Sunday, April 17, 2011

HEC's Indispensable Role in Pakistan's Higher Education

Those who cite the 1996 World Bank study to argue that the social rates of return for higher education in developing countries are 13 percent lower than return on basic education must remember the following: Hundreds of millions of lives in Asia were saved as a result of the success of the Green Revolution that was enabled by a combination of US aid, and the capacity of the recipient nations to absorb it by virtue of the availability of local college graduates in agriculture and engineering.

The Green Revolution succeeded in South Asia and failed in Africa mainly because of the differences in domestic technical and institutional capacity to absorb foreign aid and technical know-how in the two regions. Simply put, Africa did not have the basic critical mass of people who had the benefit of higher education and training in agriculture and irrigation that was available in India and Pakistan in the 1960s.

Going forward, the importance of tertiary education will only grow bigger in developing nations. The physical capital that was essential for development in the 20th century will no longer be sufficient in the 21st century. Instead, the human intellectual capital will determine success or failure of nations in this century. In addition to basic health care, the key input for the development of human capital is quality education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The key role of higher education is to enable basic institutional capacity building for economic, political and social development. The college and university graduates with arts, business, science or technology degrees help promote economy, democracy, social mobility, entrepreneurship, and intellectual and industrial competitiveness of their entire nation.

Pakistan's Higher Education Commission has led a successful transformation of higher education in Pakistan since 2002 through reforms initiated by Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman, appointed by President Musharraf.

In a paper titled "Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability", Fred M. Hayward, an independent higher education consultant, assessed the success of the HEC-led reforms as follows:

"By 2008, as a result of its policy and financial successes, most universities had become strong proponents of the Higher Education Commission. For the first time in decades university budgets were at reasonable levels. Quality had increased significantly, and several institutions were on their way to becoming world-class institutions. Most universities had signed onto the tenure-track system. The first master’s and PhD students were returning from their studies to good facilities and substantial research support. Many expatriate Pakistanis returned from abroad with access to competitive salaries. About 95 percent of people sent abroad for training returned, an unusually high result for a developing country in response to improved salaries and working conditions at universities as well as bonding and strict follow-up by the commission, Fulbright, and others. Student enrollment increases brought the total enrollment of college age students to 3.9 percent—well on the way to the target of 5 percent by 2010.

"Research publications more than doubled between 2004 and 2006. Especially important was the emphasis on quality in all areas including recruitment, PhD training, tenure, publications—all requiring external examiners. While the percentage of PhD faculty has slipped slightly from 29 to 22 percent, largely because rising enrollments have taken place faster than increases in PhD training with higher standards, the extensive faculty development programs of the commission will soon result in the return of sufficient numbers of PhDs to more than reverse that trend. During this time the student/faculty ratio has improved from 1:21 to 1:19, and a number of universities have focused on upgrading the quality of their teaching programs. By 2008, a broad transformation of higher education had taken place."

Over 5,000 scholars have participated in Ph.D. programs in Pakistan. Thousands of students and faculty have been awarded HEC scholarships to study abroad. The HEC has instituted major upgrades for laboratories and information and communications technology, rehabilitation of facilities, expansion of research support, and development of one of the best digital libraries in the region. A quality assurance and accreditation process has also established.

Unfortunately, the leadership in Pakistan in recent years has demonstrated its total lack of the most basic appreciation of the critical importance of education in the South Asian nation.

Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.

Now there is an attempt to dismantle the HEC in the name of provincial autonomy under the recently approved 18th amendment of the Constitution. By all indications, this attack on the HEC appears to be politically motivated to punish the HEC for its role in exposing fraudulent degrees of many leading politicians in the country.

More immediately, about $550 million in approved foreign grants and loans are on hold because of HEC's uncertain future.

What is at stake here is not just the future of the current students on HEC scholarships, but also the entire nation's future prospects as the world rapidly moves toward knowledge-based economy. The Pakistani government must acknowledge the potentially serious harm its actions are going to inflict on the nation and reverse course immediately.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Dr. Ata-ur Rehman Defends HEC's Role in Higher Education Reform

Human Capital and Economic Growth in Pakistan

Musharraf Legacy
Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Education Emergency

Politicians' Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan
Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Beyond the ABCs: Higher Education and Developing Countries

UK Aids Pakistani Schools

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?


Anonymous said...

great at the time when india is mega boosting its education system pakistan is throttling back,Brilliant!

Imran said...

When half of the parliamentarians are without degrees, they can’t do 2+2 let alone worry about education.

Absolutely corrupt and incompetent government and with their current policies, it has put Pakistan way deep into the ground. By the time they leave, it’ll be extremely challenging for the next government to crawl out of this mess and they’ll struggle, which will leave the Pakistani population in a perpetual chaos with no end in sight...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an assessment of Pakistan's education crisis by Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Inst:

For the millions of people who read and were inspired by Greg Mortenson’s books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, Sunday’s revelations by CBS News’ 60 Minutes that much of his story was at best vastly exaggerated and at worst fabricated, came as deep disappointment. ......

As I travel around Pakistan this week and look at education issues across the country, including in the Federally Administered Northern Areas where Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea was set, I am struck by the bitter-sweet effect of these revelations. On the one hand, Mortenson’s book hid one of the country’s biggest educational success stories and promulgated a model of education assistance that has been proven time and again to be ineffective. On the other hand, his story captured the hearts of millions, bringing needed attention to the very real educational needs of Pakistan’s children and articulating the very important role good quality education can play in reducing conflict risk.
Contrary to the Three Cups of Tea portrayal of Gilgit-Bultistan as a place with little educational opportunity, it is one of the regions in Pakistan that has demonstrated true educational transformation over the last 50 years. In 1946, just prior to partition from India, there were an estimated six primary schools and one middle school for the entire region. Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions. Girls are often noted to be outperforming boys and staying in school longer. It is true that community leadership and civil society organizations have played a major role in this transformation; it just was not Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. When I asked the governor of Gilgit-Bultistan, Pir Syed Karam Ali Shah, how this education transformation came about, he was quick to point to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a network of private, international, nondenominational development organizations, an assertion with which other education experts concur. Led by His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the concerted focus on improving education, and especially girls’ education, started in 1946 and has continued, led by community members, for decades. Initially starting in the Ismaili communities in Gilgit-Bultistan, the work spread quickly to other non-Ismaili communities in the region, when the clear economic and health benefits of educating girls were seen by neighboring communities. Many civil society organizations, government interventions and public-private partnerships have developed over time, helping to increase levels of human capital and capacity through heavy investment in education, particularly of girls. According to Mehnaz Aziz, member of the national Pakistan Education Task Force, if the rest of Pakistan could only follow in the footsteps of the people of Gilgit-Bultistan, the status of education in Pakistan would be greatly improved.

... Increasing access to quality education is likely to reduce Pakistan’s risk of conflict as cross-country estimates show that increasing educational attainment is strongly correlated with conflict risk reduction. Last month, a national campaign – Education Emergency Pakistan 2011 – was launched to spur country-wide dialogue on the need to prioritize educational investment and progress.
It is unfortunate that the 60 Minutes expose has called into question the accuracy of Greg Mortenson’s books. Without defending Mortenson or whether the facts in his memoirs are accurate, I can say truthfully that there is indeed a very serious education crisis in Pakistan. The international community should not lose sight of this and the real needs of the Pakistani children and youth seeking to improve their lives.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent Op Ed titled "The Real War With India" by HEC chair Javaid Leghari published in Newsweek Pakistan:

It’s hit an all-time low. Pakistan’s commitment to the higher education sector has been scaled back by 10 percent at the same time that India has raised its higher-education budget by 25 percent. This reduction is in addition to the 40 percent cut imposed last year. This shortsightedness imperils economic growth by stunting prospects of a viable middle class.

India has a population six times the size of Pakistan’s. Its GDP, at $1.8 trillion, is 10 times larger than ours. Its growth rate is 8.5 percent, ours is 2.4 percent. Its value-added exports, at $250 billion, are more than ours by a factor of 15; and its FDI, at $26 billion per year, dwarfs ours by a factor of 22. India is set to surpass Japan to become the world’s third largest economy by 2014. This has all been made possible, in no small measure, because of India’s human capital. Pakistan needs to take a leaf out of their book to realize the possible.

The World Bank identifies several key factors to achieve and sustain economic growth: education, a skilled workforce, information and communication technologies, and innovation. These are the veritable pillars of a knowledge economy. Likewise, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 lists higher education and training, technology readiness, and innovation as essential for competitiveness.

Catching up to the rest of the world must start now. And there is much ground to cover. For Pakistanis between the ages of 17 and 23, access to higher education is at 5.1 percent—one of the lowest in the world. (India is at 12.2 percent and aiming for 30 percent by 2020.) Pakistan has 132 universities for a population of 180 million and a student population of about 1.1 million. India has 504 universities with an enrollment of over 15 million (its enrolment target is 40 million by 2020). Pakistan has approved funding for two new universities. Over the next five years, India will have established 29 universities and 40 other institutes. Pakistan can today produce about 700 Ph.D.s every year (up from a dismal 200 in 2002) while India can produce 8,900 and China some 50,000.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an opinion piece by Rakesh Mani published in the Wall Street Journal:

Much has been spoken and written of India’s “demographic dividend.” With almost 40% of the population – around 500 million people – under the age of 15, it is estimated that around 25% of the global workforce will be Indian by 2030. What this means is that the quality of education that young Indian children are receiving today is going to impact us all in the near future.
1. Commit to spending more on education. Way back in 1968, the Kothari Commission recommended that India spend 6% of its Gross Domestic Product on education. However, in the 43 years since, India’s total educational outlays have never exceeded 4.3% of its GDP in any given year. Setting aside more funds for education is a critical first step that will demonstrate the government’s commitment to educational reform.

2. Fix primary education first. There are two major tasks here: raising enrollment to 100% in urban as well as rural areas; and then minimizing drop-outs. Both need to work in tandem to be meaningful. In Mumbai, for instance, enrollment rates are very high – above 95% — but only a fraction of these students actually finish school due to absurdly high drop-out rates. In addition, eliminating gender gaps at this early stage must be a priority. Shockingly, in some rural areas, thousands of young girls do not attend school because there are no separate toilets for them. Other girls do not attend because the walk to school – often in a neighboring village – is unsafe.

3. Yes, the answer is building more schools with better infrastructure. But even as the government and private institutions are building more schools, the quality of instruction is falling sharply. Teacher training needs a great deal of work and effort. Here, it is heartening to see the number of NGOs that are rushing to fill this gap but most of these efforts are still confined to urban areas, and especially large metropolitan cities. We need high-quality instruction to produce high-quality students capable of playing active roles in a rapidly growing country.

4. Prioritize schooling over higher education. In the early 50s, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, decided to build out India’s higher education platform to compete technologically in the Cold War era. Under his direction, institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology were expanded and the country focused on producing more engineers and scientists. But the expansion of higher education was accompanied by a neglect of school education. This continues today, with new engineering colleges mushrooming every day. Schools are often viewed as little more than a means to gain access to a solid engineering program. This remarkable trend has had far-reaching effects.
Make no mistake: we are in the midst of a severe education crisis. And it is for this reason that we need to be talking about the subject more and encouraging debate. Because let us be sure that, without a significant change in mindset, education reform is a non-starter and the “demographic dividend” will just remain a fancy term confined to political journals.

Riaz Haq said...

Labor force data from the World Bank for 2007 indicates that 23% of Pakistan's labor force has had tertiary (college) education.

This compares with 61% in the United States, 32% in the UK, 20% in Malaysia, 33% in Singapore and 17% in Sri Lanka.

It has no data for India or China.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Dawn report on Ambassador Munter recounting how US AID has helped Pakistan over 50 years:

The US Ambassador further said Pakistanis who doubt that US assistance has borne fruit in Pakistan would be surprised to know that they have tasted it, adding, “Pakistan’s most popular citrus fruit, the kinoo, comes from California. USAID brought kinoo seeds to Pakistan in the 1960s. Today, we are helping export Pakistan’s sweetest fruit, the mango, in the other direction.”

“In the 1950s, we brought together the University of Karachi, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and the University of Southern California to establish a campus in Karachi to meet the demand for business managers in the bustling port city.”

“USAID sponsored the project and the Institute of Business Administration became Pakistan’s first business school and one of the first outside of North America. IBA is recognized today as one of South Asia’s leading institutions,” he maintained.

Ambassador Munter said in 1965, Dr. Norman Borlaug, who later won the Nobel Prize for his contribution to agricultural research, came to Pakistan to introduce his new high-yielding variety of wheat.

“We worked with the Lyallpur Rotary Club to support a program that gave individual farmers a bushel of the new generation of seed if, when the harvest came in, they returned the bushel so we could give it to someone else. While modest in scope, this small project brought Lyallpur into the Green Revolution that in turn converted a food deficit region into an exporter of grains,” he added.

In the 1960s and ’70s, a consortium of U.S. construction firms employing Pakistanis, Americans, Brits, Canadians, Germans, and Irish built the two mighty dams of Tarbela and Mangla with USAID and World Bank financing, US Ambassador said, adding, “Those engineering feats – more complex than anywhere in the world at that time – soon accounted for 70 per cent of the country’s power output and made Pakistan a leading provider of clean energy.”

In the 1980s, the US Ambassador said, with USAID’s assistance, Pakistan’s private industry founded the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

“Pakistanis approached us with the idea for the new institution and we agreed to support it with a contribution of $ 10 million. Today, LUMS incubates the ideas and nurtures the leaders who are critical to Pakistan’s future,” he remarked.

Ambassador Munter said, since the inception of the Fulbright scholarship program, nearly 3,000 Pakistanis have studied in the United States and close to 1,000 Americans have studied in Pakistan, adding, today, the U.S. Fulbright program in Pakistan is the largest in the world.

Key to all these successes was that Pakistanis owned them.

We may have helped sow the seeds but Pakistanis made sure the flowers blossomed, he said, adding, “aid is a catalyst and its success depends on those who receive it.”

“So today, while we help complete dams in Gomal Zam and Satpara and rehabilitate power plants in Muzaffargarh and Jamshoro, only Pakistanis can put an end to circular debt by paying their bills and holding the system accountable.”

“While we work to cultivate international markets for Pakistan’s fruit and fashion, only Pakistanis can deliver quality products that can compete. While we pay for road construction in South Waziristan, only Pakistanis can provide the local population with economic opportunities to make use of those roads.

While we build schools in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, only Pakistanis can ensure that qualified teachers show up to teach in them,” the US Ambassador maintained.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the state of higher education in Pakistan:

....“To create a knowledge capital, particularly in an emerging economy, a country has to invest heavily in the education sector,” said Dr Laghari, citing examples of South Korea, Singapore and more recently of Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey and Indonesia, who invested in education and made significant progress. Sadly, he said, Pakistan invests only 0.7% of its Gross Domestic Product in education, “which is too meagre to achieve its future goals”.

Dr Laghari said we need at least 15,000 PhDs in the next decade, which is only possible if more than 1,000 PhDs are produced every year. However, he said within the available budget we are hardly producing 600 PhDs annually.
Dr Laghari said that at least 20 to 30% of the population aged 17 to 23 should have accessibility to the higher education, but in Pakistan only 7.8% have this facility. In the Muslim world, 27% population in the given age group in Indonesia has access to higher education, in Malaysia it’s 30% and in Turkey it is 37%, he added. He cited that Brazil has invested $26 billion on its higher education and is expected to produce 75,000 PhDs in the next ten years.
But despite outlining the issues marring education in Pakistan, Dr Laghari dispelled the impression that the higher education sector is stagnant.

He said that in spite of the financial crunch, HEC has succeeded in improving the quality of education and research. He said that rate of enrolment in higher education is growing by 15 to 20% annually, and published research is increasing 20 to 25% annually.

He said that 10 offices of research innovation have already been set up and another 12 are in the pipeline. Moveover, three centres of advanced studies focusing on water, agriculture and energy are currently being established at different universities, which are priority areas for developing countries like Pakistan, he added.

HEC is focusing on promoting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in universities and has defined their roles in building economies, communities and leadership, said Dr Laghari. As a result, he said research output has increased significantly in the last few years and so has as the number of PhD graduates. He said although the commission could not send a single person abroad for PhD last year, this year it managed to send abroad 600 to 700 scholars.

“The biggest challenge for higher education is improving both the quality of education and research, which is only possible if the sector gets appropriate funding,” he maintained. The HEC chief said the commission has gotten some financial respite from the World Bank, which recently loaned it $300 million, in addition to funds from USAID and the British Council.

He said funds allocated to the HEC last year were insufficient, and warned of massive protests by employees across the country if they are not paid their raised salaries.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a News report on US Aid for Pakistani universities:

The United States will build new Faculty of Education buildings at six Pakistani universities and renovate a seventh education facility, as part of an agreement signed Wednesday between the universities and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said Karen Freeman, USAID Deputy Director for Pakistan.

She stated this while addressing the signing ceremony of a memorandum of Understanding for construction and rehabilitation of faculty of education buildings, says a press release. The construction will take place over the next two year and the new and renovated buildings will eventually house approximately 2,000 students of two new teaching degrees: the four year Bachelor’ Degree in Education and a two-year Associate Degree in Education in teaching that USAID helped design and introduce in order to increase quality of teacher preparation across the country and 100 faculty members each year.

“Pakistan and the United States have enjoyed a long and productive relationship that spans more than 60 years and covers a variety of fields. Today’s ceremony is yet another expression of the US Government’s long-term commitment to help build a stronger, more prosperous Pakistan,” she added.

“It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to witness the signing of the MoU between the seven of country’s public universities and two of USAID implementing partners for the construction and rehabilitation of Faculty of Education buildings across the country. The contribution to the Pakistani education system is yet another example of the US long-term commitment to helping Pakistan address its development priorities.

“Our collaboration in higher education sector spans more than five decades. One of our first undertakings in this sector was the construction of the Institute of Education and Research at the University of Punjab in 1960s. fifty years later, this institute continues to help the country shape its education policies. Over the years, we have worked together to build more higher education institutions that have since become premier centres for knowledge and learning. I am very proud to list among such the Institute of Business administration in Karachi, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the Faisalabad Agriculture University as well as the Peshawar Agriculture University, and many more,” she said.

Karen Freeman said: “I am happy that through today’s commitment we are continuing this tradition of supporting Pakistan in its efforts to develop strong education institutions.” She said that these new facilities will help attract and train best young minds to teaching profession and will help improve the professional knowledge and skills of many other teachers.

Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Javaid Laghari appreciated the efforts of the US Government for improving the quality of education across the country. The $15 million construction initiative was officially launched today at the Higher Education Commission, where representatives of the USAID signed MoU with representatives of the seven universities. As part of the agreement, the US will construct new Faculty of Education buildings at the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University in Quetta; the Hazara University in Mansehra; the University of Education in Lahore; the University of Sindh in Hyderabad; the University of Karachi in Karachi; and the Sardar Abdul Latif University in Khairpur (Sindh). The US will also help renovate the Institute of Education and Research at the University of the Punjab.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of an article by Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman published in Pakistan Herald:

On July 23, 2006, an article was published in the leading daily Indian newspaper Hindustan Times, titled “Pak threat to Indian science.” It was reported that Prof C N R Rao (chairman of the Indian prime minister’s Scientific Advisory Council), had made a detailed presentation to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the rapid strides that Pakistan was making in the higher education sector after the establishment of the Higher Education Commission in October 2002 and my appointment as its first chairman. The article began with the sentence “Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science.”

Serious apprehensions were expressed before the Indian prime minister at the rapid progress being made by Pakistan in the higher education and science sectors, first under the ministry of science and technology after my appointment as the federal minister of science and technology of Pakistan in 2000, and later under the Higher Education Commission. It was stressed during the presentation to the Indian prime minister that if India did not take urgent measures to upgrade its own higher education sector, Pakistan would soon take the lead in key areas of higher education, science and technology.

Something remarkable happened in Pakistan during the short period from 2000 to 2008 that rang alarm bells in India. It also drew unmitigated praise from neutral international experts. Three independent and authoritative reports, praising the outstanding performance of the HEC, were published by the World Bank, Usaid and the British Council. Pakistan won several international awards for the revolutionary changes in the higher education sector brought about under the leadership of the writer. The Austrian government conferred its high civil award “Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeischen am Bande” (2007) on the writer for transforming the Higher Education sector in Pakistan. The TWAS (Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Italy) Award for Institutional Development was conferred on the writer at the academy’s 11th general conference in October 2009.

Prof Michael Rode, the chairman of the United Nations Commission on Science, Technology and Development and presently heading a Network of European and Asian Universities (ASIA-UNINET), wrote: “The progress made was breathtaking and has put Pakistan ahead of comparable countries in numerous aspects. The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology has closely monitored the development in Pakistan in the past years, coming to the unanimous conclusion that (the) policy and programme is a ‘best-practice’ example for developing countries aiming at building their human resources and establishing an innovative, technology-based economy.”

Pakistan was poised to make a major breakthrough in transitioning from a low value-added agricultural economy to a knowledge economy. Alas, corrupt politicians with forged degrees plotted to destroy this wonderful institution where all decisions were merit-based, a trait unacceptable to many in power. A government notification was issued on Nov 30, 2010, to fragment the HEC and distribute the pieces. At this point I intervened. It was on my appeal to it that the Supreme Court declared the fragmentation of the HEC to be unconstitutional. The development budget of the HEC has, however, been slashed by 50 percent and most development programmes in universities have come to a grinding halt.

The Indian government need not have worried. We Pakistanis, alas, know how to destroy our own institutions.

Riaz Haq said...

Pak threat to Indian science

Hindustan Times

Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science. “Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan. It has tripled the salaries of its scientists in the last few years.” says Prof C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council.

In a presentation to the Prime Minister, Rao has asked for a separate salary mechanism for scientists. The present pay structure, he says, is such that “no young technical person worth his salt would want to work for the Government or public sector”.

He adds, “You needn’t give scientists private sector salaries, but you could make their lives better, by say, giving them a free house.”

Giving his own example, he says, “I have been getting a secretary’s salary for the last 35 years. But I have earned enough through various awards.

But I can raise a voice for those who aren’t getting their due.” Last year, Rao won the prestigious Dan David Award, from which he created a scholarship fund. So far, he has donated Rs 50 lakh for scholarship purposes.

The crisis gripping Indian science seems to be hydra-headed. “None of our institutes of higher learning are comparable with Harvard or Berkeley,” points out Rao. The IITs, he says, need to improve their performance: a faculty of 350 produces only about 50 PhD scholars a year. “That’s one PhD per 5-6 faculty members,” says the anguished Professor.

Rao fears that India’s contribution to world science would plummet to 1-1.5 per cent if we don’t act fast. At present, India’s contribution is less than three per cent. China’s is 12 per cent.

“We should not be at the bottom of the pile. When I started off in the field of scientific research at 17-and-a-half, I had thought that India would go on to become a top science country. But now, 55 years later, only a few individuals have made it to the top grade,” he laments.

Riaz Haq said...

Details of latest supercomputer at NUST in Pakistan by HPC Wire:

Following India’s announcement of installing that country’s fastest supercomputer, news out of Islamabad reports that Pakistan has just unveiled its speediest super as well.

The system will reside at the Research Center for Modeling and Simulation (RCMS), which was acquired by Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) through a grant provided by the country’s Ministry of Science and technology. An inauguration event was held where RCMS Principal, Sikandar Hayat noted that the new system is the fastest GPU-based parallel computer in the country.

The system, known as ScREC, is named after the university’s supercomputing research and education center. The cluster consists of 66 nodes equipped with a total of 30,992 cores. The NUST site breaks down the components as follows: 32 dual-socket quad-core nodes, 32 NVIDIA GPUs, a QDR InfiniBand interconnect, and 26.1 TB of storage. Specifics on the CPU or GPU parts were not provided.

While Linpack performance has not been posted, the system runs at a peak of 132 teraflops. Given that most GPU-accelerated TOP500 systems only achieve about a 50 percent Linpack yield of peak performance (depending upon the CPU-GPU ratio and interconnect), the system should deliver at least 60 Linpack teraflops. That would place the system in the current list, giving Pakistan a slot in the TOP500. Unfortunately the rankings are a moving target, and the June update may well exclude sub-60-teraflop machines. The slowest supercomputer on the current TOP500 is at 51 teraflops.

ScREC will be used to assist NUST with research in the areas of computational biology, computational fluid dynamics, image processing, cryptography, medical imaging, geosciences, computational finance, and climate modeling. Specifically, RCMS is currently developing a direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method for subsonic nanoscale gas flows. Other projects include external flow analysis of heavy vehicles to reduce fuel consumption, and numerical investigation on performance and stability of axial compressors used in aircraft engines and gas turbines.

In a welcome address, Rector Nust Engr Muhammad Asghar said, “This will give an impetus for collaborative research between universities and other research organizations within the country and abroad.” and explained that the new facility will inspire scholars studying abroad to return to Pakistan.


Pakistan’s investment in terascale computing exhibits a willingness to promote scientific research – a forward-leaning strategy for a developing nation on the cusp of becoming industrialized. Unlike India’s HPC plans, Pakistan is not attempting to join the ‘supercomputing elite’ here, but rather to promote science collaborations, while creating an incentive for Pakistani researchers and engineers who work abroad to return to the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on US assistance for higher education & research in Pakistan:

Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dr. Javaid Laghari, Chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to create three Centers for Advanced Studies at Pakistani universities.

With US support, these centers will promote the development of Pakistan's water, energy, and agriculture sectors through applied research, training for specialists, university linkages, and the contributions towards policy formulation, said in a press statement issued by US Embassy here on Friday.

"US-Pakistan cooperation in higher education spans more than six decades. This new program presents a new milestone in our joint efforts to strengthen Pakistan's university system to support the growth of the country's economy," said Dr. Rajiv Shah at the signing ceremony.

The Centers for Advanced Studies is a five-year $127 million program sponsored by USAID. The Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security will be established with US support at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Punjab.

The Center for Advanced Studies in Water will be created at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro. Meanwhile, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad will open the Center for Advanced Studies in Energy.

A satellite center for energy will be established at the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar.

A key component of the Center for Advanced Studies Program is linking Pakistani universities to universities in the United States.

These linkages will help engender, support, and fund joint applied research, student and faculty exchanges, pedagogical improvement, and development of new courses according to the needs of industry. It is expected that other universities will use these centers as a model for future growth and improvements.

The signing ceremony for the launch of the Centers for Advanced Studies Program was attended by the Vice Chancellors from the four participating universities, representatives from the Higher Education Commission, members of the Ministry of Science and Technology, other officials, and students.,-HEC-sign-MoU-for-advanced-studies

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nature report on financial crunch hurting university research in Pakistan:

Pakistani universities are grappling with yet another financial crisis after parliament’s approval of a 2012–13 higher-education research budget of 15.8 billion rupees (US$166 million), 10 billion rupees less than the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had asked for.
The HEC, which governs and distributes funds to Pakistan’s 74 government-funded universities, was set up in 2002, and it brought about revolutionary changes in the country’s higher-education system. University enrolment tripled between 2003 and 2008 and the number of international research publications from Pakistani institutions rocketed from 600 per year to more than 4,300. The HEC’s research funding rose from 270 million rupees in 2002 to 22.5 billion rupees in 2009, but fell to 14 billion rupees last year.

The financial stress has already led to the closure of many research and higher-education projects, including a programme of ‘Core Groups’ to promote life sciences, chemistry and physics. Most of the 175 new projects funded by HEC last year are going at a slow pace or have been halted for want of funds.
The main reason behind the low funding for the HEC is a constitutional amendment enacted in 2010 that devolved responsibility for several federal ministries, including the education ministry, to the provinces. The government has tried to devolve the HEC as well, even though it was not under the control of the education ministry. This led to mass protests in April 2011, and Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared the plan unlawful.

Academics say that devolving the HEC to the provinces would undo the recent improvements in higher education, and some believe that the federal government considers the HEC a financial liability, as spending money on an institution that will eventually be devolved to the provinces is an unfruitful investment.

Imtiaz Gilani, vice-chancellor of the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar, says: “Funding cuts and the non-provision of promised money shows that the government wants to get rid of higher-education responsibility, but this would badly affect universities and research in Pakistan.”

The government issued a notification on 11 June bringing the HEC under the control of the Ministry of Professional and Technical Education, paving the way for devolution. This move was widely opposed by academics, who fear that it will damage the commission’s autonomy.

Kaleem Ullah, president of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), which organised the 25 June protests, says that his group will not be satisfied until all withheld funds are released. FAPUASA has threatened to stage continuous protests until the funding issue is resolved.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story about HEC's performance:

To get an understanding of the working of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and developments occurred in the last few years in the sector of higher education in Pakistan, an official delegation of representatives from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan visited HEC head office here in Islamabad.

HEC’s Executive Director, Professor Dr S. Sohail H. Naqvi welcomed the delegation and apprised them about the functions and role of HEC for strengthening the higher education sector in Pakistan. He informed that the establishment of the HEC in 2002 has heralded a revolution in higher education in Pakistan. “The HEC has accomplished more in nine years since its establishment than was achieved in the first 55 years of Pakistan’s existence.”

He said that research output has grown eight-folds since 2002 (from 815 in 2002 to 6,200 in 2011) whereas 80 per cent of these research publications from Pakistan are coming from higher education institutions (HEIs). Naqvi further mentioned that output has more than doubled just in the last three years and is expected to double again in the next 3 years.

He claimed that Pakistan today is a regional leader in ICTs, which other countries are following. The digital library provides access to 75% of the world’s literature (23,000 e-journals and 45,000 e-books). He also informed that due to revolutionary reforms in the sector, Pakistani universities have been included among the top world and Asian universities and Pakistani higher education model is being followed by other Asian countries.

He also highlighted the development strategy of HEC and various steps undertaken to improve quality of teaching and research, equitable access to higher education, university-industry and community linkages and human resource development in Pakistan. The delegation appreciated the role of HEC in brining vibrant and effective changes in the higher education sector of Pakistan and showed keen interest for collaboration with HEC and Pakistani higher education institutions.

The delegation also visited Quaid-i-Azam University and National University of Science and Technology and attended the presentations about these two leading universities. The delegation was led by Sardarbekov, Deputy Governor of Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzistan and Farkhod Rakhimov, First Deputy Minister Ministry of Education, Tajikistan. Shamsh Kassim Lakha, former federal minister of science and technology and Asadullah Sumbal, senior economist Asian Development Bank along with senior officials of the university of the Central Asia accompanied the delegation.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on number of PhDs in Pakistan:

The Pakistani universities are now able to produce more PhDs in the next 3 years as compared to last 10 years. The total number of PhDs in Pakistan has reached the figure of 8,142.

According to the data available with ‘The News’, the number of PhDs has increased from 348 (1947 to 2002) to 679 in 2012 in agriculture and veterinary sciences, from 586 to 1,096 in biological sciences, from 14 to 123 in business education, from merely 21 to 262 in engineering and technology and from 709 to 1,071 in physical sciences. In social sciences, the number increased to 887 from 108 during last ten years.

The figures also indicate that during the last decade, special emphasis has been paid to the disciplines of agriculture and veterinary sciences, biological sciences, business education, engineering and technology, physical sciences and social sciences.

Expressing his view over this development, HEC Executive Director Professor Dr. Sohail H. Naqvi said that the production of these PhDs is the harbinger of a great future. “These researchers, who have worked on problems of crucial importance to Pakistan, will play a leading role in the production of knowledge workers with a potential to take Pakistan in the ranks of developed nations,” he added.

He further said that HEC since its inception has introduced various indigenous scholarship schemes to create a critical mass of highly qualified human resources in all fields of studies who conduct research on issues of importance to Pakistan. “These locally qualified academics and researchers are playing an important role to improve the research and development potential of public as well as private universities and it will also strengthen the local industrial sector. With the launching of the schemes, research culture in public or private sector universities has been developed in accordance with international standards.”

The education experts view this development as an achievement in the higher education sector of Pakistan.

Dr. Farida Faisal, a fresh PhD holder from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi in Economics, views this development as result of provision of incentives and various indigenous scholarship schemes introduced during last few years in Pakistan. She said that good aspect of this development is that along with quantity, there has been strong emphasis over quality of these PhDs, which will improve with the passage of time, she hoped.

She suggested that keeping in view the future needs of Pakistan; there is a need to produce more number of PhDs in the next ten years.

Dr. Ashfaq Ahmed, associate professor at the Institute of Business and Management, UET, Lahore, who has recently completed his PhD degree in Management Science with distinction from Foundation University, Islamabad, termed this achievement an outcome of reforms and education-friendly policies introduced by the HEC, which were aimed at promotion and research and academic activities nationwide and across the globe during the last decade.

In the first 55 years since Pakistan’s independence, a total of 3,281 PhDs were awarded at Pakistani universities. However, since the establishment of the HEC in 2002, over 4,850 PhDs have been awarded to-date, which is more than what was awarded in the previous 55 years.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nature report on Pakistan's science & technology policy:

As they hail Pakistan's first comprehensive national science, technology and innovation (ST&I) policy, the country's science leaders are hopeful of effective implementation and funding.

The 'National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy–2012', launched last month (23 November) with support from the Pakistan Council for Science and Technology and the ministry of science and technology, is expected to help Pakistan emerge as a scientifically sensitive nation.

Describing the policy, at the launch, as "demand-driven and people-centric ", Changez Khan Jamali, federal minister for science and technology, said it was a milestone in Pakistan's self-reliant development strategy.

Jamali said the new policy was focused on improving the quality of life for common people through the creation of a conducive industrial and economic environment.

Pakistan has an ambitious plan to increase its science budget to 1 and 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product spending by 2015 and 2020 respectively, against the present 0.6 per cent.

Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar, secretary in the ministry, told SciDev.Net that he looked forward to "having close to 1 per cent allocation in the 2013 budget."

"The only fuel to make this policy a success is real political and fiscal support, which government is committed to provide – so there are hopes for an innovative and technologically advanced future for Pakistan," Tarar said.

A national policy for ST&I has been in the making since 1960 when the National Science Commission of Pakistan was constituted and tasked with finding ways to promote scientific research.

However, various hurdles stood in the way, the chief among them in more recent years being funding cuts forced by the recession and natural disasters.

The new policy focuses on environment science, biotechnology, energy, water, minerals, ocean-sciences and engineering as critical areas demanding priority.

It recognises innovation as an integral part of the S&T system while emphasising development of human resources, training and education.

Manzoor Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, an autonomous body under the science ministry, told SciDev.Net that to make the new policy serve the country's socio-economic development better, public-private partnerships and academia-industry linkages would need to be forged.

"Higher Education Commission and the well-developed offices of research, innovation and commercialisation that already maintain R&D links with different public-private organisations, would be the beneficiaries of this policy," Soomro said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News Op Ed by Dr. Javaid Laghari of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission:

Universities in Pakistan have rapidly morphed into their new role as producers of knowledge and research that lead to innovation and entrepreneurship, create employment, and be prime builders of a knowledge economy.

As per the Education Policy 2008, the HEC targets to increase accessibility to higher education from the current 8 percent to 15 percent by 2020, which translates into an increase in university enrolment from 1m to 2.3m. This is a major challenge tied to the funding situation. However, to achieve the best results effectively, in addition to establishing new campuses, the HEC is focusing on the use of educational technologies and through the recently established directorates of distance education.


Faculty development programmes are the mainstay of the HEC. With over 7500 scholars currently pursuing their PhD degrees both within and outside the country, and an additional 2,200 having graduated and placed at universities and other organisations, it is estimated that with the projected growth in universities, at least 16,000 ‘additional’ PhD faculty will be required by 2020.

This will raise the percentage of the PhD faculty from the current 22 percent to 40 percent. Simultaneously, the standards for faculty appointment will become stringent. Starting in 2014, all lecturer appointments will require a MPhil/MS degree, and from 2016, all assistant professors and above will require a PhD degree.


There has been a significant growth in the number and quality of the PhDs awarded. The number of PhDs awarded per year has increased to over 850 in 2011, with significantly higher standards. It is estimated that over 2400 PhDs will be awarded in 2020, which will give Pakistan the same competitive advantage in research and innovation as is available to China, India, Turkey and Malaysia.

The number of research publications out of Pakistan has gone up by 50 percent in the last two years alone. Scimago, an independent database, has projected that Pakistan will have the second-highest growth in the Asiatic region, moving up 16 notches from the current worldwide ranking of 43 to 27.

Offices of innovation, research and commercialisation, centres of advanced study and research in energy, food security, and water resource, incubators and technology parks are being established to link research and innovation with industry.


This is already beginning to pay off, as today more than six Pakistani universities are ranked among the top 300 universities of the world, while there were none a few years ago. By 2015, we expect at least 10 universities to be in the top 300, with one in the top 100.

All HEC reforms are becoming the envy of other countries in the region. While Turkey already has a similar commission, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in the process of replicating the HEC model, and India is going a step further and establishing a supra-HEC with far-reaching consequences to position itself as a regional leader.

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report indicators on higher education and training, technology readiness and innovation are showing a consistent improvement over the last three years for Pakistan, much more than many other countries, which is clear proof that higher education reforms are paying off.


Pakistan has achieved critical mass and reached a point of take-off. For this phenomenal growth to continue, it is important for the government and other stakeholders to support and further strengthen the HEC as a national institution and protect its autonomy. If this momentum continues for another 10 years, Pakistan is certain to become a global player through a flourishing knowledge economy and a highly literate population.

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: Prof Dr Attaur Rahman has been selected for the People’s Republic of China’s highest national award ‘Friendship Award of China’.

The award will be conferred on him at a ceremony to be held in Beijing on Monday, says a press release.

The friendship award is for foreign experts who have made outstanding contribution to the economic and social progress. The award is being given to Prof Rahman for his tremendous contributions to develop strong linkages between China and Pakistan in various fields of science and higher education.

Prof Rahman was responsible for initiating a major programme of academic collaboration and linkages with Chinese universities and other institutions as federal minister for science and technology and later as chairman of Higher Educa­tion Commission. Under these program­mes some 400 students were sent to various Chinese universities and research institutions for PhD-level training.

Prof Rahman has initiated strong collaborations with many Chinese institutes. He signed an executive protocol for scientific cooperation between Chinese Academy of Sciences and Pakistan Academy of Sciences under which many workshops have been organised in Pakistan and China. These included a major international conference titled ‘IUCr South Asia Summit Meeting’ on ‘Vistas in Structural Chemistry’ held on April 28-30, 2014, Karachi, to celebrate the International Year of Crystallography.

Prof Rahman has also initiated a nationwide project for training students in universities of Pakistan in Chinese language through video-conferencing. A book by Prof Rahman titled ‘The Won­drous World of Science’ has been recently translated into Chinese language. He has recently been awarded International Co­­ope­ration Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Prof Rahman has 976 publications to his credit in several fields of organic chemistry, including 720 research publications, 37 international patents, 151 books and 68 chapters in books published largely by major US and European presses. He is the most decorated scientist of Pakistan, having won four civil awards — Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, and the nation’s highest civil award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz.

Riaz Haq said...

Soft-spoken education revolutionary Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created.
Khan is the founder, executive director, and faculty member at the Khan Academy, an online education provider.
Speaking at the Atlantic’s Navigate tech conference, Khan said that the online education providers and independent technology “boot camp” schools will end up playing an important role in pressuring legacy universities to change their outdated ways.
“I feel like society is ripe for challenging the model of school” he told The Atlantic’s editor, James Bennett, earlier this week.
“The credentialing piece is somewhat broken now,” Khan said. “A very small fraction of the population has the opportunity to attend a university that is broadly known.”
To that end, Khan said that he is working on a universal credentialing system that could compare a graduate of “Stanford or Harvard” by their raw abilities. Presumably, this credential would have to be some type of evaluation that would test and measure the abilities of all students, thereby making the granting institution irrelevant.
Last year, Sebastian Thrun, the CEO of online education provider Udacity, and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a tech industry credentialing system, the Open Education Alliance, with Khan Academy as partner.
Since then, Udacity has developed its own credential for the tech industry, the nanodegree. Similarly, Coursera, another online education provider, started awarding a “signature track” certificate to the graduates of some its tech courses.
Khan has not developed its own credential yet. Most important, neither Udacity nor Coursera has developed a degree or certificate that is comparable to a Stanford Degree. Both rely on the reputation of the granting organization — as opposed to some kind of test score. So, until Khan develops something more objective, a Stanford degree is still going to be a lot more valuable than anything else on the market.
Portfolios instead of transcript
At one point in the talk, a mother with children attending the University of California Berkeley expressed her frustration that her kids were having to turn to Khan Academy online videos to learn real world skills. She wondered how a $60,000 ultra-selective tier I degree could somehow not teach those skills.
Khan, who holds a Master’s in engineering from MIT, said that schools have dropped the ball on preparing graduates for the real world. Instead of graduating with a list of courses and a GPA, each student should have a portfolio of products.
“The transcript coming out of engineering school should essentially be the things that you’ve created,” he said.
Exams and grades are much (much) easier to administer to thousands of students. Having each student create some type of product (like a gadget or program) for graduation would require far more faculty time. There’s a lot of institutional inertia against doing anything that complicated.
Despite the fact that top tech companies like Google have publicly admitted that they don’t care very much about college degrees, colleges have not been moved to equip graduates with a portfolio of products for graduation. Khan suspects that online providers, like his Academy and others in the education space, will ultimately pressure colleges to change.
Here’s to hoping they do it soon.