When It Comes To Education, Pakistan Can Learn Democracy From India
May 3, 2010
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India and Pakistan were both poor countries in 1947; both were countries divided by colonial opportunism, and religious bigotry. Both had similar problems, India just had more of them because of its diverse population and scale.

But India prioritized its focus on higher education and people were conscious enough to keep their elected leaders honest. One can arrive at the conclusion that democracy is what Pakistan should learn from India’s somewhat success in education.

There is hardly any difference between the two countries, statistically speaking, in their educational development, or lack thereof. But where India scores much higher is in a few of its select academic institutions. These institutions raise the educational quotient of the country to a high, world class level, and by their very presence, they tend to pull up other institutes of learning simply by peer pressure.

Pakistani Education System, Statistics and Demographics

The Pakistani education system is divided into the primary, secondary, and high school levels. Following High School, plenty of private and government-sponsored colleges/universities operate with the charter of Higher Education Commission (HEC). Generally speaking the provincial governments are responsible for the day-to-day management of education; while the federal government have the onus-ensuring budget and quality.

If one was to believe government released statistics, literacy rate in Pakistan increases by 10% with every passing generation, with male literacy rate of only 68%, and the female rate of 48% percent.
Literacy rate alone is not a strong indicator of education.

A better indicator is enrollment in higher education; about 5% of Pakistani men and 3% of Pakistani women have a college education. To further complicate this situation most of the colleges and universities are not of international standard.

Between 1947 and 2003, Pakistan did not have a single university that could be ranked as world class. But in last seven years, Times Higher Education Rankings have ranked the National University of Science and Technology at No 376, while 3 universities have been ranked in the top 300 in the field of natural sciences.

This progress, one might suggest is significant keeping in mind that Pakistan spends only about 3% of its GDP on Education. Tremendous gender disparity further skews any quantitative analysis. The disparity has not been helped by the enforcement of a ban on female education by the Taliban, notably in the scenic Swat valley.

Indian Education System, A Chronicle of Moderate Progress

According to latest figures, the literacy rate of India stands at 64.84%; male literacy is 75.26% and female literacy stands at 53.63%. About one-third of the population, 300 million Indians, is absolute non-literates.

The government spends about 3.5% of the nation’s GDP on education. There are about 400 universities and 16000 colleges in the country, with a system of academic institutions covering technology, management, and medical sciences.

As for higher education, about 9% of Indians have a college education. The figure is about 4 times higher for urban areas. This is about 4% higher than in Pakistan; still not a huge difference.

Statistical and Other Metric Comparison | Centers of Excellence

There is hardly any difference between the two countries, statistically speaking, in their educational development, or lack thereof.

Admittedly, the literacy rate is higher in India by about 8 percentage points; the female literacy rate is about 7% higher as well. Enrolment in higher education is about 4% more overall, in India. It is still nothing compared to, say the US, which has 29% of its people with a college degree.

But where India scores much higher is in a few of its select academic institutions. These institutions raise the educational quotient of the country to a high, world class level, and by their very presence, they tend to pull up other institutes of learning simply by peer pressure.

In science and technology, there were a few institutions like the various IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and the IISc (Indian Institute of Science) that had made a name for themselves in the world academic arena even 30 years ago. At a time when the economy was closed and the present day “economic stability” was unimaginable, these few institutions still used to bring out world-class talent.

Most of this talent had to go out of the country to establish themselves; and it was their overseas presence, that gave their alma maters global reputation.

Over time several other institutions become ‘world class’ in science and technology. IITs of India has raised the bar for various RECs (Regional College of Engineering) and the BITS Pilani institute, the Tata Institutes of Education (TIFR), and even a few state-run universities are slowly making a name for themselves in technological fields.

In the management and finance domain, the ISB is ranked number 12 among world MBA schools by the Financial Times of London. Besides, the various IIMs and a few other b-schools also rank very high. Similarly, in the medical field, the AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) has been at the forefront in the development of medical treatment in India, and has spawned, by sheer peer pressure, a number of best of breed medical institutions.

The Situation in Pakistan

When it comes to higher education, Pakistan has not been able to make its mark. Although a few institutions (I am thinking HEJ, IBA and LUMS) can be recognized as emerging leaders – because of highly educated faculty, intelligent management, and above all an intellectually stimulating, liberal environment. But, these institutions also acquiesced to the religious zealots and allowed conservatism to slowly creep-in.

HEC has also failed – it has failed to establish centers of excellence: standards without monitoring and compliance cannot yield results. There is nothing comparable to the IITs, there is nothing comparable to the IIMs and other b-schools.

Although the statistics put Pakistan and India in very close affinity when it comes to literacy rates, Pakistani students do not have the opportunity to attend top-notch colleges/ universities

Democracy in India has provided opportunities to some who were neither generals nor feudal lords, and these middle class and lower-middle class public servants had the foresight to nurture the few higher institutes of learning.

Religious extremism has destroyed whatever institutions Pakistan had pre-Zia-ul-Haq. And, things have gotten even worse with Talibanization – a large population not willing (or afraid) to send its women to go to schools. I know it sounds cliché but it is absolutely true: when you teach a woman you teach a village.

What Pakistan Can Learn From Indian Education

Paulo Freire, a Brazilian philosopher of education, contended that given the history of European imperialism, an emancipatory education of the oppressed involves a dismantling of colonial structures and ideologies.

Independence of nation states, such as Pakistan and India, from the clutches of colonial master was not the end of the colonial culture that supported foreign, non-representative, and repressive rule of colonial power.

Independence from colonial rule was only the beginning of the process of nation building and decolonization. Pakistan, after independence, failed to establish representative and participatory governance and became a non-representative and repressive government. The dictatorial regimes in Pakistan banked on the pre-existing colonial culture and political support of colonial masters to maintain their autocratic rules.

Colonial culture is built and maintained on master-slave relationship between the ruler and the subjects. The dictatorial regime survives as long as this relationship of ordering and obeying is practiced. Master uses coercion as a tool to discipline the slaves. A slave must obey or gets whipped, this has been the law since time immemorial and it still prevails in Pakistan.

Frantz Fanon in his book “The Wretched of the Earth” demands anti-colonial and modern education for native populations. Humanistic society alone can truly be an anti-colonial society.

One can arrive at the conclusion that democracy is what Pakistan should learn from India’s somewhat success in education.

About author

Dr. Shams Hamid

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There are 18 comments

  • akber memon says:

    Informative and research oriented article, by juxtaposing state of affairs of education of both countries and trying to find out more similarities rather than dissimilarities. I think after partition India with negligible change allowed to continue its education system on the same pattern inherited from colonial masters while in our case we did not only repudiate but almost destroyed it to suit our own concocted ideology. We should not forget that education system in later colonial era was secular in nature and tended to inculcate the youth with principles of justice, truth honesty and impartiality and promoted critical and analytical thinking.Take the dark era of General Zia when he was set to Islamize the whole society according to his own version of religion, the curriculum was made totally tinged with irrationality and obscurity, marring the spirit of free thinking and curiosity only paying the way for intolerance and disharmony in the society for which we are still bearing the burns in the shape of religious fanaticism, terrorism and retrogressive mind set as a whole. What is more disappointing that our dominant media group has always explicitly supported the agenda of dictators by making masses in the state of oblivion. Now thanks to modern modes of information technology acquiring the best qualitative knowledge is no bar and is accessible to every and sundry what is required, change of attitude and shun sentiments of ethnocentrism and jingoism. . In the end with apology I must say that every time insinuating colonial masters for our own faults and follies is not plausible, at some stage we should have to hold our selves accountable.

  • Shams Hamid says:

    Akber thanks for your detailed feedback. The difference between Pakistan and India lies in First Indian government’s decision of land reform that totally restructured the colonial power structure. Both India and Pakistan were an agricultural economy and Indian land reforms provided levelled playing field for all Indians, breaking the oppressive rule of Nawabs and Zamindars. This decision led India towards decolonisation. Besides, education during colonial rule was to prepare a loyal bureaucracy to fulfill the oppressive agenda of the colonial masters. The aim of education at that time was not to empower Indian citizen but to keep them enslaved. Pakistani government failed to implement Land Reforms, hence the old oppressive rule of Waderas and zamindars remained intact, a haari remained oppressed and could not enjoy the fruits of liberty and a chance for equal participation in the surplus created by his/her labour. This situation continues even today in Pakistan. Therefore, colonial power structure and colonial oppressive objectives are still not thwarted in Pakistan and its interests are still protected by the army as they were earlier, and it still serves the purposes of the western Masters.

    The other distinction is the democratic rule that continues in India, whereas democracy failed to establish in Pakistan. Democracy, even the worse form of it, provides opportunity of participation to the entire citizen and empowers them to share in policymaking including the educational policy.

    I agree with you that we should not blame colonialists for all of our miseries, but in Pakistan we are still a have to live within the colonial structure because we failed to take up the project of decolonisation through land reforms; and through democratizing our institutions and society.

  • Mohammad Ali says:

    Total crap article. Pakistan has great universities but these agents of hindus and Jews are unwilling to recognize them.

  • syed Ashraf says:

    I agree with Sams Hamid’s comment. Mr Mohammad Ali please increase your knowledge. I have been attached to many world class Science & technology research organisation in the western world and found mostly Indians are more hard working and smarter than Pakistani this reflects the standard of theier education. We find much more research articals from Indian and hardly any from Pakistan. In my opinion their is no short cut, we have to do two things,(1) get rid of feudalism, these are illitrate theives who are ruling on us, (2) spend more on education, specially on Science & technology.Up to some extent HEC has done a good job to uplift the Science and technology and the result, NURST,KU and QAU are in top 400 list.

  • Shams Hamid says:

    Dear Mohammad Ali thanks for your interact. You have the right to disagree but you need to give reasons for your opinion so that we can argue about it and reach a higher level of truth through our dialogue. Why do you think, for instance, that this article is crap? And why do you consider me an agent of hindus and jews (It is like calling you Hawaldar Major whereas you are a Subedar Major)? Please elaborate and give justification for your comments.
    Ashraf Sahab I agree with you that we need to tax agriculture and spend atleast 8% of our GDP on education. Unesco has also suggested that South Asian counties should spend atleast 8% of their GDP on education. Thanks for commenting.

  • Ahmed Ali says:

    I usually don’t like most of the articles posted on this blog. But this one is really a nice one. I totally agree that Pakistan should spend atleast 8% rather more than that on education. We should not put our national pride in question for copying good things.

    Ahmed Ali.

  • Zahid A. says:

    The article is well researched as far as it goes on with highlighting and discussing the comparative figures provided. However I do find myself in disagreement with the author on certain points which are as under:

    Making a comparison between India and Pakistan in the post independence context, based on resources seems utterly illogical and absurd. To elaborate my point I would like to throw light on the below mentioned facts:

    Once the British decision to leave India was made, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India appointed Cyril Redcliffe, a British henchman who had never been to India before, to draw the borders between the two in just over a month.

    At independence both Pakistan and India were to divide their resources equally depending on their size, something which never really occurred. For instance out of the 133 civil servants in the Bengal region only 1 came to Pakistan. By 1951, 10% of Pakistan’s total population were Muslim refugees from India’s Minority Muslim Regions. When the military was split, Pakistan received only 6 of the 40 armoured regiments of the army, only 8 of 40 artillery units, and only 8 of 21 infantry units. At partition, Pakistan, which was supposed to receive 39% of the British Indian Army, received only 30% of it, 40% of the navy, and 20% of the air force thus putting it at a distinct military disadvantage with the Indians. Similarly at partition most of the control points of canals and rivers that fed canals in Punjab were in India. Soon after independence India shut off the water and demanded payment for the water to Pakistan that was vital for our economic, social and political progress. Of the 394 cotton mills in the subcontinent only 14 were located in Pakistan. At independence only 1 of 57 top companies of the subcontinent were situated in Pakistan and although the then Pakistan was 25% of the total India, we managed to get only 10% of the industrial base. Similarly we received only 17% revenue of pre partition India. All these factors put India into an advantageous position and enabled it to compete internationally and build its democratic institutions and infrastructure more effectively.

    On the other hand East and West Pakistan were separated by a 1000 miles of hostile Indian Territory. The 1947-48 war with India over Kashmir made Pakistan frail and vulnerable and hustled it to allocate a large portion of the total budget on defence to counter Indian threat(because Pakistan was never given its due share from the British India Army). In the subsequent years from 1947-50, 70% of the total budget was spent on defence thus leaving the other sectors wholly ignored and neglected. Colossal spending on defence paved the way for Military dominance in state affairs and society, the fruits of which we are bearing even now. Instead of strengthening the democratic institutions (free press and media, independent judiciary, parliament and election commission etc) and investing in public sector, the military and intelligence services took precedence.

    Moreover in the post independence years, India also had the advantage of having its founder of independence, J. L. Nehru live long enough to establish a firm democratic base for the nation whereas Jinnah of Pakistan was not that fortunate in this regard. It was this very reason that India managed to devise and promulgate its first Constitution only two years after its independence and hold General Elections in the same year. Dissimilar to that, Pakistan had its first Constitution passed in 1956 and General Elections after two decades.

    On the issue of diversity I would say, Diversity is not a threat, in fact it’s a strength and a competitive edge a nation can have over others, provided diverse groups are evolved into a nation with a single vision by inculcating patriotism, nationalism and a common goal and vision with the help of formulating a single syllabus at school and college levels that is not indoctrinated. What India has attained over the last couple of decades on the international stage in the fields of education, commerce, industry and other thriving segments of economy is by developing an education system which is uniformly and evenly followed throughout the country and which is very much job oriented in its nature. Similarly they have exploited the multiculturalism and diverse elements of the society by adopting the US model of mono-culturalism that aims to unite a nation on a single identity, without much focusing on the diverse instincts of a population. The case of Pakistan is different where people are more interested in affiliating themselves with their ethnic origins rather than calling and identifying themselves as a single nation. The recent issues of PukhtoonKhwa, staging protests for Hazara and Saraiki Provinces are examples that can be quoted here in Pakistan’s case.

    In the education sector We Pakistanis continue to evolve as three different nations. Private schools, Public sector schools and Religious schools (depending on the creed they follow) teach different syllabus. A single syllabus must be introduced if we want ourselves to stand and work as one nation with a commonly shared vision. When it comes to Religious schools I myself, to the highest degree support religious education in these institutions but then I am with the view that worldly subjects like science, mathematics, commerce, IT etc must also be taught in these schools so that their graduates can augment their human capital and have an equal shot at the given opportunities in the job market and play a proactive role in the society as a whole.

    Sadly and ironically unlike India Pakistan had not been fortunate enough over the course of time since its inception. Bad governance accompanied by military interventions, fanaticism, militancy, bigotry, distorted values and intolerance toward diverse views hampered and thwarted every effort that we made to continue our journey on the road to prosperity and today as a nation we are screwed up but then I am with the standpoint that ‘our salvation does not lay in revolution but in evolution instead’.

  • SUNIL says:


  • Aman Ullah says:

    Respected Sir, i totally disagree with what you had told about the facts and figures over here. The reason is you had just majorly pointed to the negative points in here not the positive one. If you want to get your self more informative you have to be more realistic rather than just reading an article or something and put your comments on it.


  • Shams Hamid says:

    Thank you Ahmed and Sunil for interacting and appreciating the article. Zahid I appreciate your interact with detailed statistics, I am thankful for it. Respected Sir Aman, I respect your opinion, but would you please share the causes of your disagreement. I am grateful to all who read this article and interacted with me. Agreements are appreciated and disagreements are most welcome, however, both of them with more facts and more arguments lead toward a richer discourse and I am looking forward to it. Thank you all once again.

  • Ibrahim Sajid Malick says:

    Excellent debate! I had a mentor at New School Dr. Partha Chatterjee who told me once that debate is not wrestling: all who engage win.

  • Shams Hamid says:

    Zahid your feedback is enlightening and your suggestions for Pakistani education should be discussed on official forums. Pakistan lacks a clear education policy. It is not formulated transparently and with the open participation of Pakistani educationists, intellectuals, industrialists, businesses, students and parents. Education in Pakistan, as I you pointed out, is different for elites, middle class and lower class. Top notch private english schools for Elites, Private english schools and few credible public schools in urban centres for middle class and third rated urdu public schools and madarsahs for the poor. Middle class and poor are indoctrinated by the books, whereas the elites have access to enlightening text mostly written in english by foreign authors. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us on this blog.

  • […] India's equanimity in politics and religion provides a model for its neighbors When It Comes To Education, Pakistan Can Learn Democracy From India Posted on 03 May 2010 by Dr. Shams Hamid India and Pakistan were both poor countries in 1947; both […]

  • Bharath says:

    Its a very well written article comparing the two countries. Democracy comes with a lot of loopholes, but surprisingly it works, it gives the people the freedom of expression. Democracy increases the faith in the system, government, social justice and education there by instilling the self belief in people that anything is achievable.
    After a long gap of 15 years i went to my village in 2000, i was surprised to see our govt village assistant was pushing the women to bring their kids for polio drops and suggesting them to get sterilized. I asked him what was the need for this measure, he said he was answerable to Mandal Revenue Officer who in turn was answerable to District collector.
    For the first time in my life i thought that our system is working and i hope Pakistan will adopt Democracy which i am sure will only get better with time like red wine.

  • […] a lot from India? In education systems,India's literacy has literally shot up in the recent times.. When It Comes To Education, Pakistan Can Learn Democracy From India | Pakistani | Pakistani News | P… The Daily Star – Politics – What Pakistan can learn from India Here's what is happening in India: […]

  • i am not pakistan but west indian. pakistan should not be griping about what they got and didnt get. rather they ought to forge forward in a humanistic way. there is too much hate and a country that professes to be islamic which means peace indulges in too much hate mongering agains humanity.. too many wars are fough on the name of religion and this is so sad.. in america as hindus muslims and christians we respect each other . why cant the same occur in pakistan. pakistan must move away from the sixty year old hate mongering syndrome and get rid of their present and former dictatorial regimes if they are to move forward and create stability for its people by meaning what they say and say what they mean.. in the 21st century where man is going to the moon religion should not be forced on anyone.. god gives us a free will and therefore imbibe the good and positive of all teachings.. we must never forget as a people pakistan came from hindus. incidentally jinna was seventy percent hindu and came from a brahmin fam look deep inside and really ponder our true beginnings.

  • sunil kumar soni says:

    dear author,
    your write up was great, proud indian with roots in sialkot i feel for the people of pakistan, its always the politicians with their silly ideas create a ruckus, for their own benefits, its at this juncture the indians score over pakistan even the poorest send their children to technical colleges, in the south of india where i live culture, honesty, and patience is a virtue, fear of god is inscribed in every person. you have truck drivers, maids, daily workers sending their children to schools and colleges, its a era of enlightenment where its a open secret that education is the golden way to future, all what i have written, can be summed up that we do not depend on the govt for any largesse but strive to achieve it ourselves. as rightly said by shaheed baghat singh said:

    zindagi apne pairo par khadi ho kar jee jati hai”
    auroa ke kande to janazo ke liye hotae hai”

    religion is a personal affair, should be kept personal, pakis are one of the best at IT & mechanical but circumstances are preventing the best to come into your nation.
    i have seen that to remain in power the politician in pakistan resorts to ” india bashing” this will lead you nowhere. go pakis go you have everything to gain, be tolerant and see the wonders.
    warm regards to everyone in pakistan.. jai hind (do not think india is only hindu) we have every type of relegion practised out here.

  • pmd says:

    India and indians are always great. Whatever world enjoying today is given by Indians and Indians only. e.g. mathematics, astronomy, music medical science,
    drama, literature, dance, grammar, meteorology,yoga,script,astrology and many mores so world should always respect to Indians first @:

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