A young man at the local car workshop learns the expertise to identify a problem with the car engine, even though he could never afford a fee to gain education in the subject. Yet, he manages to deliver more level of understanding of the automobile as compared to the owner of the car. The idea of ‘learning’ in Pakistan needs to be redefined. Due to non-existent opportunities, many young apprentices have no opportunities to build their skills. The concept of education needs to be redefined in the 21st century.
The recent pandemic has manifested the concept of interdependence and how state institutions are largely dependent on skilled labour. Gone are the days where rote-learning would guarantee top positions in the government and private sector. The future jobs require a workforce that has the requisite skills and is familiar with innovation. This can only be made possible if we start thinking of revolutionising our education policies. First of all amendments must be made in terms of modernizing the methodology, structure and content taught in schools and universities.
The purpose of education today should be led by the belief that students need to be taught the most relevant, useful in-demand and skills. However, due to globalization, information and knowledge are increasing at such a rapid pace that no one can master all the information on a single subject. For this reason students need to be taught how to use and process information in the most effective manner. They need to learn adaptable skills they can apply in all areas of life. Emphasis needs be placed on understanding the concepts and on applying critical thinking to real-life scenarios. Ability to collaborate and work in teams must be instilled as well as the use of technology. Also civic, ethical and social justice literacy as well as humanitarianism must be part of compulsory learning skills.
Effective acquisition and application of life skills can influence the way we feel about ourselves and others, and equally will influence the way we make decisions and impact others.
Smart phones penetration rate in Pakistan in 2020 is more than 51 percent. Still the concept of promoting ‘educational technology and online learning’ has not been given due consideration. Learning how to use search engines and how to review information for credibility as well as being aware of internet safety skills should become part of the education process.
The government can start this process by provision of at least free WIFI access across the country. The policy makers can focus on adoption of such education reforms that have an equity focus from the beginning. Article 25 A categorically stresses the need for equal opportunity. However it is not possible to accomplish this if the private sector educational institutes are trying to adapt to the 21st century needs while the public sector institutes are lagging behind. The geographic diversity, cultural and social variations can be addressed by adopting common standards of curriculum.
21st century education is not a short term agenda. To move forward, the national and provincial governments should collaborate on the imperatives of skills based learning. The fundamental point of a new social contract will be to provide equal opportunities to all citizens and quality education –at all levels – becomes a right and not a luxury.