An Open Letter To Hisham Sarwar Regarding Scaling-up IT Services Sector in Pakistan

pakistan IT sector growth

Asalam Alikum Sir,

I hope you are doing well, as well as your family. I pray that ALLAH (SWT) always showers HIS blessings on you, your family, and your sustenance. You have always been a teacher to me since first took your “freelancing” course through Virtual University’s DigiSkill platform.

Want a Free Website

I’ll be honest with you, I was a freelancer back in the day when freelancing was unheard of. It was a time when you went to open a bank account, and the banking officer would look at you as if you’d landed on Earth from planet Mars. But, Alhamdulillah, I’m so happy to see a change with so many of our youths being actively engaged in changing their economic status. Seeing you and others has been a breath of fresh air.

Before I saw your video reaction to the Google Code competition, I had already seen the results on the Pakistan Scholarship Network. A discussion was already being engaged in by many of our students. After seeing your video, I was glad someone of your stature was lamenting about the results as well.

Sir, the point of writing this email to you is two-fold. First, I’d like to briefly explain why we are in such a rut in the first place, from a sociological perspective (please don’t mind, I’m a student of sociology). The second is to present viable solutions someone of your following can take up.

How Did We Get Here?

The plight of our economy is rooted in loose monetary policies that have resulted in high domestic demand, an overvalued exchange rate, a high fiscal deficit, pervasive tax evasion, and a low level of domestic resource mobilization. Unfortunately, taxes in Pakistan only make up a meager less than 10% of our GDP, compared to 35% of GDP in most OECD countries. Most of the country’s economic growth comes from domestic consumption and our haphazard exchange rate results in high levels of imports and low levels of exports. Added to our economic woes is the critical component of a severe impediment in our power sector, which causes extensive power outages throughout the country.

Pakistan’s current economic woes are not new. The country had sought external financial aid from the IMF and other friendly countries since 1958, recently 2018 & 2016. Analyzing the country’s history a common denominator is always found – inappropriate obsolete economic strategies. Even during Pakistan’s “Golden Age” under President Ayyub Khan when economic growth was averaging 5.82%, a policy of concentrating production in the state sector and then handing it off to the private sector resulted in, famously stated by Mahboob-ul-Haq, twenty-two families dominating the country’s economy. While the policy may have seemed successful, it was unable to accommodate globalization and the international economic environment. One of the greatest flaws in this policy which still affects Pakistan today was its inability to carry out educational reforms.

One of the most crippling factors to our economy is the lack of education, both academic and technical. As globalization spread into the country, it was ill-prepared to move up the international value chain because of its lack of education. The country’s policies have not prepared a literate population that would produce high-value products or skills to compete in the international markets. The country also did not develop modern industries, nor has it enacted trade policies foreign and domestic to increase exports.

Our country’s current education system severely lacks a curriculum for establishing a critical thinking environment, harnessing problem-solving skills, and injecting advanced-level skills from a young age. Before the campaign “Alif Ailaan” back in 2013, Pakistan was spending less than 2% of its GDP on education. The primary purpose of the campaign was to push it up to 4%, which the campaign said was accomplished in 2018. But there have been no more campaigns comparable to Alif Ailaan since 2018.

From my observation, mere campaigning is not going to cut it. Spending a percentage of GDP is not enough, there needs to be a greater urgency to spend it wisely. Schools across the country, primary and secondary, do not instill students with even basic literacy & numeracy skills. What you get as a result is a population of students that are only able to excel in areas where rote memory is required. I include VA skills, basic Photoshop, CANVA, etc as rote learning skills. It’s great that they are earning dollars and sustaining themselves, but it’s not enough.

Most primary schools in more developed countries have already started to include robotics, programming, AI, and other computer-related skills in curriculums from Grade 1. We are still using outdated textbooks. It’s quite sad. Our teachers are still stuck in their ways and are not provided with the support system needed to produce thinkers, only because most of them are also a product of this system.

What’s worse, is that education is divided into classes. No matter where you go in this country, whichever province, whichever city, education standards will always be DIFFERENT. And that is a scary prospect, it means every child in Pakistan gets a very different education system. And this is all based on what class that child comes from. It also depends on where the child is geographically located – urban or rural. A child on the poverty line or below the poverty line experiences absolutely no schooling or very basic schooling. The middle class depending on their average household income has some options of sending their child to a mediocre private school, a government school, or if they really push their budget a high-status private school. The rich have a lot more options and the elites have limitless options. So each of these children is provided with different curriculums, different school experiences, and different teachers. In short, it isn’t homogenous at all. That is where the problem lies.

I’m not a Marxist or a socialist, but these theories do give us insight into why such educational disparities happen. Even if I didn’t want to get political, I’d have to get political in this context. The people we send to the Parliament and ultimately to the Prime Minister’s Office are wholly responsible for our plight in the education sector. They do not fund schools as they should be funded nor are teachers appropriately trained. This is what causes a vicious cycle in the system. We train our students to pass Matriculation and Intermediate exams, sending them off to universities that need to reprogram them again.

What Can We Do? (By We, I Mean Particularly You, Because I Can’t Do Much)

Pakistan’s demographic trends show that over 64% of the population is under the age of 30. Over the next 30 years, the population is anticipated to grow further by 100 million. This means Pakistan will have a drastic spike in its youth population. The youth of this country are its biggest assets. In order to survive, our economy will need to generate over 1 million jobs annually for the next 3 decades with a steady GDP growth rate of 7% or more to keep up with the burgeoning population. Already our youth has shown through various initiatives that it is ready to help Pakistan with its economic burden. Programs like DigiSkills have produced young freelancers in the country with modern digital skills allowing them to compete internationally and bring into the country much-needed dollars. How about a DigiSkills-Advanced version? I’m sure there are plenty of Pakistanis that have the advanced skills and the teaching skills to teach our youth for FREE.

That’s a short-term solution actually, we actually need a sustainable long-term solution. That makes taking our voices to the Parliament. And by “OUR” voices, I mean yours. You’re one of Pakistan’s most famous teachers in the field of digital technologies. You have a great fan following, and you also have a VAST network of other teacher-like figures that can truly make a difference. Furthermore, you are a person that believes that a bridge can be formed between academics and industry. Sir, you are one of the few people who advocate for education while also learning a skill. Mr. Hisham sir, it’s the need of the hour to raise your voice and create a public campaign that takes the solutions to the classroom. You, and others like you, can push for reform because you represent the private sector. Let’s face it, what the private sector wants, the private sector gets. By fuelling drastic education reforms you’d be preparing a generation of future Pakistanis with the tools they need to succeed.

Please, sir, call out the people of Pakistan to support you for education reform. Get a workshop/meeting/convention together that demands education reform from the grassroots level, legislative changes, curriculum changes, teacher training/retraining programs, and more solutions. You can make your voice heard with international organizations whose objective is to improve education. Education is indeed the “great leveler”. Help these children by leveling the playing field. You have a far louder voice, far stronger, and more fierce than the average man (and much much greater than a woman’s).

You’ve already started the fight, as I’ve seen in recent videos. But it’s time we make this fight worthwhile. We need lots of planning, lots of media coverage, lots of conventions, and lots of like-minded people coming together with our educators to help the understand the need of the hour.

I hope my message motivates you to work harder because you are the voice of thousands of young Pakistanis that are trying their best to fight an outdated system.

Best wishes and good luck.

(apologies for the abhorrently long email)

Shafaq Dar
Aam Pakistani

Pakistan Zindabad 🇵🇰

Want a Free Website