Post-Colonial Education System in Pakistan: Imperialist approach

Posted: 22:44 pm, Wednesday, 17 January 2024

Imperialism has had a profound impact on shaping societies around the world, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to influence contemporary realities. This paper aims to explore the role of imperialism on education.
Growing up in Islamabad, I attended an English medium school that followed the Cambridge O Levels and A Levels curriculum. This educational system, rooted in British traditions and values, exposed me to the British language, culture, stories, and literature. From the way we greeted each other to the proper diction we were taught; it became evident that the vestiges of British colonialism were deeply embedded in our everyday lives. The school uniform itself reflected a typical British attire, further emphasizing the influence of imperialism on our education and cultural experiences.
However, the impact of imperialism extends far beyond the confines of the school environment. It is important to recognize that the Pakistan we know today is a direct result of British colonialism. The subcontinent underwent a significant transformation under British rule, leading to the creation of modern-day Pakistan. The colonial period not only introduced new systems of governance, but it also left an indelible mark on the cultural, social, and linguistic fabric of the region.

British colonial policies introduced socio-economic changes that significantly impacted Pakistani society. The establishment of cash crop agriculture, land tenure systems, and industrialization led to the transformation of rural communities and traditional modes of livelihood. These changes disrupted pre-existing socio-economic structures and created new patterns of social inequality and dependency. One of the lasting legacies of British imperialism in Pakistan is the transformation of the education system and the influence on language. The British introduced a formalized system of education that aimed to produce a class of individuals who could serve as intermediaries between the colonial administration and the local population. English-medium schools, such as the one I attended, became emblematic of this approach. Under the British colonial education system, the emphasis was placed on teaching the British language, culture, stories, and literature. Students were expected to adopt British customs and mannerisms, wearing uniforms that mirrored typical British attire. The curriculum heavily favored Western knowledge and perspectives, marginalizing indigenous languages, cultures, and histories.
This educational transformation had a significant impact on language as well. English was promoted as the language of administration, commerce, and intellectual discourse. As a result, indigenous languages, such as Punjab/Potohari, were relegated to secondary status, creating a linguistic hierarchy that persists to this day. The influence of British colonialism on education and language in Pakistan has had far-reaching implications for cultural identity and intellectual development. The imposition of Western ideals and the marginalization of indigenous knowledge have contributed to a complex interplay between colonial legacies and the quest for reclaiming and revitalizing indigenous cultures and languages in contemporary Pakistan.
Cultural Consequences of Imperialism
The cultural consequences of imperialism in Pakistan are evident in the stark incongruence between British customs and indigenous values. The imposition of British customs, norms, and ideals through the education system and other institutions has led to a clash with the deep-rooted cultural traditions that have been nurtured in the subcontinent for thousands of years. The Western-centric approach promoted by colonial education disregards the diverse cultural heritage and indigenous ways of life. Indigenous forms of thinking and cultural practices have been gradually replaced by Western ideals, largely perpetuated through modern forms of education.
Imperialism has left a lasting imprint on education, bureaucracy, and governance systems in Pakistan. The educational institutions established during the colonial period were designed to produce a class of individuals who were well-versed in Western knowledge and could efficiently serve the colonial administration. As a result, the curriculum, teaching methodologies, and institutional structures were predominantly shaped by British ideals and perspectives. The influence of imperialism extended beyond the education sector. Bureaucracy and governance systems were also modeled on British administrative practices. The hierarchical structures, rigid protocols, and bureaucratic red tape that are prevalent in contemporary Pakistan can be traced back to the colonial legacy. These systems were originally designed to facilitate British rule and maintain control over the population, often disregarding the indigenous socio-cultural contexts and needs of the people.
One of the significant consequences of imperialism is the clash between Western ideals and indigenous ways of thinking. Western concepts and values, rooted in individualism and a focus on individual achievement, often contradict the communal and group-oriented nature of indigenous cultures, particularly in regions like northern Punjab. The collective thinking and group-based processes that are deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of northern Punjab are at odds with the individualistic ideals promoted by Western education. This clash between Western and indigenous ways of thinking has resulted in a sense of alienation from one's own cultural and intellectual heritage. By learning through Western models and being governed by Western ideologies, individuals are often disconnected from the realities of their own indigenous thought processes and intelligence. This disconnect hampers the development of a balanced and holistic understanding of the world, impeding the growth of an authentic cultural identity.
Western influence on academia
Imperialism has resulted in the dominance of Western concepts and values in academia, creating a significant cultural consequence in Pakistan. The Western ideals and frameworks promoted by colonial education have persisted and continue to shape the intellectual landscape of the country. Academic disciplines in Pakistan are often structured around Western paradigms, theories, and methodologies. Concepts like democracy, liberalism, and individualism, which originated in the Western world, have been incorporated into various academic fields, such as political science, economics, and social sciences. The study of Western philosophers, thinkers, and scholars often takes precedence over the exploration of indigenous intellectual traditions.
The dominance of Western concepts and values in academia has implications for the broader socio-cultural landscape of Pakistan. It shapes the understanding and interpretation of societal issues, policies, and practices through a predominantly Western lens. Indigenous knowledge, cultural perspectives, and alternative ways of knowing are often undervalued or marginalized within the academic sphere, leading to a partial and skewed representation of Pakistani society.
The enduring legacy of imperialism in contemporary Pakistan is evident in various aspects of society, including education, bureaucracy, and governance systems. The Western influence inherited from colonialism continues to shape the mindset and intellectual development of individuals, often at the expense of indigenous knowledge and cultural perspectives.
Moving forward, it is essential to foster a balanced and inclusive future. Recognizing the cultural consequences of imperialism is the first step towards reclaiming and valuing indigenous traditions, ways of thinking, and intellectual heritage. Embracing a more inclusive education system that incorporates diverse perspectives and promotes critical thinking can help bridge the gap between Western ideals and indigenous values.
Development strategies are impacted by imperialism's effects on education, which have an effect on colonized nations' perspectives, abilities, and social structures. Under imperial control, educational systems were frequently created to reinforce power disparities and inequities, which had an impact on human capital and economic growth. In order to create modern development policies that prioritize equal access to education, correct historical injustices, and take advantage of varied knowledge systems, it is imperative to recognize this interplay. Recognizing the complex interplay between education and development, communities can work towards more inclusive, environmentally friendly, and culturally aware methods that promote comprehensive advancement..

By Salman Azhar

How UN influences progress and development of Pakistan: A case of SDGs

Posted: 00:43 am, Wednesday, 17 July 2023

The intergovernmental organization founded in October 1945, UN has ever since played a crucially important and central role in global affairs. Be it developmental, political or even economical UN has been a center of all affairs. Ever Since its formation, the UN has been staying committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights (History of the UN | United Nations Seventieth Anniversary).With this commitment UN holds a great influence on developing as well as developed nations of the world. SDGs by the UN are an important instrument through which the UN holds a great influence. However, this influence has a lot of great areas and both good and dark sides. Good side of this influence particularly through SDGs is reflected through the progress of nations. And the dark side is reflected through maintenance of western dominance through the UN. This article serves to present both sides by presenting the case study of Pakistan.

SDGs happen to be a very important yet a great effort by the UN for global sustainability. SDGs were adopted by UN member states in 2015 providing a blueprint for peace, prosperity of people as well as for the planet (THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development). According to the UN, many people are living healthier lives now compared to the start of the millennium, representing one area of progress made by the MDGs and SDGs. For example, the UN reported that between 2012 and 2017, 80 percent of live births worldwide had assistance from a skilled health professional—an improvement from 62 percent between 2000 and 2005 (Sustainable Development Goals, 2022). Aiming at ensuring the quality of life to the present and future generations, UN through SDGs are driven towards putting efforts in sustainability for a long term period.

In the case of Pakistan UN has always played a prominent role for its endeavors (Sustainable Development Goals). The UN played this crucial role particularly through the instrument of SDGs. In 2018, the Government of Pakistan and UN signed the UN Sustainable Development Framework(UNSDF) also known as Pakistan one UN Programme III, a framework for a medium term strategic planning document with planned results focusing on key outcomes identified through extensive consultation (Sustainable Development Goals). Moreover, the Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives (MoP&SI) with the support of UNDP launched a five years joint project of "National Initiative for Sustainable Development Goals to institutionalize 2030 Agenda.

The initiative brings together the planning, financing and statistical institutions to work collectively to lay the foundation of SDGs implementation in the country (Federal SDGs Support Unit). Particularly talking about SDG1, programs like Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), and Pakistan Baitul Mal (PBM) are designed in such a way to provide social protection to deserving people with a purpose to make progress in eradicating poverty. Moreover, when we talk about progress, the launching of a “National SDGs Framework” in 2018 and establishing seven SDGs Support Units at the level of the federal and the provincial governments to facilitate coordination among the stakeholders reflects the progress of Pakistan (Ahmed & Aziz). Moreover, According to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Index ranking 2021, Pakistan was ranked 129th out of 165 countries, due to making good progress on climate action, the 17th goal (Hussain, 2022).

The progress shows that the UN's SDGs serve an important factor in reducing the climate change issue. Furthermore, when we talk about urban sustainability, as Christopher Williams says  “Urbanization is both an opportunity and a challenge”. It is an opportunity when a tremendous amount of innovation is going to take place. However, urbanization can be the greatest of all challenges when many cities are ill-equipped to handle a large influx of population (Imran, 2022). The 11th goal of SDG serves to be a guide to turn urbanization into opportunity. According to this goal, making cities inclusive, safe and resilient is a way forward for sustainable urbanization. In the case of Pakistan,we see that urbanization is a big challenge. This challenge is evident when one witnesses cities of Pakistan suffering from a scarcity of space for residents (Imran, 2022). In such a state SDG 11’s ought to be a guiding principle for Pakistan to turn urbanization into an opportunity.

CPEC is a prominent example to be cited here. CPEC, a collaboration between Pakistan and China, plays a key role in the attainment of SDG 4. Aligning with SDG 4, the $65 billion mega project helps to enhance the quality of education across Pakistan (Sulaiman, 2022). The federal government of Pakistan has played an important role to improve the recruitment of teachers and student enrolment ratios, especially with regard to girls, for improving the overall literacy rate of the country. On the other hand, CPEC has also worked in the same direction, where the need for better technical education facilities was released in remote areas like Gwadar and FATA. As of now, 25 solar schools have been set up to help facilitate the local communities (Sulaiman, 2022).

Reflecting from the examples of Pakistan’s progress in development stated above shows that how UN played a prominent role in making Pakistan progress through provision of a blueprint of development and sustainability i.e. SDGs. However, despite all the efforts of the UN and progress there is still a huge loophole being identified i.e. despite all these efforts a very little benefit is being produced. The reason behind this lack of progress highlights a dark side of the UN's influence. That dark side is that the UN is a tool for the west to maintain its dominance and hegemony over the rest. According to Puchala, the UN manages international systems with the mission to universalize liberalism as per the goal of western hegemony (Puchala, 2005). He further emphasizes that the UN establishes, monitors, maintains and enforces global regime to further the Western goals (Puchala, 2005). Particularly SDGs, being a western indicator of progress reflects eurocentric ideas. Moreover, the dominance of the US in the UN reflects how the UN is an instrument of US foreign policy (Puchala, 2005). Not only is the US a founding member of the UN, she is also one of the P5 countries on the security council (Jain et al., 2019).

SDGs are designed globally on the concept of one for all i.e. The UN devised a singular blueprint globally for all. Such designing of goals ignores the cultural factor i.e. every county has its own culture and unique problems. Western lenses are used to look at developing countries which overshadow the realities of such nations.Due to this dominance of west the goals oversimplifies the issues they are trying to resolve (Sadiku). Since the goals are based in Western European and US values (Sadiku) it brings unseen yet difficult consequences particularly for developing countries like Pakistan. One of the major consequences is lack of productive output. In the case of Pakistan, we see the heavy reliance on western indicators particularly UN’s SDGs. Point to ponder relying on these indicators is not the issue however, hyper dependency is concerning (Imran, 2022). Pakistan being a country lacking its own model of developmental finds no other way than to rely on UN and SDGs goals. This creates a huge gap between real problems and solutions. Because local realities are ignored due to heavy reliance on SDGs. For example SDG 4 focuses on quality education for all but ignores the reality that the quality of education for Pakistan differs from that of the USA keeping in mind the cultural and ideological differences. Moreover, according to UNICEF, “An estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are out-of-school’ in Pakistan. But why are they out of school? The answer to why and the problem behind this is implicitly ignored. The more countries follow the western models the more  it becomes to achieve global sustainability. Because it leads to widening of the gap between the developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. In the case of SDGs due to western hegemony it further widens the gap between global rich and poor (Ziai & Schöneberg, 2020). Pakistan being a country with a colonial legacy is a living example of such a notion.  Policies in Pakistan are designed in accordance with SDGs and western indicators hence they fail to produce policy outcomes that resolve the local issues as local realities are concerningly ignored.

However, in order to produce fruitful policy outcomes it is important to develop a national model of development and for that localizing the SGs goals is a very important step. This is because in order to produce an impactful outcome it highly depends on policy coherence between SDGs goals and National realities. The National SDG Framework by the Government of Pakistan is a commendable initiative in this regard (National SDGs Framework for Pakistan, 2018). The framework is designed in a way to ensure coherence between goals and local challenges. Because ignoring SDGs is not the right way, instead using SDGs as a blueprint to solve local issues is the right way forward.

To sum the article, the UN has an important role in the world of today. With a central global standing, the UN influences developing as well as developed nations very strongly. However, this influence as presented in this article has its positive as well as negative side. In short the influence that the UN holds has a lot of gray areas. On one hand it plays a prominent role in advancement as well as solving global issues. On the other hand it maintains the western dominance and fulfills the goals of western hegemony i.e. to liberalize and westernize the world overshadowing the perspectives of developing states like Pakistan. However, the negative side of impact of the UN can be toned down if developing countries like Pakistan bring up their own model of development that is incorporated with national realities and uses instruments like SDGs as a guide or blueprint.

THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from https://sdgs.un.org/goalsAhmed, S. I., & Aziz, S. (n.d.). Access to WASH goals.
The News International. Retrieved November 26, 2022, from https://www.thenews.com.pk/magazine/money-matters/508293-access-to-wash-goalsFederal
SDGs Support Unit. (n.d.). Federal SDGs Support Unit. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.sdgpakistan.pk/web/sdgsHistory of the UN | United Nations Seventieth Anniversary. (n.d.). the United Nations. Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.un.org/un70/en/content/history/index.html

By Kashaf Imran

Our latest news and events.

At sint tollit veritus duo, ex tota inimicus dissentiunt usu. Dico tamquam perfecto usu id. Eu nec option perfecto vituperatoribus. Ea qui congue patrioque, quo ei recteque consequuntur.