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Hilal Her

Rethinking the Educational Landscape and Pakistani Women

March 2024

The purpose of education is multifaceted and aims to enhance both our personal and professional lives. The significance of universities and educational institutions cannot be overstated, as they serve as hubs that foster and facilitate the learning of vital skills necessary to prepare individuals for the challenges of the world. Should we not, then, ensure that we are sufficiently prepared for a rapidly evolving world? 

Not all societies are homogeneous, meaning they are not uniform or identical. As a result, they face unique problems that necessitate answers tailored to their own unique circumstances. Educational institutes operate within significantly varying sociopolitical contexts throughout different cultures. Adapting teaching is crucial to properly address a particular time and area’s specific concerns and cultural standards. Hence, broadening our perspective and acknowledging the significance of many disciplines and their impact on our society is imperative. 
Within the educational landscape of Pakistan, there has always been a focus on specific subjects, usually based on industry trends, societal attitudes, etc. This tends to sideline a diverse range of other subjects directly relevant to individual lives and societal progress. Therefore, broadening our perspective and considering the significance of various subjects concerning society is crucial. Currently, an extensive focus has been on women’s participation and contribution in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), which not only offers academic prowess but empowers women to contribute to innovation and technological advancements. 

While initiatives have successfully facilitated access to primary education for girls, the transition to higher education seems to bring with it a set of predetermined pathways that may not adequately address the diverse interests and potential of women. The question arises: Is this constraint a result of universities responding to the preferences of students, or does it signify a deeper issue within the curriculum design itself? Although the two claims are not mutually exclusive and emanate from implicit biases, we need to explore whether universities or colleges misperceive student’s preferences for educational subjects or does the marketability of a certain degree program is oriented towards certain demographics. Along with the gendered socialization at school level with regards to ideal career choices for males and females, the lack of visible female role models in diverse occupations may influence aspirations of young women. Language employed to discuss careers may inadvertently perpetuate gender stereotypes. Where expressions like ‘nurturing’ and ‘caring’, usually associated with femininity, become linked with professions held to be suitable for women, ‘visionaries’, ‘competence’, and ‘innovation’ are keywords that receive emphasis in discussions about male dominated educational programs and careers. It becomes imperative to educate women into diverse subjects for academic and professional pursuits, to facilitate transformative prospects for their valuable contributions to societal advancement.
Occupational gender segregation has been a longstanding issue, restricting men and women to certain career choices associated with their traditional gender roles. For women, the educational landscape offers disproportionate opportunities to excel in public sphere which directly influence national progress. The recognition of women’s contributions to the national economy often tends to be confined to the domestic household level. The lack of career diversification for women results in them being concentrated in certain industries and it becomes pertinent to understand that women’s contributions extend far beyond the domestic sphere.
Although medicine and engineering have traditionally been popular career paths, Pakistani women should avail the opportunity to explore various other disciplines. There are other noteworthy academic disciplines that Pakistani women can opt for to play pivotal roles in the progress of the society. Social sciences and humanities encompass disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, etc., which profoundly comprehend human behavior, society, and culture. Pakistani women have the potential to make valuable contributions to social development, advocacy, and policymaking by acquiring competence in these fields. Tackling environmental concerns is of utmost importance in the present global scenario. Pakistani women should be encouraged to pursue studies in environmental sciences to contribute to creating sustainable solutions and conservation initiatives and formulating ecological policies.
Pakistan’s fashion and design industry is seeing significant growth, and women can actively contribute by enrolling in academic programs specializing in fashion design, textile design, or other relevant disciplines. This enables women to delve into professions within the dynamic fashion and textile sector.
Women can excel in journalism, radio, public relations, and advertising. By opting for academic programs in media and communication, individuals can develop skills that enable them to assume roles as narrative creators, champions of various causes, and impactful figures within the society. Qualifications in law and legal studies, can enable them to pursue careers as lawyers, judges, or legal professionals. This domain is of paramount importance in maintaining fairness and equity, bolstering the legal infrastructure of the nation.
Emphasis is required on studying subjects that facilitate documenting, understanding, and preserving indigenous social and cultural realities like library sciences, gender studies, etc. These disciplines may subsequently facilitate contextualized human development and national integration.
However, in this article, rather than delving into a thorough discussion of all potential career paths, our attention will be directed towards examining the significance and value of library sciences and gender studies as viable career alternatives for women in Pakistan.
Library Sciences
Library and Information Science is an interdisciplinary field of study that centers on the documentation that records our stories, memories, history, and knowledge. Libraries serve as custodians of cultural heritage, housing a wealth of information, including literature, historical documents, oral traditions, and artistic expressions that reflect the multifaceted nature of our society. Women, historically recognized as custodians of oral traditions in many cultures, possess innate qualities that translate seamlessly into the role of librarianship. For women, these repositories offer a chance to delve into their cultural roots, providing insights into traditions, customs, and the roles women have played across different epochs and societies. This exploration fosters a sense of belonging and pride in one’s heritage and helps shape individuals’ identity. 
By pursuing this field, Pakistani women can contribute to the dissemination of knowledge and ensure that information is readily available to diverse communities. Opting for library sciences as a career can give Pakistani women a chance to actively contribute to knowledge management, education, community building, and cultural preservation. It offers a fulfilling career that aligns with the principles of lifelong learning and information accessibility.
Gender Studies
Gender studies, as an academic discipline, majorly explores the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects related to gender. Understanding gender dynamics challenges stereotypes and lays the foundation for creating more equitable systems, policies, and social structures, fostering a society where age, gender, ethnicity, and various other forms of diversity are respected and everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Studying gender academically facilitates a critical analysis of societal constructs, norms, and inequalities, shedding light on issues of discrimination and advocating for inclusivity and equality. Through this understanding, initiatives can be developed to promote inclusivity, break down stereotypes, and address systemic disparities that impede the full realization of human potential, particularly for women and marginalized groups. Gender studies empower women to play pivotal roles in reshaping narratives and building a more diverse, equitable, and empathetic world. Choosing to pursue gender studies can provide Pakistani women with many benefits, enabling them to comprehend, evaluate, and actively contribute to resolving matters pertaining to gender equality and social justice. It provides students with the necessary resources to question societal expectations on gender, actively participate in shaping policies, and champion the rights of every person, irrespective of their gender.
Implementing a diverse curriculum can present challenges, such as ensuring faculty expertise and allocating resources effectively. To keep up with emerging trends, it is essential to cultivate a highly skilled and committed faculty and staff. Empty promises have been the downfall of countless projects. Universities should consider potential solutions such as forming partnerships with industries, integrating modern technology, or implementing interdisciplinary programs. Teaching institutes need to adapt and transform into dynamic hubs that cater to the contemporary needs of expanding knowledge and technological development. This reconsideration will create improved opportunities for everyone, especially women, as the broadened perspective is designed to accommodate them better. Relevant stakeholders must recognize the significance of implementing new programs and allocation of necessary personnel and resources. We must consistently evaluate our degree programs in a systematic and empirical way to ensure their relevance to societal needs and the changing times. The presence of a diverse range of educational opportunities for women helps them reach their full potential and has a positive impact on society as a whole. 

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