Brain drain a big challenge ahead
20 December, 2005
By M. Abid Rahi
Assured of better reward and security abroad top class professionals,including doctors,engineers, auditors, architects, bankers and commercial pilots have been leaving Pakistan. According to estimates, over two lakh such Pakistanis have left the country during the last one-year only.
The situation should serve as an eye opener for our decision-makers as the people who have the best skills and can provide better services feel insecure in their own country due variety of reasons.
This is not less than a national tragedy as in terms of development we as a nation are passing through a critical phase of history besides the fact that this brain drain could dent our image in the comity of nations.
The professionals leaving the country mostly look for jobs offering attractive salaries abroad, mainly the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
One thing is abundantly clear that if this huge brain drain continues the ultimate loser will be none other than the common people of Pakistan. The trend of brain drain would serve a severe blow to the overall growth rate that?s why the government and the private sector should join hands to work out modalities to arrest recurrence of such negative trend in the country. The public and private sectors should come up with concrete steps to ensure utilization of these skilled and well-qualified people in the larger national interest.
A survey conducted by the Gallop Pakistan suggested that more than two-thirds of Pakistan?s adult population preferred to go abroad. This is a brain drain with a pain. There is another brain drain ?with shame?. In this situation the brains leaving the country do not want to go abroad out of their own will. Instead, they are forced to leave the country that not only drains Pakistan of valuable minds but also attracts criticism for the government because of its policies.
A segment of society who imposed self-exile upon themselves to ensure protection of their families against excesses meted out to them by the respective governments is a matter of shame for all of us and that amounts to real brain drain.They don?t leave the country in search of better prospects, as the report suggest. They do not run to dodge national tax authorities
. They leave the country because the government miserably failed to measure up to their expectations.
The government needs to take swift but serious decisions with a spirit to implement these to rein in its security agencies and stop harassing the common people as well as persons with high qualifications.
It is on record of the Overseas Employment Corporation that as many as 2,79,021 Pakistanis left the country within a short span of one year. Thousands of other persons, who proceeded abroad for employment through other means, could not be registered.
It is high time to stop the brain drain that could leave us demoralized among the comity of nations. This trend could be arrested only by proper analysis of the framework needed for successful running of academic institutions, identifying areas of weakness, and taking suitable steps to strengthen these areas.
Four basic ingredients needed for smooth and successful operation of public sector academic institutions are faculty, students, infrastructure and administration.
Some of these elements are delicately inter-related. The most important of these elements are faculty and students?if you don?t have high-quality faculty or students, the other two become worthless.
However, excellent infrastructure and able administrators are needed to recruit and retain first class faculty. Quality of students would naturally improve when the other three elements would be in place.
I will not get into the chicken and egg debate of whether high-quality students attract high-quality faculty or vice versa?I have personally seen it work both ways.
In any event, quality of students and infrastructure are not issues at the public sector institutions of higher education because they get the best student intake, primarily due to low tuition fee, and have large campuses and reasonably good buildings thanks to public funds.
The salaries of teaching staff at public sector institutions of higher education are abysmally low. So, faculty members usually take on other part-time jobs and/or run their own businesses to earn extra income. Since this practice has been going on for years, the academics at public sector institutions have deteriorated to a state almost beyond repair.
The only way out of this mess is to significantly enhance salaries of the faculty at public institutions and make them competitive with the private sector institutions. This would result in faculty members making focused effort at their primary jobs and improved academic environment. The "tenure track" and "foreign faculty hiring" schemes offered by the HEC are not solutions to these problems because they are contract based, limited duration appointments.
The other fundamental problem at the public sector institutions of higher education is poor governance. Many of these institutions of higher learning are currently headed by those who have little to do with education, let alone higher education.
Some of the important institutions of education in the country have never been educationists, they don?t know how the mind of a true academician thinks, and they have no clue about managing higher education.
Anything short of implementing these recommendations will result in continued faculty dissatisfaction, leading to further brain drain and lowering of the already dwindling academic standards in our universities.The HEC can play an important role in implementing these proposals. This national body has helped higher education in several areas, but still it can do much more.
A comprehensive strategy on the part of government is needed to convince skilled and well-qualified class to serve the nation and country. In this regard, the government should mull to ensure provision of better facilities, reasonable salaries, creating better job opportunities and jack up their security besides barring the government?s agencies from interfering in the affairs of experts and leading personalities.
Above all, a stable democratic system and proper functioning of national institutions was of utmost importance for the qualified people to stick around and serve their own country to face growing internal and external challenges.