The concept of experiential learning, sharing and applying becomes indispensable amid advancement in wide and varied fields of education. These disciplines pertain to social, physical, environmental, biological and medical sciences; in arts, humanities, commerce, business management and information technology; in physical education, health, food, nutrition, medicine and pharmacy etc.
Geared up to experiential learning and sharing are universities the world over: those linked to Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), Erasmus Mundus Consortium of European Universities, Association of American Universities, Association of Australian Universities, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Universities of the “underdeveloped world” fostered by the Organization of American States (OAS) and Organization of African Unity (OAU), universities fast endeavoring for educational and research excellence in India and Pakistan, individually speaking Global and Communication Studies at Helsinki University, Institute of Social Studies at The Hague in the Netherlands, Institute for English Speaking Students, University of Stockholm, Experiment in International Living, Brattleboro, Vermont and some leading and emerging universities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai etc..
As the need for education, learning and sharing remains of paramount and universal significance, what remains of primary and pertinent importance for the least developed, under-developed and developing countries is endeavoring for such a model of survival, sustenance and development which is in consonance with their objective conditions.
However, it is seldom realized that consciously or subconsciously the intelligentsia, men at the helm of affairs or the policy-makers of such countries are mostly bewitched and bewildered by such imported or alien concepts in planning and development which have nothing to do with their sorely, objectively and indigenously needed socio-economic development planning and practice.
Take for example, education in our own country where experts continue to fantasize, in the name of modernizing education, making it contemporary and compatible with world standard, such models of education, which are back breaking, nerve shattering and life depleting for the masses. These fantastic models of education may be very good indeed for the “opulent, the elite, the gentry and the upper strata” which do not even form a fraction of our total population.
But for the country’s impoverished majority a four year bachelor’s degree for a poor student, laboring from dawn to dusk earning and feeding eight mouths, caring and sharing for the ailing parents and little siblings, studying night long in candle light without electricity just waiting for a four year graduation for a peanuts of a promotion is an example of education so agonizing for the masses.
While educational bosses put up with two year BA, B.Sc, and B.Com for the commoners and encourage the cost effective two year Associate Degree in vocational disciplines in a number of institutions, the hype and hysteria created regarding fanciful BBA and BS programs and the rat race to business schools leading to an even enchanting and exhilarating vibes of the corporate sector has overshadowed the common two year bachelor’s and associate degrees and sealed the fate of the majority of education-seekers who cannot even dream what to talk of affording the sky-rocketing cost of business management schools.
Financial assistance both in private and public sector universities crumble amid inconsistencies and irregularities depicted in the immobilizing and procrastinating system resulting in the growing number of drop-outs, especially from those who cannot pay the high fee and who cannot maintain a long and strong consistency of performance in the marathon duration of business degrees.
The point is not undermining the value of four-year bachelor’s degree which has been rightly advocated by our educational authorities to make education compatible with international standards. The point is that this long duration and exorbitantly costing education is beyond the means of the common man which the sole bread earner of a poor family cannot afford for children of four or five. The point is such a practical test of understanding, imagination and commitment from our educational authorities, PhD prodigies and educational messiahs in making the existing two-year BA, B.Sc and B.Com more inventive and innovative, more creative and comprehensive, more intensive and rigorous by incorporating in it such aspects as communication and presentation courses, image, crisis and conflict management skills, time and priorities management acumen that make it for a commoner a well-earned, justified, affordable and utilized Bachelor’s degree.
True again that Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission aims to raise standard of education to world class levels. But the question is education is not the luxury to be enjoyed by a handful of the country’s blessed souls. If we were to take only our own very cherished examples in Japan, the world’s economic super power; USA, Canada, Britain and Australia, our idols in education; Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, less heard for the rat race to deviate to Scandinavia and diversified examples in China, Russia, Germany, France etc., we find out education to be in line with such modern or contemporary trends for which they have their own indigenous base, resource and know-how.
Likewise, if we are to contemplate an education base from where we can pick up for a better and brighter tomorrow, we may consider a simpler and easier three-pronged strategy according to our value system and contemporary times:
Firstly, if education remains a complicated fashion for kids with needless, confusing and mounting books, copies and paraphernalia, it shall continue to produce stereotype products untutored, untrained and unprepared for life excellence. The point to ponder for our educational intelligentsia is to be courageous enough to break away from unnecessary, overburdening and overtaxing practices and devising a simpler, meaningful and rewarding system for students, teachers and parents.
Secondly, as deep-rooted traditional and so-called modern practices need a lot of vision to modify, it will be in the fitness of things to promote a primary curriculum according to our objective conditions and contemporary needs. It means simple, interesting and activity-based three subjects, three books and three copies: A harmonious blend of positive, pertinent and practical concepts in three subjects: Morals and ethics; general knowledge; math and science with IT as a tool of study. Later at the secondary level this combination of courses may be added with aptitude assessed and oriented vocational or professional training in various fields or trades.
Thirdly, while it depends on the sense of direction and level of commitment of our educational intelligentsia to devise such a bold, innovative and rewarding curriculum for our primary assets, it is a challenging task for our educational managers to formulate, organize and promote an appealing package of graceful and purposeful education for the young nation at affordable cost — a matter of scientific economizing and cutting down on non-development expenditure.
Such cherished objectives of junior schooling can best be achieved when primary children blossom into adolescence with a sense of direction in positive thinking, pleasing manners and healthy habits and with study and career vision and commitment so instrumental in future personality and professional development and so crucial for their own well-being and that of their institution, family and society.
It is a question of will on the part of our trend-setters to think and act simply and foster such education with grace and dignity both for the opulent and the impoverished that contributes to students’ academic, career and life excellence.
It is where education becomes appealing, affordable and accommodating, according to the objective conditions of our own society and in close consonance with current and contemporary trends in industrial, economic and technological transformation.
It is when fashionable study options replace with aptitude-oriented and rewarding knowledge and bursting school bags transform into simpler and inspiring package of cost-effective, graceful and purposeful education. It is a question of creativity, ingenuity and discovery on the part of our educational managers and messiahs, PhD prodigies and experts, specialists and those at the helm of affairs. If there is a will, that is.
The writer specializes as a teaching faculty in educational and media management, public affairs and corporate communication.