Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The Boston Group - Pakistanis push for education reform back home.

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    The Boston Group - Pakistanis push for education reform back home.

    Highly encouraging to see the best and brightest of our people living abroad and working to reform and modernise our education system back home. The 'Boston Group' seems to have brought together the best Pakistani brains in America, and attracted the attention of the Pakistani government. It would be enlightening to see this 57-page doucument that the government has been studying on reform of higher education?


    ---------------------------------------------

    Pakistanis push for education reform back home


    What started as a debate among friends eating curry at a restaurant a few blocks from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has grown into an informal think tank bent on no less than reshaping higher education in Pakistan. And this weekend, the alliance of Pakistani intellectuals who have come to call themselves The Boston Group is closer than ever before to doing just that. Tomorrow, key education policy makers arriving from Pakistan will converge in a Boston University conference room for a closed-door session that is intended to be part panel discussion and part nuts-and-bolts tool kit for revamping a sector that has come under international scrutiny since Sept. 11.

    What the Pakistani officials will get from the meeting, say Boston Group members, is a chance to leave their day-to-day jobs in a country preoccupied with war and the threat of war, and to participate in intense inquiries about education. ''In the past, the way to contribute [to Pakistan] was to send back money,'' said Adil Najam, a BU professor and a founding member of The Boston Group. ''But much more important than the money we have, because most of us don't have much money, is the knowledge we have. We think knowledge is a resource. It may even be more important than money for the first time ... in history.'' Put on by The Boston Group and Pakistani students at MIT and Harvard, the meeting is part of the third annual Pak-Millennium Conference, which will hold public sessions on Sunday.

    Organizers hope that Boston will be the birthplace of a new blueprint for lasting education reform. A chancellor and three vice-chancellors from major universities in Pakistan are slated to attend, as well as Pakistan's minister of science and technology, nearly half of Pakistan's 13-member commission on education reform, and Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

    ''Normally you have a conference and you come and you talk and then everybody goes home,'' said Barry Hoffman, Pakistan's consul general for New England. ''This is different.'' Long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks put criticism of Pakistan's religious schools on the front page of major American newspapers, a group of mostly MIT-affiliated Pakistanis in Boston had been debating their country's education system over friendly dinners. Each had their own reason to be passionate about the subject.

    For Salal Humair, who earned a PhD at MIT and now works at a software startup company, it was the day that a lecturer at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, Pakistan, scolded him for being too inquisitive in class. ''He said something like, `Asking too many questions is a sign of evil,''' Humair recalled, stressing that the professor was an extreme example. For Najam, it was watching the way his father, a mid-level military man, and his mother, a school teacher, struggled to send him to one of the few English-language schools accessible to their family. In doing so, they rescued him from the Urdu-language schools frequented by the lower classes, and the religious madrassas - the only schools accessible to the very poor - that have become associated with the rise in Islamic extremism across the region. ''I call it the system of educational apartheid,'' Najam said. For Bilal Zuberi, an MIT graduate student now working under a Nobel prize-winning chemist, it was the idea that Pakistan's brightest students have few options available to them if they stay and every incentive to leave the country.

    So Humair, Najam, Zuberi and a host of others would get together at the restaurant Maharaja on Massachusetts Avenue, and meet in classrooms at MIT to debate Pakistan's future. It didn't hurt that the father of occasional group member Bilal Musharraf became president of Pakistan in 1999. When President Pervez Musharraf visited the United States in February, he spent time at his son's Canton home and met some members of The Boston Group at a family-style gathering. There, he made a point to ask them their views on education reform. Around the same time that The Boston Group delved into the topic of education back home, reform-minded officials in Pakistan began to contact them by e-mail. Peshawar University's vice chancellor asked for ideas on how to improve things on his campus. Members of the national task force on higher education - set up in 2000 by President Musharraf - wanted comments on the first draft of a report it was formulating. ''I think they really did expect a short e-mail back saying this is good and that's bad,'' said Humair.

    Instead, the Boston Group churned out a 57-page opus, advocating for universities to be de-linked from the government and for the country's three separate strands of schools -English, Urdu and madrassa - to be brought closer together. ''We are just a bunch of people who have gotten together and said we want to do something,'' said Humair, who labored for weeks over The Boston Group's paper. ''We never thought anyone would actually read it and take action.'' But government officials in Pakistan, many of whom had been arguing for similar changes, welcomed the recommendations coming from Boston. When Musharraf set up a steering committee on education to implement immediate reforms, Tariq Banuri, a founding member of the Boston Group and a senior research director at the Stockholm Environment Institute-Boston, was asked to be on it. Now Banuri is moving back to Pakistan to help with the reform effort.

    ''Banuri's return is a very hopeful sign,'' said Henry Rosovsky, a Harvard dean who co-chaired a recent World Bank report on higher education. ''We all know that there's been a considerable brain drain from developing countries. In many ways the key to prosperity in these countries is the reversal of the brain drain, to bring back some of these people who are living abroad.'' Banuri's return is not the first associated with the Pak-Millennium conference. In 1999, Shaukat Aziz, the then-vice president of Citigroup and Citibank, served as a panelist at the conference, which focused on business that year. Months later, Aziz returned to Pakistan to take up the cabinet-level post of minister of finance. For Zuberi, the conference is a way for Pakistan to finally profit from one of the country's biggest exports: bright people.''What would this reverse brain drain mean, not just for Pakistan but for any developing country?'' Zuberi said. ''It won't just be people going back. It will be engaging in the establishment of institutions and networks from here.''


    ---------------------------------------------


    Pakistanis push for education reform back home

    [This message has been edited by Mursalin (edited April 12, 2002).]

    #2
    Allah Bless Pakistan Ameen!

    Pakistan Zindabad

    Comment


      #3
      More good signs pointing in the right direction....

      Comment


        #4
        Very good news!

        Comment


          #5
          education only thrives in liberal environment
          with free thinking. any pre-set ideas and pre-detrmined notions are impediment to education.in south asia education has become
          elitist monopoly. rich people generaly attend
          english medium christian convent while unprivilaged attend schools where native language is used more.

          Comment


            #6
            One more definitve example of President Musharraf's grand achievments at home and abroad. Overseas Pakistani's feel so confident of Pakistan in his hands that they are helping to bring back their brain power to Pakistan.

            Comment


              #7


              Stick to the topic of this thread, and desist from bringing in irrelvant topics. Any questions then PM or mail the modertors directly

              [This message has been edited by Mursalin (edited April 19, 2002).]

              Comment


                #8
                Excellent intiative! They have addressed the most important issue that Pak faces - education and lack thereof!

                Comment

                Working...
                X