Social Sciences in Pakistan—a bright future
By Shafei Moiz Hali
According to a survey based on education conducted by Gallup, the higher education for our youth is divided in to two broad disciplines Arts and Sciences. “Arts” is adopted by 33% while “science” is adopted by 67% of the students pursuing higher education. Now within the smaller segment of 33%, “economics” and “political science” have the lion’s share of 37% and 31% respectively. Very little room is left for other social sciences as only 1% aspires to pursue sociology and other related fields of study. This directly points towards a decline in social sciences in Pakistan as a whole.
It is no secret that most Pakistanis want their children to be doctors, army men or engineers. Gallup survey on the “top profession desired for a son” yields that the profession with the highest approval rating is that of a “Doctor” with a 40% approval rate and the next is that of an “Army Officer” with an approval rating of 18% and 11% approval rating for “engineers”. Few or no families aspire for their offspring to adopt the profession of becoming a scholar. If this attitude prevails within our households, then obviously our youth will start focussing on a handful of professions and no one will pay heed to the social development sector; leading our society to a path of degeneration. This will result in serious implications, as our nation comprises a majority of angry men; with 55% of Pakistani’s believing that they have a short fuse and get angry very quickly and only 16% people are able to exercise self control.
Social sciences are very important for a culture and a society to prosper as they help develop thinkers and scholars to define and bring soft progress in the human aspects of the world. Unless we have thinkers and qualified people capable of evaluating behaviours using the modern scientific methods, societal objectives cannot be met and the only means to measure the societal drawbacks will be left to counting the number of headlines in newspapers highlighting the statistics of victims of terror attacks, murders, thefts, incidents of moral turpitude and injustices in society. Subjects like sociology, philosophy, politics, international relations and history are usually ignored by most Pakistanis; this is becoming a major reason for the decline in our social, cultural and moral values.
Social sciences include in-depth analysis of human behaviour and with their aid; scholars can highlight means and ways to curb the weaknesses in the structural aspects of society. If we turn the pages of history it becomes evident that social sciences have been a constant beacon of light for guiding society towards progress. All the great philosophers, the likes of Plato and Aristotle have been great advocates of social sciences.
It is sad to see that in today’s Pakistan, the only means of advocating progress is with our local maulvis. Not long ago Pakistan had scholars of social sciences of international repute, the likes of Professor Qudrat Ullah Fatimi, Dr. Moizuddin, Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, Eqbal Ahmad and others, who had in-depth knowledge of religion as well as the modern social sciences and hands-on experience on the linkages between the two. Sadly Pakistan’s top scholars of today, leading the fields of social sciences in Pakistan, once the apprentices of Prof. Qudrat Ullah Fatimi, themselves state that “we are not even the dirt beneath our mentor’s feet.” This brings us back to the topic that in Pakistan the gap between the hardcore sciences and the soft-core social sciences is widening, our youth and government is not paying heed to this phenomenon.
The cream of our youth either goes abroad to pursue higher education in the fields of regular sciences to never return and the majority from the remaining also pursues regular sciences in our local universities and very few students opt for disciplines like sociology, psychology, history, literature and anthropology.
Previously the reason behind our students’ lack of motivation to opt for social sciences was due to the lack of employment opportunities in this sector. The recent increase in the number of jobs demanding quality education in social sciences driven by the influx of NGOs, foreign and local, has brought some spark amongst our youth to pursue social sciences. As a result various universities around the country are opening up new departments in the field of social sciences to match the requirement of the western world. Departments like Governance and Public Policy, Leadership and Management Sciences, Mass Communication, e.t.c
Overall, the entire picture is still quite grim, as these departments lack students as well as adequate funding to progress but more importantly, there is a dearth of qualified academia to fulfil the requirements of faculty.
The leading motive behind heavier inclination towards the regular sciences and commerce studies among the Pakistani students is that; the children as well as their parents quantify education in terms of money. Their primary belief is that regular sciences and commerce studies lead to high paying jobs, thus they deem it wise that, their children should pursue subjects which yield high returns. The sad part is that most parents and students are not even familiar with the curriculum of social sciences, as not a single subject from the vast fields of social sciences is taught during secondary, higher secondary or intermediate education. The lack of social scientists in Pakistan is extremely unhealthy for the nation as we are depriving ourselves of quality writers, thinkers, researchers, litterateurs and intellectuals.
With the influx of NGO’s and employment opportunities, the students of the National Defence University’s Faculty of Contemporary Studies are getting better job placements in the job market. With this we can only hope that Pakistani parents will start to guide their children to choose social sciences for higher education over regular sciences and commerce. This is a very positive sign for the development of the social sciences sector and our youth should take solace from Omar Khayyam’s verse:
“A drop of ink of the scholar is more precious than a drop of blood of the martyr”
The author is an instructor at National Defence University