PAKISTAN: Death of academia

Academia in Pakistan is dead. We may have more colleges and universities today, and still more are in the pipeline, and they may throw out bigger numbers of graduates, but none of this gives us the essence of higher education, or what it means, says Dr Rasul Baksh Rais in the Daily Times.

Higher education is about learning by raising critical questions, engaging in open debate and discussion with tolerance, and dedicating faculty and resources to high quality research in humanities and the sciences. Academia is both a consumer as well as a producer of knowledge. These functions are interlinked; the absence of one will leave the other unfulfilled.

There is a consensus among Pakistani academicians that our public universities are worse than they were 30 years ago. The steep decline has been constant and none of the regimes or their education policies has ever succeeded in stemming the rot.

There is an education emergency in Pakistan at all tiers of our education system, from elementary school to the university. As our new elected government thinks about national issues and formulates its vision about a new Pakistan, the issue that must dominate its thinking is the state of education.

Dr Rasul Baksh Rais is author of Recovering the Frontier State: War, Ethnicity and State in Afghanistan (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books 2008) and a professor of political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at This article is the first in a series examining the education system of Pakistan
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