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Our Educational Dependency  Back
Farooq Sulehria

Pakistan’s educational priorities are lopsided, which is one of the reasons for our educational dependency. A little ideological background to the subject should be helpful here.
After World War II the newly liberated colonies were advised to modernise, both by the US and the USSR. Modernisation was the catchword the way globalisation is fashionable now since the 1980s. However, the modernisation handbook of the USSR was different from its American version. Washington wanted the capitalist road to development. Moscow advised a two-stage trip to development.
Disgusted by both, a section of Marxist thinkers propounded dependency theories. Pioneered by Latin American economists such as Andre Gunder Frank (he was originally German-American), the dependency school sees the world capitalist system as divided into a centre and a periphery. They see capitalist development in the colonial world as de-development.
Frank, grounding his theory in Paul Baran’s analysis of the global political economy, declared that “it is capitalism, both world and national, which produced underdevelopment in the present.”
This is, as Baran had earlier pointed out, because capitalism in the periphery is of a special, truncated form, which inhibits development of complete capitalism, rather than promoting it. “Far from serving as an engine of economic expansion, of technological progress, and of social change, the capitalist order in these countries has represented a framework for economic stagnation, for archaic technology, and for social backwardness.”
As the process unfolds, the periphery becomes increasingly dependent upon the centre. Hence, the dependency school claims, conditions for the form of “development” that entrenches poverty are international, it is not just that there is one group of countries in the world which happens to be developed and another that happens to be poor. According to dependency theorist Robert Biel, “The two are organically linked; that is to say, one part is poor because the other is rich. The relationship is partly historical-for colonialism and the slave trade helped to build up capitalism, and this provided the conditions for later forms of dependency-but the link between development and underdevelopment is also a process that continues today.”
But it is simplistic to see dependency merely as an international relationship, for it also requires a base in the social relations within the countries of the South. Specifically, it is internalised in the form of incomplete capitalism. The critique of development theory by Paul Baran makes this clear. The problem is not the absence of development but its presence, since the “key proposition is that capitalism in the periphery arose in a special form.” To quote Baran again, “all that happened was the age-old exploitation of the population of under-developed countries by their domestic overlords was freed of the mitigating constraints inherited from the feudal tradition. This superimposition of business mores over ancient oppression by landed gentries resulted in compounded exploitation, more outrageous corruption, and most glaring injustice.”
That is, in the traditional setup, the tribute received by the ruling class was largely conditional upon the good functioning of the system they ruled. In the context of neo-colonial capitalism, by contrast, they receive what amounts to a kind of tribute arising from the malfunctioning of the system. The dependency perspective does not imply that the periphery cannot break this cycle. However, it points out that capitalism cannot flourish in the periphery and for the periphery to develop, it is necessary to overthrow the centre-periphery paradigm.
Space does not allow a discussion merits and demerits of this theory. However, as a descriptive tool the dependency school brilliantly helps explain the Pakistani state and society. A case in point is the HEC’s scholarship project for higher education abroad. Under this programme over 14,000 scholars have been awarded scholarships, 3,800 of them for a PhD abroad in the last decade (the target was almost 6,000 PhDs abroad). The layout for merely PhDs abroad is Rs46 billion. Scholars have also been sent abroad on MS and postdoctoral programmes [costing over Rs 60 billion].
An official evaluation report has listed 30 defaulters who completed the studies but didn’t return (23 scholars for MS programmes also stayed on). Similarly, the number of scholars returning without completion of studies is constantly increasing. At least 235 such cases have been reported. Meantime, under two mega-projects, called “Overseas scholarship scheme for MS/MPhil leading to PhD in selected fields (Phase I and Phase II),” with the highest enrolment in foreign universities (with the scope of 700 and 2,000, respectively), scholars are not even under the bond of the university or any other organisation. “HEC will face real difficulties to ensure the return of such scholars and fulfilment of bond,” says an official document.

Status of the already enrolled 14,266 scholars is tabulated as follows.

Undemocratic,  unacceptable:

By highlighting these aspects, I want to stress two points. Firstly, our educational dependency. The amount spent on training 3,800 PhD scholars would have laid a sound material basis for an indigenous research infrastructure. Alternatively, cooperation with other Third World countries would have cost much less. For instance, a comparison of disciplines adopted by scholars shows that a maximum number of students are enrolled in medical sciences (34 percent). The others are engineering, 21 percent; physical sciences, 20 percent; and social sciences, nine percent. Cuba comes to mind when it comes to doctors. One may also develop cooperation with countries like Turkey or the countries of Eastern Europe to cut costs for studies and training abroad.

It can be argued that the research quality available in the West is missing elsewhere. However, one should not ignore the fact that one needs high-tech Western training to run Western technologies. Educational dependency cannot be viewed in isolation. Therefore, we need to redefine our approach to development. Do we need a “development” that engenders dependency? There is an endless (but necessary) debate on an alternative path to development whereby development is not defined in terms of economic growth alone. One may also explore other possibilities.

Secondly, an HEC scholarship scheme is sheer waste and it requires a democratic, austere makeover. I would argue for a Swedish approach to state sponsorship for higher education, including education abroad. In Sweden, the CSN is the state-authority that grants study loan to students. A fraction of the study loan is a state subsidy while the rest has to be paid back. The mechanism to retire a study loan is easy, affordable. On the completion of education, one pays roughly five percent of his or her monthly wages to the CSN. Whether the recipient completes the degree course or not, the loan has to be paid back. Nobody is discriminated against or deprived.

Discriminating women, smaller provinces:

Our HEC scholarships, on the contrary, are a privilege in many ways. Here are two important aspects:

1. Most scholarships are awarded to Punjab (56 percent), followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (17 percent), Sindh (13 percent), Balochistan (nine percent), FANA/FATA/Gilgit-Baltistan (five percent), the Federal Capital Area (four percent) and Azad Kashmir (two percent).

2. The gender balance is tipped in favour of men: only 23 percent of the scholarships have been awarded to women-in other words, more than three quarters go to men.

According to my findings, under foreign scholarships about 70 percent of scholars are enrolled in the UK and the US, the major source of capital flight. The average cost worked out was about Rs6 million for each candidate; however the completion cost in most cases is Rs10 million. One wonders why Pakistan’s toiling masses should pay Rs10 million to help middle-class (often well-connected) professionals build a brilliant career. Let us democratise the scholarship programmes like Sweden does. Regardless of one’s gender, ethnicity and class origin, a student qualifying for higher education should be granted a study loan to study anywhere in the country as well as abroad. Poor people should not pay the price for dropouts, “absconders,” or lazy scholars who cannot complete their studies in time.