Here’s a quick translation of the story in English. Please notice that this is done by us for review use only, not an official translation and not for any public use outside this web page..
All rights of YLE and photographers mentioned in the original story, journalist Ms. Erja Tuomaala.
YLE in Islamabad: Pakistan is interested in the Finnish knowledge of vocational education, skilled professionals are needed everywhere, from constructions sites to restaurants.
Pakistan has over 100 million people under 30 years old with passion to work but chances for vocational education are missing. Finnish education export is now looking at this enormous market.
– I think petrol is like the soul of the car. Already as a child, I wondered how my father just pushed the car’s accelerator pedal and car moved forward or backwards. With my bike I needed to pedal all the time, car just moves so easily.
From the beginning of this interview made in early February, it is clear that Muhammad Usmanhas some petrol in his blood. This young Pakistani studies in his dream place, automotive department of National University of Technology (NUTECH) in Islamabad. Car technician targeting to become an engineer. NUTECH wants to reform their curriculum and programs and that is why they travel up to Finland for some advice.
The rector of the institution, former army general Khalid Asghar visited education institutions in Turku and Helsinki in January. Thinking the weather back then still makes him to wonder; snow, snow, snow and more snow and still the society works perfectly.
Rector Asghar and rest of the delegation followed the training given at the Turku Vocational Institute and Turku University of Applied Sciences. Now, a few weeks after the trip, he has been thinking everything he saw in Turku and has plenty to say but let’s get back to that later.
Rector Asghar tells us that the main reason for their trip is the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. The leader of PTI party is seen as more modern leader than the previous ones in Pakistan. Imran Khan mentioned the Nordic welfare model as the target where Pakistan should fight its way to. Imran Khan’s message has encouraged many countries to look at the Pakistan’s educational sector and especially now when the country seems to open its doors to the world abroad. That’s why Finland is also targeting South-Asian region where the Finnish offer on education is still quite unknown.
But you need to start from somewhere. By the Aura river in the city of Turku, the knowledge and experience that Pakistan is desperately looking is available and e.g. for Turku Vocational Institute the first partner to work with in Pakistan would be NUTECH, the place where Muhammad Usman follows his passion.
Honorary Consul General of Pakistan in Finland, Wille Eerola has been promoting the cooperation in education between Pakistan and Finland. He knows Pakistan for almost 20 years. Currently Finland doesn’t have own Embassy in Pakistan and the bilateral relations are handled by the Finland’s rowing ambassador of South-Asia, Mr. Harri Kämäräinen.
Wille Eerola tells that the first letters of intent between Turku Vocational Institute and NUTECH are signed in March, also practical work and budget are negotiated in the coming weeks.
Mr. Hannu Immonen, Head of the Vocational Education of City of Turku says that the coming cooperation could bring more international contacts to Turku.
– We have plenty of education services available on various areas, he says.
The plan is to cooperate on new education and training programs, modern curriculums, consulting and building of modern facilities, and training the trainers in cooperation with various educational institutions and universities in Finland. This is all is necessary to guarantee the quality of vocational education.
It’s time for lunch break at NUTECH campus. Muhammad lives at the campus and has time to join for lunch. His lunch is samosas, fried dish with filling, rice and vegetables, very common dish in Pakistan. For 40 euros a month he gets breakfast, lunch and dinner, but he doesn’t come to the campus cafeteria every day. He saves where he can, because he is dreaming about own car.
For growing middle-class in Pakistan, it requires plenty of rupees to be behind the wheel. E.g. ten years old Toyota Corolla costs around 9000 euros. That’s a lot of money in a country where a car technician gets around 900 euros per month.
But working with your hands gives your earnings too. Lecturer of a university gets pretty much the same salary and skilled and certified technician can also ask for better salary.
If the stability continues, the tourism sector is expected to offer plenty of new jobs in Pakistan. Skilled workforce for food and beverage professions are needed because people traveling to new destinations are also looking for culinary experiences.
During his visit to Finland, NUTECH’s rector Asghar was especially impressed of the way how students were using the skills they just learned also in practical work, both in restaurants and construction sites.
– There was no dead-end with their studies. If your choice was not the right one, you can still switch into another sector and study that. Everything was so flexible.
– In Pakistan you can reach that dead-end and that should not happen. In Finland students can also shuttle between vocational and university students.
Rector says that the Finnish system should not be copied into Pakistan but adopted and do any changes to match the local requirements and conditions.
– We have three million new people coming to the job market every year, but we can train only 300,000-400,000 of them. With better education opportunities we could cut the unemployment rate, also new startup companies would benefit of that.
There is a one problem in rector’s plans and Pakistan’s financial situation. Pakistan has plenty of debt, Government wants to offer a good education for its youth but there has not been enough money even for quality primary education. Around 40 per cent of Pakistan’s population can’t read.
Currently both World Bank and IMF have closed their financial flows into Pakistan. Supporting dollars are still coming from rich oil countries like UAE and Saudi Arabia. Also, China is building its own financial silk road and increasing its power and presence in Pakistan.
Local education expert, Ph.D. Mahmood Buttfrom the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan says that cooperation on education is required on three levels; primary education, vocational training and higher education.
– For vocational education and skill training we need to create international quality standards and more people needs to have access to it.
In Islamabad the colorful offering of various schools really catches your sight. In the street of Islamabad, we keep seeing signs of different colleges or institutions. However, there has not been much push for skill training. Mahmood Butt tells us that the reason is the British educational model, which Pakistan inherited, with a sharp split between academic education and primary education available for masses.
– With the current growth rate of population in Pakistan we do need various paths for education and many of those have simply left on side. There is a need e.g. for midwives able to travel to non-urban areas, not only doctors but skilled people to decrease the infant mortality rate.
In emerging countries like Pakistan one challenge is often the short-sighted plans of the government. When leaders keep changing, earlier projects often face delays or even stop completely. Mr. Butt tells that the importance of continuously is something that the government is now realizing.
– if you think the growth rate of this country, you can’t do any U-turns anymore. Now we are exporting unskilled workforce from Pakistan and that needs to be changed into export of skilled people.
Brain drain is worrying many in Africa and also in Asian countries with smaller population. In Pakistan, this is not seen as serious as in some other areas because country has enough people. Already now one of the biggest revenue sources for Pakistan are the Pakistani working overseas. There are over 10 million people working outside Pakistan, some of them are working hard in many oil countries of the Persian Gulf.
There is a huge demand for the educated ones. E.g. Saudi Arabia have hired 1050 medical doctors from Pakistan, and more is searched. Pakistani doctors are welcomed to other countries too like Canada, UK and USA. Their relocation is quite easy because English and even Arab language are commonly known languages among them.
Another challenge in the development of education in Pakistan is the non-standard quality of education available. Quite often the teachers are not even having the required basic skills in their own area. Quality is something that can only be controlled with professional training of the teachers and continuous testing, says Mr. Butt.
Muhammad Usman returns to his class. It is winter time and it is cool and fresh at the NUTECH campus. General image of grey capital suffers of dry dust and burning heat during the summer season.
Muhammad Usman wants to live in a stable country, go to mosque, parks, movies and have a coffee with his friends.
– There were problems in the past but now it is actually pretty clean and good to live here.
It is peaceful in the capital of Pakistan. The unrest is mostly centered on the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. India has been arguing for decades of control over Muslim majority Kashmir with Pakistan. In the end of February that situation flamed again as the airforces of both countries attacked. Imran Khan was elected with the votes of the young generation like Muhammad last year. Now they expect a lot from the sport star they all admire