Transforming education sector: from job hunters to job creators

Peshawar  -   In an era of rapid technological advancements and evolving economic landscapes, the traditional approach to education is undergoing a profound transformation owing to the mushroom growth of digitalization, artificial intelligence, and information technology started bringing about positive changes in people’s lives. 

This paradigmatic change in the education system strongly reflects a growing recognition of the need to equip young learners for a piece of meaningful knowledge and inculcate the positive energy necessary to navigate an increasingly competitive job market following the completion of their 16 years of education.

“Gone were the days when a college or university degree alone guaranteed a secure career path. Today, employers prefer graduates, who possess a diverse skill set, adaptability, and willingness to perform in comparative industrial and digital markets with a will to innovate and deliver quickly,” said Professor Dr Zilakat Malik, former Chairman Economics Department at the University of Peshawar while talking to APP. He said that higher education was a rich cultural and scientific asset that prepares students in diversified fields besides promoting economic, technological, and social change in society.

Dr Zilakat said it is the public sector universities and higher educational institutes (HEIs) that exchange knowledge, research, and innovation besides equipping students with the necessary skills and expertise needed for overseas employment and expediting the engine of economic growth.

The financial crisis in most universities of KP has been deepened after non-payment of the promised annual provincial grants of Rs3,000 million, impacting negatively on the universities’ abilities to maintain infrastructure, support academic programmes, and research studies, and ensure quality in education disciplines. 

As many as 20 out of 34 universities were likely to face budget deficits while 27 universities allocate more than 50pc of their budgets to establishment expenditures, needing realignment of priorities on a priority basis.

Dr Zilakat said the report has exposed the poor health of the majority of universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “The job creators would emerge only by providing financial autonomy to public universities and make focus on modern research as per the markets demands”.

Ehtisham Qaiser, a BS Urdu literature graduate said that he applied for government and private jobs through various testing agencies and walk-in interviews but his applications were rejected due to lack of professional experience. He urged the government to increase the scope and stipends of the national internship program and explore new job markets for the youth abroad.

Educationist Dr Zainullah said that improving employment opportunities through education requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the quality and relevance of education.

Citing a Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) 2021 Report, he said the number of out-of-school children (OSC) had swelled to about 22.8 million in the country including 4.7 million children aged between 5 to 16 years in KP which was a matter of great concerns.

Alarmingly, about 2.9 million girls and one million OSC in merged tribal districts were still out of schools, a BISP report said, adding that 74.4 percent of girls and 38.5 percent of boys are out of schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to poverty and socio-economic imbalances.

Besides 77 percent of OSCs reported in Palas Kolai, 70 percent in Upper Kohistan and 69 percent in Upper Kohistan, about 61 percent of such children in Torghar, 55pc in Shangla, 53 percent in Lakki Marwat, and 51 percent each in Tank and Battagram districts.

He said KP needs to discourage unnecessary employment in colleges and universities besides re-evaluating curriculum to make youth jobs creators rather than job seekers. Firstly, he said that investing in education infrastructure, such as schools, libraries, and vocational training centers, is crucial to ensure access to quality education for all.

He said the curriculum reforms including starting computer science from the primary level would help children to take advantage of job opportunities in the IT sector and CPEC projects.

Shahab Khan, senior planning officer of the Education Department told the news agency that students’ enrolment campaign started in the province and efforts would be made to enrol one million out-of-school children in schools. He said that a Rs3.7 billion project was planned for education stipends to students of class 1-12 and Rs500 million for school bags and stationary in merged areas.

The KP Minister for Education Faisal Tarkai said that schools were being equipped with all essential facilities to make students job creators rather than job seekers. “By embracing interdisciplinary learning, experiential education, soft skills development, digital innovation, and a focus on career readiness and entrepreneurship, educational institutions are equipping students with the tools and mindset needed to thrive in an increasingly competitive and dynamic job market,” he added. He said students would be trained in digital technology with the assistance of TEVTA to take full advantage of the vast scope of employment in the IT market in the country.

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