Quality education to drive Pakistan forward: LUMS VC

Published: March 28, 2012
Dr Najam stresses that education, especially higher education, is a 'happening sector' in the country. PHOTO: FILE

Dr Najam stresses that education, especially higher education, is a 'happening sector' in the country. PHOTO: FILE


“In an odd way, the present is a big moment for higher education in Pakistan”, said Dr Adil Najam, while sharing his optimism about the state of education in the country during an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.

Dr Najam, who returned to Pakistan in 2011 after 20 years to take up the position of vice chancellor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), stressed that education, especially higher education, was what he termed a “happening sector” in the country. But with education witnessing an unanticipated activity over the past few years, according to Dr Najam there is always a danger of things taking the wrong course.

With the Higher Education Commission (HEC)having taken the role of regulating higher education in Pakistan since 2002, the vice chancellor is of the view that despite failing to accomplish as much as HEC desired, it did manage to accomplish more than its critics give it credit for. As an educator, he believes that the HEC’s role has created a ‘mixed bag’ of consequences, “while issues like plagiarism which is now being addressed have caused concerns. But then it is also true you have a stream of PhDs (irrespective of their quality) returning to the country,” he claimed.

Speaking on the state of education in the aftermath of the 18th amendment, Dr Najam mentioned that the devolution had left it in a state of confusion. Claiming to be a big proponent of devolution as an idea, he looks at higher education through a different lens. “Ideally universities should be autonomous, but since Pakistan is a developing country, there should be a certain degree of ‘spoon-feeding’ from the HEC,” he stated. Explaining the dynamics of primary and secondary education, he said that both these levels of education essentially required planning by the government.

Expressing his view that true investment always came from the people and not the government, Dr Najam added that the society at large had started valuing education which was evident from the investments made in education by the parents. “For the right or wrong purposes, parents invest money in tuition centres or preparatory schools because they value education.” However he warned that such measures could also run the risk of turning the entire education system into a ‘giant tuition centre’, where according to Dr Najam educational institutes become a vehicle of ensuring a student gets through just an exam.

Calling the primary education in Pakistan as an ‘apartheid system’, he lamented that it imparted education based on the social status of people, which would determine the future trajectory of an individual’s life. Recently launching a public campaign on the Abdus Salam Chair at Lums, Dr Najam claimed there was a need to acknowledge and respect academic brilliance, hoping that the chair would eventually become the most prestigious in Pakistan. “What Abdus Salam means to me is pure excellence,” he stated.

Hoping that the youth will steer the country towards progress, he was adamant that they were the biggest resource of Pakistan. “If we only converse on the problems facing the country we are heading nowhere. But if it is about solutions to those problems then there is hope, and here is where the youth comes in with their positivity and potential”, he remarked.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Aisha
    Mar 28, 2012 - 10:21AM

    People like Dr. Najam are the pride of this nation. Have always been most impressed by his intellect but his returning to Pakistan and his infectous optimism about Pakistan and Pakistani youth is a motivation for everyone. Thank you LUMS for bringing Dr. Najam back.


  • Junaid Ali
    Mar 28, 2012 - 10:32AM

    That is very much right Dr. sab.. I have also observed that we need quality education in our country and without government support it is impossible to implement…. Our all syllabus is outdated…. I am an engineer and according to my view technology is grooming so fast that what ever we study in 1st semester it becomes outdated while we reach in last semester… I am developing an Engineering educational program comparing here with South Korea studies, i need extensive study and surveys and researched materials, if any one could help me for his/her contribution for the improvements….


  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 28, 2012 - 11:22AM

    Wish you all the best and all the luck to make it happen.


  • Skin Taj
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:18PM

    EDUCATION is the true KEY for the prosperity of Pakistan. a SIMPLE SECRET. Education will make people realise what is RIGHT & WRONG with them and the nation !!!!!!!!!

    LOOK at the simple FACT…. Difference between the literacy rate of us and developed countries and even countries in the region who are just better because they have better literacy rate !!!! ** FACT *


  • Farhan
    Mar 28, 2012 - 2:18PM

    We expect some more from Dr Adil in future.

    1) Sir please tell us what LUMS and other private universities should do to improve their international standing.

    2) And, also how big public universities can serve the country better. How they can generate funds and reinvest in their operations.

    3) What LUMS is doing in bringing the best Pakistani brains back home especially those who are teaching in west.

    4) What Pakistani universities should do for joint ventures with the leading western universities.


  • Mar 28, 2012 - 2:57PM

    This man has got some brains!


  • anoni
    Mar 28, 2012 - 3:35PM

    One thing people need to realise is that “quality cost you” . With our goverment spending 1.5 % of GDP no doubt we are lacking so much. It should be 30% of GDP . A recent report suggested that any increase in literacy rate by 10 % boost the GDP of a nation by 8 -16 % . Now i see this the best investment and hope the future goverment agrees.


  • Mustafa
    Mar 28, 2012 - 3:47PM

    A little context to the article would have been nice. I mean it is about education – surely the reporter could have added something other than paraphrasing what the interviewee said!


  • A Peshawary
    Mar 28, 2012 - 3:58PM

    There cannot be any doubts about the excellence of LUMS. Surely, by any standards it is an instituion to be proud off.

    Why going through various comments on this interview and on other articles of diffirent topics, one obsevres that we as nation are caught in jinks of “comparisions”? Do we need to compare ourselves with others in every thing and all the time? We must set our own standards, we do have the infrastructures (what ever wayward and full of shortcomings it may be) to built the fabric of society. What we need now! reassessment of what has been done and what needs to done in order make the things straight. No doubt lot of financial investment has been made by the public to educate their childern. If the house is not put in order and people dont’ get proper return on thier investment that will be catastrophic for the society. There is a phrase ” market is very cruel”, in this case the market reaction will very hard and severe.

    A PeshawaryRecommend

  • Dr. Khalid
    Mar 28, 2012 - 7:35PM

    LUMS should be proud that someone of Dr. Najam’s stature has agreed to return to Pakistan to lead it. I salute his scholarship as well as his optimism for Pakistan and urge to change things for the better. He is already making a big difference. I just hope the rest of us Pakistanis do not bring him down and destroy his optimism as we so often do. By the way, here is a glimpse of Dr. Najam’s intellectual caliber and love for Pakistan: http://pakistaniat.com/


  • Apr 21, 2012 - 11:03PM

    Can people like Dr Najam please tell me why no Pakistani universities are open in the UAE, where I live? This country is an amazing place for opening universities, as many international universities from UK and India have opened campuses here (also some from US) The Pakistani community would be heartened to see Pakistani universities open here, the universities would also profit a lot


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