The emerging role of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is a direct result of rapid technological and scientific advancements. In promoting technological innovation and sustained economic growth, its dominant position is uncontested. Conversely, reliable financial and educational support of the community as a whole fuels scientific progress. In today’s rapidly transforming world, the economic growth of a nation is intrinsically linked with technological evolution. This is the reason that the developed countries are at the forefront of innovation and are, therefore, leading the world both economically and scientifically.
Due to the lack of uniformity and high political interference, Pakistan’s education system has suffered over the decades. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Human Capital Report 2017 report, Pakistan has listed in the bottom five countries for education and skills development. As the outlook of the country’s education system deteriorates, the quality of research in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in the country suffers. This is evident from the latest QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) rankings 2019, according to which only three Pakistani universities made it to the top 500 for engineering and technology discipline.
There is now a growing realization amongst the policy makers on the significance of quality education, especially STEM. The Government is currently collaborating with the private sector to introduce reforms in the fields of education, science, and technology. In a bid to shift towards STEM education, President Arif Alvi has launched the Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC), a program that will aid the promotion of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Cloud-based computing in Pakistan.
AI is replacing repetitive jobs in the industrial and technological sectors. With the technological revolution on the horizon, it is being predicted that STEM education will directly impinge on labor productivity. As per statistics, by 2022, robots will take over the jobs of 75 million people globally while simultaneously creating more than 130 million new jobs. A new study from Brookings states that workers with Non-STEM education are more likely to underperform in the industrials sector as compared to those who hold a STEM degree.
Pakistan’s global standing as an innovative and economically stable country is slipping. According to the Global Innovation Index Report (GII) 2019, out of 121 countries, Pakistan is ranked as one of the least economically stable countries. As per a report by the World
Economic Forum, 2019, Pakistan faces severe financial and economic constraints. As the world moves towards technology for economic progress, Pakistan must recalibrate its educational curriculum to remain in sync with world trends. The country’s limited resources should be rechanneled towards improving the quality of its education and curriculum. The education system in Pakistan fails to bridge the gap between innovation and technological demands of the 21st century. If timely decisive action is not taken, Pakistan will severely lag in the services sector, human development index, quality research, infrastructural development, market sophistication, ease of doing business and knowledge and technology transfer. Therefore, it is time we reevaluate our policies and priorities for a better and brighter Pakistan.