The popularization of scientific disciplines in Pakistan, or lack thereof, is a rising area of concern for national academic experts. The importance of science for modern society is highlighted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), which describes it as one of the most important channels of knowledge. National development necessitates some amount of scientific understanding in both developed and underdeveloped societies alike. In developing nations, scientific breakthroughs may play a pivotal role in improved local resources and living standards through the provision of technology and services which influence the quality of life and capacity for economic advancement. So, why has this not happened in Pakistan yet?

The basis of this academic and professional discrepancy principally lies in the foundation of an individual’s education: primary school. This is the stage that sets a basis for the education that follows. Hence, developing interest at this stage is essential. However, dull textbook vocabulary and unqualified staff in local institutions make classroom learning a demotivating and unreliable experience. These factors serve to dissuade students from a young age — a sentiment that germinates throughout their teenage and adult life. Moreover, local textbooks have been criticized for their inability to foster interest in science, mathematics, engineering and technology (STEM). Content that demands memory-based learning hinders readers from fully comprehending curricular topics.

The infrastructure in both public and private institutions is meant to provide an environment for productive learning. In Pakistan, however, an absence of usable laboratory equipment in science classrooms, together with the limited access to the already available apparatus,  prevents students from stepping outside the bounds of rote learning. This problem stems from the scarce funding of local institutions. Schools are not able to afford equipment for their students; those that are, do not allow the students to use it frequently out of fear that it may incur further expenses. Moreover, an absence of celebrated Pakistani role models fails to motivate aspiring students who may view STEM careers as a cultural pride. Specialized fields in science, such as biotechnology and mechanical engineering, go unnoticed without local specialists pioneering the way for ambitious minds.

Typical laboratory apparatus. Source: Atico Export

From funding to local revenue, Pakistan is a host of foreign influence. The dependence on Western nations for the provision of resources like pharmaceuticals and machinery is a prime example. It leaves no room for local talent to thrive. Statistics depict that the import of machinery is only increasing, which can be attributed to a low number of known and trusted local companies and a trend of low-quality manufacturing. Pakistani innovators are crushed under the weight of thriving Western businesses and imported technology and mostly end up abandoning their ventures due to economic disadvantage. This creates a void which is eventually filled by non-local businesses, setting up a cycle that is detrimental to the locals.

Scientific development and economy are bilaterally related in enhancing the quality of living in a region. An insufficient allocation of the federal income for scientific development is a major hindrance. For instance, in a source from 2018, it was stated that the science & technology sector was receiving less than 1% of the federal income. This minute percentage must increase to 3.5% of the GDP allocated towards scientific research and development in order to take a stride in the right direction. Achieving this, however, will require the prioritization of scientists and educators in policy-making. Oftentimes, scientists are not asked for input when devising public policy, but are instead excluded from the process. Without their counsel, the efficiency of said policies is questionable.

In order to improve the current situation, the solutions must cater to areas wherein Pakistan lacks.  At the start of all corrective measures is awareness. An understanding of the fundamental flaws in local textbooks, for instance, will greatly motivate and aid the government in revising them. Furthermore, the role of governmental institutions is notable. The Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) is one such organization of the Ministry of Science and Technology working towards the encouragement of science to equip our nation with the tools needed for a better, more educated tomorrow. It does so through programmes tailored to pushing the youth towards these disciplines and provision of grants to facilitate research ventures.

Pakistan Science Foundation. Source: Pakistan Point

The modification of national curriculum is one avenue of improvement. The Single National Curriculum (SNC) is one such educational initiative that has been undertaken by the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training to ensure academic fairness through the national standardization of curriculum. This is expected to occur in the form of three phases from the years 2021-2023. The objectives include equal provision of high-quality education and uniformity of opportunities. This can be seen as a major step towards much-needed educational reform in the country. 

Undermined avenues of science, such as research, should be encouraged. Oftentimes, misbeliefs of the viability of fields may lead to familial disapproval, and scarce financial support for ambitions such as research opportunities prove demotivating in the early stages of professional life. Highlighting research as a promising field through recognition of professional leaders is a prime example of how the country can further its own and provide incentive to aspiring researchers. Additionally, science policy by invested parties such as Pakistani scientists and researchers should supplement other corrective measures. Policymaking allows science to be equipped for public interest as it can open windows to increase the outreach and influence of science.

Pakistan has undoubtedly fallen behind in the global race of growth and development, and has thus far disregarded science as a solution for its many problems. It is one part of the intricate puzzle of elevating Pakistan’s status as a developing country. If the unacceptable state of science popularization is to ever improve, drastic measures need to be taken, primarily on a governmental level in terms of finances and legislation. Pakistan is brimmed with potential, that if utilized correctly, has the capacity to revolutionize the face of the nation at the global stage.

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