Fake PhDs, Substandard Research in Pakistan
Fake PhDs, Substandard Research in Pakistan
by: Waqas A. Khan
Elite brains are most often found in universities but these are not Fake PhDs, Substandard Research in Pakistan where elite brains are very few. The mission of elite brains is to turn out doctors, engineers, managers or advocates are vital for a healthier, productive, progressive and lawful society. But Pakistan’s elite brains have been sadly deficient when it comes to propelling our beloved country to realistic – much less magnificent –heights.
brain drain (noun) the emigration of highly trained or intelligent people from a particular country.
We know that human capacity can be enhanced through education at all levels‑‑ primary, secondary, technical and vocational, and higher education. And given the increasing complexity of contemporary contexts, the top rung of education is becoming a more critical piece of this development puzzle.
Higher education enhances our abilities to make informed decisions. It also allows us to
- Produce, adopt and adapt to technology.
- Sustain livelihoods.
- Cope with shock.
- Become healthier.
- Be responsible citizens.
- Be effective stewards of natural resources.
Pakistan is producing 445,000 university graduates and 10,000 computer science graduates annually. Among them will be 185,435 registered medical practitioners and specialists, 16,922 registered dental practitioners, 190,932 registered engineers.
With such numbers, surely there is a bright path ahead for a country that boasts of so much talent.
Or is there?
In one of my own recent research endeavors, I asked 700 students about their use of computers at Pakistani universities. Forty-six percent said they use lab computers for activities like browsing Facebook, designing birthday cards, chatting with friends in a quiet environment, surfing news sites and checking fashion trends and mobile phone models and prices.
Use of computers for “study” was mostly defined as making assignments and presentation slides. Alarmingly, just 2 percent of these students claimed their assignments and presentations are not plagiarized.
Seventy percent of these students, when answering a question about the ability of their teachers to filter “copied” knowledge, ticked in negative and when they were asked if their teachers have created an ability within them to add in the current body of knowledge. In fact, 83 percent said they do not even agree with the premise.
Before worrying about brain drain, we should take stock of the following issues and answer these questions:
First and foremost; what kind of brains are being produced in these factories?
What quality of research should be expected?
Are faculty members really more concerned with promotions and money than teaching, research or bringing to bear their knowledge about the myriad issues confronting our society?
How many researchers are ready, willing and able to recommend actionable solutions to address current problems?
Yes, one can find many burqas and beards inside our varsity dens, but legitimate intellectual activity sadly appears to be minuscule. But the focus of research in Pakistan, quite, unfortunately, does not seem to be on the purity of the research itself. Instead, it embraces the footloose art of publishing in scholarly journals without actually conducting research. It seems some faculty members are more skilled at finding loopholes and covering their own tracks. In these great institutions of seminars and colloquia, for example, the expected presence of faculty members for peer review of results of their own ongoing research is tepid; no, make that few and far between.And public lectures, debates, and discussions about contemporary scientific, cultural, or political issues are almost non-existent. Prof. Hoodbhoy reported in his recent research.
An HEC report of 2015 shows that only 6% of our population is luckier enough to enter in the Universities. Universities, therefore, are expected to polish and mend these available minds to make them the human capital. Instead, our ivory towers seem to be producing a generation of overgrown children who pose as students, but they sadly fail to back up their look with legitimate intellect.
Taimoor B. Khan, found in his research of 2014 that not only the faculty who fail to renounce plagiarism, far too many students are ill-equipped to, or simply cannot, think for themselves. They do not speak or write well in any language. They rarely read newspapers, and far too many cannot manage any significant creative expression – much less formulate a coherent argument.
So, what is the remedy?
Let’s look closer at university faculty, among which only a few seem truly willing to share the real tools and techniques to allow their students to advance in their chosen professions.
The accepted thrust to participate in national and international conferences – paid for by the universities, naturally — has grown rapidly. The clamor and reward for this acknowledgment have led too many faculty members to design ways to outclass their own students while universities turn a blind eye.
Those who misappropriate research grants bring shame on their noble profession.
And there are those who artfully restrict their own students from advancing in fields of research; intellectuals who misdirect their students’ energies to compile statistics and prose for research papers that will lead only to their own vitae-enrichment.
And let’s not forget about that RS. 60,000 cash award, which the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan announced for every published article in a foreign journal. I have found that to compete for this lofty award, dominant faculties engage in practices of plagiarizing papers by changing their verbiage and language. They create different versions of the same paper to get them published multiple times in different research journals. And they concoct scientific data, and seek out substandard journals beyond our borders just to meet the “foreign” clause for publication.
It would seem that the most compelling reason to do research does not lie within the quest for knowledge but rather in the cash awards and the lust for holidays abroad.
It is sad that the majority of our brain engineers –i.e. the faculty at universities in our country — lack the ability, ethics, courage and conviction needed to pursue genuinely and research and discovery.
According to an HEC report, 5,536 PhD degrees have been conveyed by Pakistani universities in the last five years. Currently, 180,000 students are studying in MS or M Phil leading PhD programs in Pakistan.
Despite this great number of PhDs in our midst and on the horizon, Pakistan has no visible footprint in the international research development. Not in Medical Sciences or Medicine Invention. Not in Economic Research or Educational Assessment Designs.
While there are large numbers of foreign PhDs in Pakistan’s universities, can anyone name international universities of good repute that boast of Pakistani PhDs amid their faculties?
Sadly, it would seem that no country in the world is in need of our brains.And this will be the case until our universities acknowledge that they are ruining the young brains that our friends and family are entrusting to their care.
The brain engineers are squandering Pakistan’s future role on the world’s stage for their own self-serving reasons.
Universities in their present form are not geared to create knowledge, nor do their graduate-study programs measure up to international standards.
During my own PhD courses, a “Professor Doctor” taught a class of Advanced Research Methodology. Actually, he never taught. Instead, he shared how to engineer and temper research. He disclosed how he and three individuals he supervised obtained their PhD degrees by using same methods, questions and research data. Can we stop producing 1500 PhD’s a year and confine ourselves to a few that we can present to the International Community as the knowledge genre?
Pakistan is even losing the battle to produce skilled workers — masons, electricians, and carpenters. In this class, there, too, is deception. These “brains” often take short courses offered by substandard training institutes. They buy certificates, deceive international organizations and often get paid much more than their real “value.” Instead of applying their skills, they have to learn on the job, disappointing organizations that invested in them.
This, too, is a reason that the demand for Pakistani workers in the international market has not increased. Neighbors like India, China and even Bangladesh are far ahead in meeting the demand for educated and skilled human capital.
Our universities are draining the intelligence from students and sacrificing great debates, discoveries and minds. We must act now to take steps to make sure ours are among the most enviable brains in the world.
Soon, the world will need more doctors to address mounting health issues. It will need more engineers to advance and build great solutions, and our planet will need more scientists to undo the damage done be me-first generations.
Our future is in our hands and our strength in future generations will emanate because we chose to acknowledge our deficiencies and act with urgency to unleash the fertile minds of our greatest resource – our children.
The article was published in Pakistan Today.