THE REAL WAR WITH INDIA
If we want to compete, we need to invest more in higher education.
Javaid R. Laghari
Newsweek (Pakistan), July 25, 2011 (From the July 29‚ 2011‚ issue)
It’s hit an all-time low. Pakistan’s commitment to the higher education sector has been scaled back by 10 percent at the same time that India has raised its higher-education budget by 25 percent. This reduction is in addition to the 40 percent cut imposed last year. This shortsightedness imperils economic growth by stunting prospects of a viable middle class.
India has a population six times the size of Pakistan’s. Its GDP, at $1.8 trillion, is 10 times larger than ours. Its growth rate is 8.5 percent, ours is 2.4 percent. Its value-added exports, at $250 billion, are more than ours by a factor of 15; and its FDI, at $26 billion per year, dwarfs ours by a factor of 22. India is set to surpass Japan to become the world’s third largest economy by 2014. This has all been made possible, in no small measure, because of India’s human capital. Pakistan needs to take a leaf out of their book to realize the possible.
The World Bank identifies several key factors to achieve and sustain economic growth: education, a skilled workforce, information and communication technologies, and innovation. These are the veritable pillars of a knowledge economy. Likewise, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 lists higher education and training, technology readiness, and innovation as essential for competitiveness.
Catching up to the rest of the world must start now. And there is much ground to cover. For Pakistanis between the ages of 17 and 23, access to higher education is at 5.1 percent—one of the lowest in the world. (India is at 12.2 percent and aiming for 30 percent by 2020.) Pakistan has 132 universities for a population of 180 million and a student population of about 1.1 million. India has 504 universities with an enrollment of over 15 million (its enrolment target is 40 million by 2020). Pakistan has approved funding for two new universities. Over the next five years, India will have established 29 universities and 40 other institutes. Pakistan can today produce about 700 Ph.D.s every year (up from a dismal 200 in 2002) while India can produce 8,900 and China some 50,000.
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