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What’s Wrong – Pakistan’s Higher Education System

Issues in Pakistan’s Education System: A Focus on Higher EducationScientia Potentia Est, or “For also knowledge itself is power”, is a very popular Latin maxim that all of us will have heard or read quite a few times throughout our school days. In the fast-paced, rapidly growing information age, it could not be any truer.The concept of knowledge economy hovers around the utilization of knowledge and information as a productive asset. All the sectors, be it services related or manufacturing related all rely on knowledge and information for productivity; be it a groundbreaking piece of code for a software, or the schematics of a new prototype car.Knowledge is gained through two methods; one is experience, the other is formal education and training. Experience can only come with time; however, we still need to understand our experiences. That is where education comes in.Education is a building block of life as we know it, without which, we would not have the world we see now. It is widely understood that a country with a good education infrastructure has everything it needs to become a successful, highly developed nation. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll try to see where Pakistan’s education system stands, what challenges it faces, and what possible solutions we might have.The Current System:Pakistan’s education system is split up into five levels. The first level starting from grade one and going up to grade five, is Primary Schooling. This education varies from school to school with some private schools offering exceptional schooling but at a very high price, and public schools often being termed mediocre; we’ll talk about the issues later on through this article.The second level, Middle Schooling, starts at grade six and continues up to the eighth grade. Again, the curriculum and schooling criteria varies from school to school, but the same conception applies here as well. Public schools are generally considered lackluster as compared to some private schools and the elitist schools offer the best schooling, at exorbitant fee structures.The third level consists of grades nine and ten, and is called Highschooling. This level is followed by Matriculation or Secondary School Certification (SSC) Exams. These exams are conducted on a provincial or district level. Once again, the quality of schooling varies from school to school with some schools following the Cambridge system of education.The fourth level consists of the eleventh and twelfth grades, and is called Intermediate Level Schooling. These two years of schooling are offered at several schools and also at several colleges, and are followed by Higher Secondary School Certification (HSSC) or Intermediate Exams. Like the SSC Exams, these are also conducted at the provincial level, as well as the federal level.Though these two years are the foundation for students as they determine a direction that they take for their career, students often change their career paths after their intermediate education and certification. There seems to be a growing need for student career-path counseling.The fifth level is composed of Undergraduate and Post-Graduate degree programs. The Undergraduate or Bachelors degree programs range from a Bachelors’ in Arts to Bachelors’ in Law, covering several different programs. The duration of these programs varies according to the nature of the specialization or course, from two to four years. There are several private and public universities spread out across the country that offer such bachelors degree programs.The Undergraduate or Bachelors’ programs are of two types; Pass and Honors. The Pass system comprises of twelve subjects, ranging from compulsory Language, History, and Religion based courses, to optional courses that cover specific areas with a duration of two years. The Honors system constitutes specialization courses in addition to select compulsory courses over three to four years.The Post-Graduate degree programs consist of Masters and PhDs in various subjects, ranging from philosophy and education to business administration and engineering subjects. The Masters programs are of around 2 years, and consist of specialization courses in a chosen subject. The PhD programs are a further extension of specialization and are of around three to five years.With several public and private universities and degree awarding institutes offering these programs, the quality of education varies profoundly, with select institutes given preference over others. The reason for such a vast difference in the quality of education is primarily the curriculum used, and the faculty of that institute. Once again, we’ll talk about the issues in more detail a little later on through the story.The Issues:Though Pakistan has a very high number of private and public sector schools, the quality of education leaves a lot to be desired. Some private sector schools do offer excellent quality, but have such a high fee that the lower middle income group can hardly afford them. Additionally, most public sector schools lack enough competent teachers to cater to the high demands of this age group.The most critical aspect of the earlier stages of formal education is the development of an inquisitive and active mind. If a child is encouraged to think out of the box from such an early age, not only would his learning experience be a lot more productive, he would grow into a prodigious professional.Additionally, another common complaint of parents of public-sector school students is poor English vocational skill. This once again, falls under the umbrella of ineffective and unskilled teachers.A very critical issue our intermediate level students face is a feeling of general mayhem and incertitude of their direction in life. Though some students have a fairly good idea of where they want to go, most do not, and this is why they end up changing their career paths during their higher education.Analysts and critiques argue that the reason for this irresolution lies in the fact that our current education system does not seed curiosity nor does it encourage further research. The reason behind this, they point out, is an ill-planned examination system that is graded according to a student’s ability to memorize selective topics in their curriculum, and to rewrite them onto paper. Our education system is in dire need of rejuvenation, and though it has already started, there is still indeed a long way to go.Also, another reason for this uncertainty is a lack of guidance and counseling. Due to our social setup, most students need constant feedback and guidance to steer themselves into the right career. This can only be done if all schools set up student counselors who would help students decide a particular field they wish to enter.At the university level, a major challenge is the lack of skilled and competent teachers. According to Pervez Hoodbhoy, “There are far too few qualified Pakistanis who can teach modern engineering subjects at an international professional level. There may be no more than two to three dozen suitable engineering professors in all of Pakistan’s engineering universities.” He further points out that the current number of engineering professors is minuscule if you look at the number of professors needed by the several international engineering universities being set up throughout the country.Another very major concern is the development of a suitable curriculum and examination system. Though the Higher Education Commission is currently developing a standardized curriculum for all public and private sector universities and institutes, the development of existing and new faculty will take quite some time.Possible Solutions:One possible solution to these problems is already under way. The restructuring of the entire system has already started and it is gradually being reworked into a more coherent and encouraging system for all. The system needs to be transformed so that it cultivates curiosity and research, instead of just going through a selection of notoriously irksome books.Moreover, we need to train our teachers to be more receptive of their students, instead of just being receptive of the books of their curriculum. With formal training, teachers can improve their language skills, as well as their direction and teaching skills. In simple words, we need to train them to be more open-minded and curious, so they in turn pass on that trait to their students.As for the lack of qualified Pakistani teachers and professors, one possible solution is to set up mandatory training courses for all teachers, as well as suitable experience and educational qualifications before allowing them to become teachers at higher education institutions. As for the immediate need, we need to hire foreign faculty for all our educational institutes while the currently employed teachers undergo mandatory training.As said in the beginning of this story, education is a building block of life as we know it and it is the primary thing that makes us human. As a child grows, he learns, and what he learns, he must be given the freedom to practice, and to grow. Without this freedom, he will confine himself to a cocoon, yet he will not transcended beyond that stage, and he will not turn into a butterfly.A child’s mind is like a blank canvas; use the right combination of colors, and it turns into a Van Gogh or a Michelangelo, use the wrong combination and it turns into muck. The development of a child determines his outlook and standing in life.I came across a very famous dialogue from a blockbuster Hollywood movie, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is”, and it truly is!

Should You Really Consolidate Student Loans?

If you’re pondering whether or not to consolidate student loans, consider this; all college loans have unique attributes, and not all may be perfectly suited for student loan consolidation. Student loan consolidation is, in most cases, an outstanding option for reducing monthly payments, locking in low rates, and earning opportunities to shave money off your loan balance with lender incentives. When you consolidate student loans, you lock in the current interest rate by allowing the lender to repay the entire amount, then repaying the lender free from government interest rate fluctuations.PLUS Loan – Good Choice for Student Loan ConsolidationLike many college loans, the PLUS loan (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) is a type of federal loan with a variable interest rate. This means that the monthly payment will change when the government reconfigures the interest rates annually (July 1).The interest rates on PLUS loans are generally higher than other types of college loans so when interest rates increase, PLUS loans can be greatly affected. Since college loans are consolidated by social security number, parents should apply separately for PLUS loan consolidation.Perkins Loan – Consider before refinancingThe Perkins loan is a fixed rate loan and has some unique benefits that can be lost with a student loan consolidation. The Perkins loan has a forgiveness program that will waive all or part of the repayment amount if the borrower works in specific occupations that provide a valuable service to the community. Some such eligible occupations are teachers in low income areas, nurses, and medical technicians.If you’re not eligible for the various loan forgiveness opportunities offered by the Perkins loan, there is still another point to consider. Because the Perkins loan is a fixed rate loan, and because the interest rate on a student loan consolidation is determined by the weighted average of the other loans, you could actually pay a small percentage more on a consolidated Perkins loan over time.Stafford Loans – Good Choice for Student Loan ConsolidationStafford loans are the most common loans, and also the most popular type to consolidate. Stafford loans have a variable interest rate like the PLUS loan, making refinancing a smart choice. Loan consolidation can reduce the repayment amount by up to 63% if refinanced through the right lender.Like the Perkins Loan, the Stafford Loan also offers a few forgiveness programs for those in certain teaching positions and other various public service jobs. Check to see if you’re eligible for any forgiveness programs before applying to consolidate student loans.Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL) – Consider before refinancingThe HPSL loan for medical professionals is a fixed rate loan like the Perkins Loan. The HPSL comes with certain deferment options that may be lost after consolidation.The HPSL offers a 3 year deferment period designed to give relief to medical professionals during residency. This deferment option may or may not be lost after consolidation. Those who have HPSL college loans should inquire with various lenders about deferment options.Direct Loans – Good Choice for Student Loan ConsolidationSome schools offer Direct Loans, meaning that the money given to students comes directly from the federal government, not through a private lender. Borrowers who obtain these college loans must first consolidate through the Direct Loan program, but then have the opportunity to shop around for lower interest rates.
Beginning July 1st 2006, borrowers will face much stricter regulations when consolidating Direct Loans. After the 1st of July, borrowers will only be able to switch lenders if their current lender does not offer a student loan consolidation with an income sensitive repayment plan.The two most popular types of loans are the Stafford Loan and the PLUS Loan which is the reason it’s so popular to consolidate student loans. Many students acquire a variety of college loans that may not be beneficial to consolidate. Student loans are not all created equal. It’s important to understand the unique qualities of your individual loans and work with your lender to determine the option that is right for you.

Student Loan Consolidation Interest Rate – Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans

Going to College costs a great deal of money. No only do you have to consider your tuition, you need to pay for textbooks, room and board. Students use student loans to pay for a number of their college needs. Majority of these students have multiple student loans. Each loan has a different billing cycle, creditor, and interest rate. One way to make paying these loans easier is loan consolidation. Loan consolidation is having all your student loans turn into one new loan. This one loan is handled by one creditor. There are two methods of loan consolidation: Federal and Private loan consolidation. When looking for a loan consolidation company that’s right for you, you need to consider their interest rates. Interest rates are a major part of any loan.Federal loan consolidation is funded by the U.S. Government or the U.S. Department of Education. Either the Government or the Department of Education combines your multiple student loans into one new loan. The interest rate on Federal Loans change according to the 91-day Treasury bill or T-Bill. This may vary each year, each May. Federal Loan Consolidation rates are set on the US Treasury and by the Congress. The Federal interest rate is the weighted average of student loan interest rates. The interest rate for Stafford loans will be the T-Bill plus 1.7%, while for federal PLUS loans, the rate is the T-Bill plus 2.3%.Federal loans are currently at a fixed rate, but that can change. Originally, the federal interest rate was a fixed rate, later turned into a variable, but on July 1, 2006 it returned back to a fixed rate. With federal loans there is a possibility it may change in the future. Federal loans include Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans.Stafford Loans are fixed-rate loans. For Stafford Loans you have subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans.For Subsidized Stafford loans that are paid out to graduate and professional students, the interest rate is fixed at 6.8%. Interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans, for undergraduate students are:
- For loans first paid out between July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2008, is fixed at 6.8%.
- For loans first paid out between July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010, is fixed at 5.6%.
- For loans first paid out between July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011, is fixed at 4.5%.
- For loans first paid out between July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012, is fixed at 3.4%.
- For loans first paid out between on or after July 1, 2012, the interest rate is fixed at 6.8%.For Unsubsidized Stafford loans, the interest rate is fixed at 6.8%. This is disbursed to undergraduates and graduate students.The interest rate for PLUS loans first paid out beginning July 1, 2006 is fixed at 8.5%. The rate on PLUS loans first paid on or after July 1, 1998 but before July 1, 2006 is variable and may change annually on July 1 but will never exceed 9%. The current interest rate is 3.28%.A private loan consolidation company is a private creditor or company. Their interest rates vary. Interest rates are based on either LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) or the prime rate. The credit history is also considered for the student and co-signer. These loans are variable or have a fixed rate that changes according to the agreement in the promissory note. In some cases some private student loan consolidation loans could be the same rate as federal to compete with federal low interest rates.