Value of education

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In a recent meeting with a colleague the discussion was on the work of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). They have made some tall claims. These tall claims not withstanding the PhDs that have come back are unemployed but also unemployable. They are entitled to these claims as they come free and since they are in the future there is no way that the truth of their assertions can be determined.

The colleague was talking about having so many PhDs and so many MBAs in the proposed academy that was supposed to develop top class managers and directors. Immediately we got to grips with the situation and I invited him to a meeting where some PhDs were to attend. What happened in the meeting is privy but after the meeting the colleague stated that the advice about PhDs and MBAs was correct. The comment was that if these were representing the quality of PhDs then we would be better off without them (the comments in fact were much worse but decency forbids me to write these words). These PhDs were from the agriculture sector and from the apex agriculture research system at the federation. When I visited them at Reading University (UK) their director, a Scot, asked me whether I could not send them better stuff. The usual excuse was not given to the director/tutor. I simply said that this was all that we had. In fact my predecessor had selected them on the basis of caste.

What were the alternatives? I suggested to my colleague that the system could be served well if scouting was done and if another system was to be developed then there could not be any intentional errors but unintentional errors. Unintentional errors are correctible while the intentional ones are usually based on different forms of cronyism. Karachi and Lahore police, railways, PIA, PSM and many other public services are evidence enough of what can happen when the chicken come home to roost. That meant a fair and just manner of selection could have made these organisations do their job better. The recruitment had to be based on some intangibles-not on degrees. I have been castigated for selection and yet I will take a bet that the peer review-as was done by the cabinet committee who accepted all the appointed people having been done under the conditions laid down by the Supreme Court regarding transparency. They were thus reinstated. Who amongst the obsolete PhDs would be responsible for the loss of eighteen months salaries to these 278 personnel who were selected under the fair and just system? Who will be responsible for their salaries? Who will be responsible for the loss of dignity of those that were wrongly removed? There is a certain degree of sadistic behaviour in those that go to policymaking level because of some form of deprivation and/or depraved and deviant behaviour.

The recruited cronies will be in a position till they reach the age of 60 and see how much damage would be caused by this cronyism [and inefficiencies] in public service. The police in Karachi have been so recruited and the anchorperson who gave details and it was astonishing as to the quality of the recruited. The inefficiency is manifested by the number of deaths that takes place every day. The defensive posture of the political system was of the view that nothing was wrong. The anchorperson was apologetic for the rule was simple that any one appointed had to go through the procedure and that nothing was sacrosanct about jobs to the ruling party and its affiliates.

In my time the minister was denied this prerogative and was not allowed cronyism. One paid the big price and had obtained the wrath of the political ministers and the political system. The intrigue was, I must say, well managed. A wave of attacks singly and jointly to the highest in authority followed and all in my absence. Would I have been better off doing the wishes of the political boss (as is happening at the moment in violations of all decency). Jobs for Balochistan ostensibly are in violation of all the rules and orders making the ordinary citizen even angrier. So the package does not help in removing discrepancies but adds to these discrepancies.

The core of the issue is: Are degrees necessary for determining the value of a human resource? And time and again I have been at some pains to say that what is necessary is an ethical and value system. The boundaries set by degreed universities are only limited in scope. The programmer for Apple is a drop-out of school and he has taken Apple to great heights. He applied without a degree to the computer giant Apple giving his internal and personal development in his CV and they preferred him over the others realizing that he was self-educated individual. It could only happen in the US.

HEC has misallocated resources for degree programmes and I will take a bet with them that they will never find a job themselves. Yes what is happening is that the powerful scions are provided some kind of a job out of the allocations to the HEC. Fair and square!!!

It has been held that education is not a heap of facts. Everyone's education is the mind that he has constructed and the process of its construction. So the villager and the town poor are educated in some ways or the other. Humans construct our minds and then deconstruct them and then reconstruct them. That is what happened in my case for I went from first degree in science to a second degree in Psychology and then to a business school and finally to a PhD in Economics and business studies. Where are the connections? In the bureaucracy I have been dealing with Agriculture for the better part of my government service. I deconstructed myself when I was serving in former East Pakistan and then reconstructed myself towards poverty reduction. Then when the reforms came from Shaheed Bhutto's government I was the first one to realise that the Civil Service had lost its vigour and that some of us had to work the system better.

During my work for the PhD I was constantly seeing and meeting these kinds of Ustads as they were called. You could either have expensive suited booted consultants or shalwar kurta ustads. I chose the latter. There are some interesting industries that followed advice and had permanent ustads in their outreach systems. One textile unit in Multan was running 1958 second-hand machinery with the help of one such consultant Ustad. It was computerized designing and manufacture and all its goods were exported to Germany. This in Multan with second-hand machinery purchased from Manchester.

The pictures in each ones head is about puzzle-solving, model making process that is self-construction. Do not belittle the poor just because they have not had the opportunities that you and I have had. The modern system of industries has been way laid by dacoits. They have over-invoiced thus depriving the honest industry and making living factors difficult.

May I say that knowledge is part of my education if it changes me? Western knowledge is not a part of me as I have not been able to adapt it to local conditions and have not been able to mask life better for others. If it only makes me selfishly better than it is not education per se. So the options are clear. HEC is wasteful, and leads us into a system that is unsustainable as well as alien to our requirements. The cultural hybrids that we get are victims of brainwashed and suffer from inferiority complex. The weaker culture, however defined, will assimilate the worst ethical norms of the stronger culture.

The education aspect has to be reconsidered and the exponential experience of individuals is better than the degreed certificates. I can lay bets on this and very early on an entrepreneur friend of mine said that people coming out of Faisalabad University have no thinking power and I cannot employ them in the industry. He wanted someone with skills and with the attitudes that go to make work ethics important. So why waste resources sending rich and the powerful for PhDs when they will on return be useless. The poor do not get a chance. They have no rights I suppose.

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