UK contributed 2.8% of UK GDP, generated significant employment opportunities across the economy, accounting for 2.7% of all UK employment; this was equivalent to 757,268 full-time jobs.

“Education is the investment our generation makes in the future.” Mitt Romney

If we look at the expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP of different countries, we find it astonishing that even countries like Afghanistan and India are way ahead of Pakistan with spending of 4.6% (2013) and 3.9% (2012) respectively of their GDPs on education while we spend just 2.5% of our GDP on education. The Science Development Budget of Pakistan is just 1 billion while that of India is 200 billion. This is where the priorities lie. Innovation, development and progress are only possible if a country is producing creative minds and creativity is groomed at universities. Creativity demands an environment where ideas may flourish and lead to innovation and educational institutes are the best places to provide such an environment.

Countries dont make progress with roads, Metros and Orange Trains rather it is an outcome of their development. We need to understand that the infrastructure and development we drool over in developed countries is the result of their advancement in technology and research. They invested in their laboratories before investing in roads and trains. We are “180° out of phase” with the developed countries while making investments in Education and infrastructure and kudos to our innocence that we still dream that we can develop.

There is only one way to development and it passes through the bridge of education, and if we will fail in constructing that bridge than we will definitely fall in a river and without learning, one cannot even swim to the other side.

I suggest :

20.5 billion rupees were allocated for Higher Education in the Budget for the Fiscal year 2015-2016 by the govt of Pakistan and this account to only 0.46% of the total budget. Govt. must take steps to increment this no to at least 3% of the Federal Budget by the year 2018.

In lieu of establishing new campuses without Highly Eligible Faculty and appropriate Labs, Govt. should avail existing universities ameliorate their faculty and research facilities by hiring international Faculty members and engendering more scholarship for local graduates for their PHDs abroad.

Special Budget should be allocated for establishing International standard Libraries and updating the current ones.

There is an inadequate mechanism for checking the Quality of Research papers published by Local researchers. HEC uses Impact Factor to quantify the Quality of Research articles, but there are many imperfections in utilizing Impact Factor because it takes into account the overall citations of the articles of a particular journal in which the article is published not the article itself. At least two other matrices like H-Factor, relative citations, SJR should withal be used. By ameliorating the quality of our research Papers, we can improve the international ranking of our universities and can magnetize an abundance of foreign students.

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