No Scientific Excellence, No Progress
Dr. A.Q. Khan
Since time immemorial, man has been attempting to use the resources of the earth for his own well-being so as to enable mankind to live a prosperous and comfortable life. With the passage of time, and as the human mind developed, his requirements increased and he endeavoured to discover nature’s secrets to make them more useful for his life. Initially the progress was slow, but over the past few hundred years the process has accelerated. Inventions and discoveries now outnumber even human beings themselves. Phenomenal progress has taken place in the field of science after the Second World War, surpassing all the previous achievements and it has become difficult, even for experts, to remain up to date in their respective fields. Without being part and parcel of this rapid development we do not have the slightest chance of becoming a developed country.
The unfortunate part of this story, however, is that nowadays most of the scientific developments are originating from the Western countries, i.e. Europe and the USA. In the rest of the world, only the Japanese have shown excellence in research in all the technological fields. Other nations of the world are “users only”, for which they have to pay a very high price and which, in turn, prevents them from making significant contributions towards development. The countries of the Third World are loitering in the wilderness and are paying the price of ignorance. The one exception is China; they have done a lot of excellent work in science and technology and have joined the group of technically advanced countries.
The position of Pakistan is no different from that if its neighbours in Asia and countries elsewhere in Africa and Latin America. Poverty, hunger and disease are the order of the day. We have done little, if anything, to equip ourselves with advanced technologies. The country is, therefore, surviving on imports and is subjected to the menace of economic pressures from the technologically advanced nations. We cannot afford to continue living in this situation any longer. Not only do we need to make up for lost time, but we will also have to march ahead in order to keep abreast with the advanced countries.
So far we have failed to develop our own indigenous scientific, technological and social order. To develop such an order, we need a research-oriented approach in the spheres of both natural sciences and social sciences. We need to take a break from the conventional practices in vogue at our colleges and universities and should expose our students to more practical and industrial research so as to improve the state of science and technology in our country, which is now dwindling towards its lowest point.The same goes for the social sciences. The ideas, theories and dictums emanating from various alien sources dominate our intellectual thought patterns. It is pitiable that a rich and fertile land like ours adopts the philosophies and dictates of foreign minds instead of creating its own vision of how our world should function. We have forgotten our past when we used to lead the world, but nevertheless continue to harp back on its glory.
While on the global level the rate of technological advancement is tremendous, our national scenario is not very enviable. We, as a nation, seem to be oblivious of the gravity of this situation. It is indeed very sad to realize that, in a country where highly talented manpower is available, quality control and research and development activities are almost non-existent and thus causing an unacceptable brain-drain. Technological development cannot be achieved without trained manpower, proper infrastructure and provision of the necessary engineering materials. To train manpower able to meet the challenges of modern times, certain reforms in the existing educational systems are needed. There is now a growing awareness in Pakistan for the need to set up research facilities and institutions of higher learning in the field of science and technology, both in the public and private sectors. This awareness led to the establishment of the GIK Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Topi, NWFP, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Rawalpindi, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and other institutes. The zeal, dedication and motivation of all those affiliated with the many private institutions reaffirm my belief that we, as a nation, are quite capable of building our own future, free from foreign pressures and blackmail, and that we are ready to use available resources to achieve this goal.
A number of factors have to be taken into consideration in deciding where to establish such Institutes, such as population statistics, economic, industrial and financial structures, etc. Karachi seems to fit the bill perfectly. It is the largest city in Pakistan and also very cosmopolitan. It is a “mini-Pakistan” with people from all provinces living there. There is no dearth of talented students.
I am taking this opportunity to appeal to everyone to do whatever they can in order to make these Institutes equal to any abroad. That includes improving the quality of our Secondary and Undergraduate Education – i.e. no more rote learning, no flagrant allowance of cheating during exams, proper attendance of both teachers and students, no teacher/administrative politics, industry-relative practicals, etc., quality education first and foremost. Everyone’s cooperation is needed to achieve this, parents, students, teachers, administrators, etc. Let us all work towards the success of these Institutes and for the establishment of even more. They will be a breeding ground for skilled and highly technical manpower in Pakistan and a guarantee for a better future.