DAWN misrepresents US educational programmes in Pakistan

Dec 24th, 2012 | By | Category: Dawn

In his editorial for Dawn of 22nd December bearing the headling, ‘The not so quiet American‘, Shahnawaz Khar relates a recent visit to Islamabad by former Ambassador James Larocco, who is presently Director at an American think-tank. In his column, Khar describes a discussion with an educationalist commenting that the US has built a university in Kabul but not in Pakistan.

A Pakistani educationist who visited Kabul recently was amazed by the investments and improvements that the Americans have made to the city. Like Cairo and Beirut, Kabul now also has an American University. “University symbolises long-term commitment,” said the educationist who visited Kabul, adding that “compared to all the waste-of-money educational projects of USAID, the Americans never built a university in Pakistan.”

Actually, Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi was established in 1955 by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania after being approached by USAID who sponsored the program to establish the school, so the educationist quoted by Shahnawaz Khar is incorrect. More importantly, though, should be the question of whether Pakistan needs the US to build a university.

According to a report in Express Tribune from 12th October, the answer seems to be ‘no’.

Six Pakistani universities have been ranked among the top 300 Asian universities while two Pakistani universities are standing among the top 300 Science and Technology institutions of the world.

Highlighting the contribution of HEC in 10 years, he said that they had made a spread of higher education to every region of Pakistan with an increase in number of universities campuses in Pakistan from 168 to 258 – including the establishment of 41 new universities, increase in student enrollment at universities from 330,000 to over a million and an increase in enrolled women in universities from 36% to 46%.

It should also be noted that it is thanks to educational projects of USAID that academically qualified, yet financially needy, Pakistani students are able to continue their studies. It is not known if these are the “waste-of-money educational projects of USAID” that the anonymous educationist was talking about.

The point here is that journalists need to do more than simply repeat the sayings of the people they talk to without fact-checking and verifying the authenticity of the statements. In this case, readers of Shahnawaz Khar’s column in Dawn may incorrectly believe that the US has never built a university in Pakistan and that USAID educational programs are a ‘waste of money’. The graduates of IBA and the thousands of scholarship awardees may disagree.

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