The hope for ‘pre-educated’ or ‘scholar’ babies, now seems to be the only hope to cure the chaotic education mess and the embarrassing lack of excellence in science, industry, technology and business in Pakistan even after seventy years of its inception. The excellence in education has catapulted countries like China, South Korea and Singapore to rival advanced western giants like the US, leaving us far behind in gross domestic product, the quality of human lives, healthcare, living conditions, sanitation, social niceties and aspirations.
Pakistan’s education system and facilities, in contrast, are still utterly pathetic, as 22.5 million or 44 percent of its children are not going to any school. The number, unfortunately, is the second largest in the world, less only than war-torn Nigeria. Another 2.5 million children are marooned in Madrasahs which have little relevance to the growing global requisites of skills in arts, business, science, technology, their intricate and intertwined genres and the prerequisites of socialisation in emerging pluralist societies. The public education system itself is tattered and divided into the government and private schools. The former are further fractured into the so-called Danish and non-Danish schools, Divisional Schools, Cadet Schools and a common pariah category comprising the huts, roofless and open air or only fair-weather schools.
Superimposed on this depressing and divisive system has been the weird government apathy not to raise its inputs in the education sector that still creeps merely at about 2.3 percent of the GDP in contrast to 6 percent in Norway, 5 percent in India and 4.45 percent of the global average. It is even less than the 3.37 percent of the average spent by South Asian states like Sri Lanka (2.8 percent) and erstwhile Afghanistan (3.9 percent). Given this grim state in contrast to the immense need of education for personal, social, economic and national development, the enthusiasts yearning for an instant and wider access and spread of a super quality education, have been evidently striving for some quick, effective and out-of-the-box solution to salvage the situation. Sadly, fictional methods of education in Sci-Fi, explained through technology, might now seem to be the only ‘novel avenues’ to overcome this chaotic failure.
Utterly unfamiliar patterns for childbirth and grooming actually were already predicted by some visionaries like Huxley who in his Brave New World portrayed that all babies would be designed, graded and produced in the central national hatcheries according to the strict specified standards, needs and aspirations of the societies. This epic fantasy was envisioned in 2600 AD but the rapid innovations in genetic engineering now seem to indicate that some similar scenarios may actually not be so far away.
Huxley, however, did not allude to the techniques underlying the creation of this saga yet it nudged several other researchers to seek this elusive switch. The efforts to impart information and learning to subjects while skipping usual education and training routines and regimen have been quite varied. Sleep learning or hypnopedia, a process to convey information, knowledge, inculcate good habits and ideas or make someone shed the bad habits indeed emerged as quite a common theme in fiction and experimental endeavours.
Training through such external stimuli however, was soon overtaken by the ideas to tweak the brain power, potential and faculties by genetic manipulations. The ideas first emerged from the hero or the villain undergoing some weird or cataclysmic accidents or ailments. Movies of the special supermen and super soldiers eliciting exceptional minds, muscle strength and myriad other abilities mediated by exposure to extremely excruciating nuclear or chemical processes manipulations, have already emerged as a new popular genre.
The new gene editing techniques during the last decade, in fact, have far surpassed this fictional realm and bred disease resistant plants, malaria free mosquitoes, special pets and disease repelling livestock species. Lame rodents were made to walk and sight genes in the human body have been repaired to cure blindness. The germline cells that pass various traits to the offspring have also been modified. Even the embryos were grown outside the wombs albeit only to some earlier stages due to the ethical and social constraints and guidelines.
Science has thus almost stepped into Huxley’s Brave New World and may soon offer some effective strategies and techniques that may be the only pragmatic path for the countries that have so stubbornly spurned to spare their sources for proper grooming, care and quality of its kids. Yet the contentions about the subjects, standards and the contents to equip the infants may become even more daunting and have to be resolved by various nations.