By Zubair Ahmad
The British left the subcontinent’s political, education, infrastructure, economy and other affairs in a disarray state. Nonetheless the new country which came into our part was not different than the rest of her sister countries including India after independence.
Few years after independence, at the time of the first census in 1950, the overall literacy rate according to UNESCO was 20% in India and 14% in Pakistan. It can be assumed as equal at both sides of the subcontinent. However it did not last long, when Pakistan thwarted its institutions through the turbulent inexperienced political leadership of the time. Today the situation is nominally predicament, having India becoming economic, information technology giant with literacy rate of 74% which showcases her soft power to the world in much better way; whilst Pakistan’s obsession with hard power wretched her into illiteracy, downfall of science and technology.
Moreover, if we disassemble the brief history of Pakistan, every indicator shows annihilation of quality education, especially Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. It has numerous factors contributing to its degradation including political interferences, system failures, mixing of science of religion, incompetent planners so forth.
However we will try to scrutinize how and why environment for science was undermined, whether deliberately or circumstantial is another debate, notwithstanding ill treatment of science by the concerned authority had its repel effect on the whole system.
As an illustration, we will look it in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan through functionalist’s perspective, which like other provinces and units is also directly affected by the malicious system.
According to Functionalist perspective society works through its institutions to sustain a state of balance and equilibrium for the whole. Notably education as an institution, works under the tutelage of the state machinery, any defect on the top runs down to the organs and intoxicates it, admittedly the central education department in Pakistan like other departments has failed to provide quality science education. According to a well-known nuclear physicist and academician Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, the failure of science is systematic, it runs through the system, at the base of this is rapidly frowning reaction against modernity and modern education in Pakistan.
Subsequently, it is more accrue in Immanual Wellerstein (1974) world system theory, which states the layers of society into four components, the Core, Periphery, Semi Periphery, and External.
Gilgit-Baltistan if not external, lies in the semi periphery of Pakistan; it has a complex bureaucratic, social, and economic linkage with the core, which makes the system work obtuse, the fact of the matter is that, there is not even a single science institution in the region. Let aside any science clubs, society, and role models to follow. The semi peripheral state of the region further stiffens any substantial attention from the core, except alluring few mega projects like building roads, etc.
Moreover, traditional societies take new things for granted, features of traditional rural life is, it would be unwise to overlook the set beliefs, if one wishes to change that life there are always the existence of a social ceilings to individual ambitions, and traditional attitude to authority. Individuals cannot opt out of the group like urban societies, and challenge the norms of a mechanical society which purely functions on the homogeneity of the members. This is also a reason that Gilgit-Baltistan has failed to produce excellent scientists, astronauts, explorers, mathematicians and researchers etc., who could influence aspiring students to take science as their subject, innovate, challenge, and discover new realms of knowledge.
The existing system like other part of the country stresses blindfold on passing exams and push students in number race through memorization of given facts and figures in science books, Principle of science are overlooked, research and curiosity for learning science are ennui. Students merely study to quickly climb the ladder to reach colleges, universities and grab a lucrative job; no one learns science for the sake of it. more so over student minds are rather made well informed than well formed at all level, this approach of education causes below average IQ, and produces a pool of mediocre, who could pass the exam with heavy weight numbers, but later fail to pass the real exam of life.
Furthermore STEM education is on the verge of conquest in Gilgit-Baltistan. I asked students of various science disciplines about their ambitions, goals and targets in science education, the answer was worrisome, majority of them answered, they want to get hired in lucrative corporations, move abroad, or work for the government, so the assumption was, they are not learning science to discover, apply scientific principles, research knowledge, and apply their knowledge in something real, but solely with the mindset of grasping on short term tangible goals.
Science is a social practice, engaged in by individuals who share a matrix of disciplinary commitments, values and research exemplar’s (Delia 1977).
Science and innovation needs an environment to groom, sustain and flourish. If someone is committed to science, meanwhile he/she can’t find the environment for it, in today’s high tech world there should be no excuses because millions of research data are available on the internet everywhere accessible.
To summarize the above passage, students must not only wait and rely on the system to be functional; they must take initiatives to learn through online resources, classes and available lectures of world class scientists available on various social and institutional websites, because an individual effort transcends every social boundary in pursuit of true knowledge.
Teachers can play a pivotal role in perpetuating scientific thought in student minds through teaching them up to date knowledge from newly published research papers, and authentic books recommended to science students worldwide, and also challenge students credence of being indubitable, propagate asking questions, and create curiosity for knowledge searching.
At the same time teachers must let their students know that, knowledge is not only in books, but it is a continuous struggle to learn, unlearn, relearn, because scientific knowledge evolves every time unlike traditional unyielding knowledge.
Parents should deliberately create an environment at home, which the child’s mind subconsciously delves the importance of true knowledge. Parents can create a small library at an empty slot of their house, and often try to read there themselves, which the child’s will pick unconsciously.
True learners must alienate themselves from the society if, it is not supporting what they want to achieve, because they are only their future no one else is.