Rethinking R&D in
Education is a human right, a public good, and a public responsibility. It is also a process to introduce innovative solutions to the problems in industry and society. Education is the core element for the development and prosperity of a nation. Now the major economies in the world are knowledge-based and the economies of the developing countries are gradually emerging based on knowledge and innovation. Pakistan is a growing country and facing economic, political, and social challenges. In such countries, the role of education became important to promote participatory democracy, to develop a consensus on political issues, and to find the solutions to the prevailing social problems. In Pakistan, a candid and consolidated education policy will determine the future of the nation. The efforts made by the government to develop a single national curriculum are remarkable but a concrete implementation plan is the need the time and sincere consideration is required to get the desired outcomes.
On January 24, the world celebrated the ‘International Day of Education’ with the theme “Changing Course, Transforming Education”. No doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic created a trauma situation in the whole world. It affected all fields of life, especially education. It was a challenge for the developed as well as developing countries to provide a learning environment that is compatible with the prevailing pandemic circumstances. It is a fact that education in its usual and formal way has observed a huge gap in the year 2020-21. All activities, especially educational activities, remained under-cover and were frozen with the wave of Coronavirus, which started in China, and closed all educational institutions there. It encapsulated the whole world. Now a ray of hope has appeared when our generation who suffered very much during the Covid-19 period and thus labelled itself the Covid-19 generation, will start going to schools, colleges and universities. In Pakistan, the physical recovery from this pandemic is that we are back at our work and are sound and healthy but mental recovery is only possible when our education is also back on track which is the most vital thing to do. Education, in this regard, is so important that we even require education to avoid the contamination of viruses. We need to educate ourselves about health concerns and the health of the whole community. Hence vitality of education is always there but the core spirit of the 2022 International Day of Education also stresses realizing the fundamental right of everyone to education. This will help to build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful future and its importance must be redressed for the large benefit of our generation. To fulfil the needs of the growing Pakistani economy, and to cope with the economic challenges, it is necessary to re-calibrate the role of higher education institutions. All higher education institutions must develop sound industrial and community linkages to provide students with opportunities to work on real-time problems. It will help them to polish their skills and will also enable them as creative thinkers.
In Pakistan, universities can propose solutions to the problems in industry and society by creating new knowledge through R&D but especially in the case of newly established universities, it would require more resources. For example, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology is a newly established university of the government of the Punjab in Rahim Yar Khan. It is gradually emerging as innovative research and development center in the region. It is contributing to the national development process, despite its limited resources. It has the potential to impart more innovative solutions to problems for social and industrial development. To provide resources of research to such higher education institutions, it would be good to develop an R&D fund in collaboration with the community, industry and chamber of commerce under the supervision of district government and university management. The fund will be consumed in research for solving the problem in society and industry. It will help to strengthen the research and innovation culture in the university and will provide an opportunity to the new researchers to employ their knowledge to solve real-time problems. Universities are like an asset to the community and could play important role in the development of the region. As society members, it is our responsibility to own such institutions and it is also the responsibility of the industry to collaborate and provide support for the research and development process. It is a time to rethink the available higher education opportunities as well as the role of industry and community because it is a question of the future of the whole Pakistani nation.
The writer is Convener – Media and Communication, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology, Rahim Yar Khan.