Saturday 3 October 2015

pakistani brain drain

Since I started my school, I was always looking for ways which me and my twin sister Khadija Niazi could do something extra. We have always been intrigued by self learning because I live in a country where you are forced to go with the flow of normal school learning.  From a very early age, we started using the internet for our self learning. Many online courses offered by prestigious universities helped in our journey and seeing our passion for learning physics ahead of our current capability, the University of Waterloo, which is a well known university in Canada, offered us a special place in a workshop for Quantum physics. 45 lucky students from the world are selected every year for this rewarding summer camp. Only the best of the best get to go there. And proudly, this is the first time 2 students (me and my twin sister) from Pakistan were chosen to avail this opportunity, and we are also the youngest students to attend that summer camp at the age of 14. I started searching for science summer camps in my own home country. I searched tirelessly, but sadly to my dismay, I found nothing…

In every foreign country this is a normal trend that in summers all prestigious universities offer exciting, innovative ways to introduce science, technology and engineering (STEM) concepts to high school students. Due to the fact that when you have summer holidays, this does not mean that learning has to stop. It’s a well known fact, and people call it ‘The summer brain drain’. A study shows that learning loss during summer has been recorded for more than a hundred years. It is the main reason for the rising drop out rates in many countries. It has also been observed in many studies that summer camps strengthen the academic and social skills of students, and also gives them experience on how these subjects are used in the real world. It also keeps the students engaged and active during the summer and they can follow there passion instead of sitting aimlessly at home.

I am a member of the Lahore Astronomical society which helps inspire people of all types and minds to have an interest for astronomy. They conduct public observations in schools, parks and universities to share the passion of the sky and to give our population a glimpse of what lies beyond. I wanted them to conduct a solar observation in my school so my fellows could think like me and that they could see what the sun really looks like behind the veil of brightness. Sadly, it took me more than a month to convince my school admin to let them conduct an observation. Even though I go to a very good school, their focus and that of many schools is mostly sports, debating and dramatics. Ok, again, these things are fine, but don’t ignore the most important thing, which is to spark the interest of science in our nation. Look at India, they have already sent a probe to Mars, while we are still struggling to get a few satellites in orbit. I visited SUPARCO, I thought they might have any summer camp to inspire young students. But no, I found them as dead as any science related organization in Pakistan.

We are a country having 35% of the population being under the age of 15. Just imagine the brain drain which takes place in these summer holidays. Shouldn’t we address this major issue? The only common workshops I find in this country are all related to Social services, charity organizations. Okay these are an essential part to train youth and increase social responsibility etc. What about science? What about technology? Where are the top notch universities of Pakistan doing? I live in Lahore which is called the hub of education in Pakistan. We have many prestigious universities here. Yet, unfortunately, they are sleeping in the summer, and so is our whole nation with them. It’s high time our government and our institutes follow the footsteps of many developed nations if we want to utilize our young talented brains to benefit our country.