Why Education and Why Higher Education: Leadership in Life and Society

Why Education and Why Higher Education: Leadership in Life and Society

1. What is the Purpose of Education

We grew up in schools where the day started with an assembly where everyone used to pray that the mission of our lives should be to become a source of light. We prayed for the capacity to light up the entire world, and through our knowledge and actions we should remove the darkness from the world, and should illuminate every place on this earth:

Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua Ban Ke Tamanna Meri
Zindagi Shamma Ki Surat Ho Khudaya Meri

My Longing Comes To My Lips As my Prayers
O’ Lord, May my life be like a Candle

Door Dunya Ka Mere Dam Se Andhera Ho Jaye
Har Jagah Mere Chamakne Se Ujala Ho Jaye

World’s Darkness may Disappear Through My Life!
May Every Place Light Up With The Sparkling Light Of Mine!

Spreading Light Everywhere and
Removing Darkness from the World

But, somewhere during our schooling, while en route to the acquisition of knowledge, some thing happened;  our purpose of education got transformed from the higher selfless mission embodied in this prayer into a selfish quest for a better a job, a quest for a better living, a quest limited, focused and directed only towards the betterment of my family. Our broader perspective of the entire world got constricted to the narrow domain of my own personal life. Our quest changed from removing the darkness and illuminating the entire world to simply developing my career where the only quest is for making my pockets illuminated with a few coins. Instead of trying to solve the energy crisis of our society and our country my aim constricted to provide for generators at my home, to remove darkness from my home and survive comfortably in my home during load shedding. Instead of spreading peace and safety in the entire society and country, my quest got limited to ensuring that I am safe in my home; my walls are high enough and have enough barbed wires, my home has enough security and cameras, my home has enough protection. Somewhere along the way, my mission changed from spreading our knowledge and our wisdom everywhere to acquiring and safeguarding my own wealth and my privileges.

This is the time to remind ourselves once again, and to make a resolve that we are on a quest of knowledge and wisdom whose purpose is to spread light everywhere in the world, and not just benefit my home, my family and my near ones.

2. What does it mean to be well educated and what is our mission

Our mission is to foster a learning environment where we make learning an on-going life long process. A well educated person is one who has made learning a life long quest. He is a person who takes a daily stock of his accomplishments and evaluates whether the day that has just passed has been better than the previous one. If each day of our life is not better than our previous day, and if each instant of our life is not better than the previous one, then we can conclude that we have not learned any thing new this day: The day is lost. Learning is making every breath of ours better than the previous one. A person who does this accounting after every breath, after every day, after every week and after year, and takes stock of the situation in order to improve his next breath, his next day, his next  week and his next year is the person who is well educated. He has a strive for excellence, a continuous drive to improve himself, which differentiates the dead from alive. Remember, the surest sign of death is when we stop learning, when we stop improving, and when we stop growing.

This daily accounting is not only enjoined by Islam, but everyone for whom pursuit of excellence is an on-going process.

I would quote from the famous commencement speech by Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, at Standford a few years before his death; a speech that I recommend to everyone:

Steve Jobs

‘…. for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.’

To ensure that we make learning a life-long and on-going process, I wish every one to write down their reflections at least once every week. Now a days this has become very easy with blogs on the Internet. The blogs are like your public diaries. Those who have created their blogs and write regularly have reported that this becomes a very interesting and self rewarding experience. You will be creating your blogs and will be expected to write your experiences and thoughts every week. You will find this to be a really interesting and well rewarding experience. It requires discipline and it develops the capacity for acute observation. If you need to write some thing original every week, you need to identify some new relationship, and some new idea and express it in your own way. The blog will soon becomes a log of your thoughts and you will notice that you have started reading more and retaining more from your interactions.

3. What is Higher Education?

If education is the process of making every instant of our lives better than our previous instant, and the purpose of education is to spread the light around us and remove darkness, than what is higher education for which you have come here?

I believe higher education gives us the knowledge, tools and techniques for transforming darkness into light. Often we find ourselves sitting with people who are talking about doom and gloom. In fact, in every gathering, in every get together, in every informal sitting, the discussion moves towards what is wrong with Pakistan, what is wrong with our people, what is wrong with our system, what is wrong with our institutions, and the list goes on and on. We are ready to point our fingers towards everyone else except our own selves and our own responsibilities. Higher education should give us the confidence, should give us the skill set, should give us the resourcefulness to become optimistic and positive about us, our lives, our people and our country and our future. Higher education that does not give us this knowledge and this skill set that makes us become go-getters and achievers of our dreams, actually fails us.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Here we aim to produce graduates who are go-getters and action oriented achievers. They don’t just dream, visualize and brainstorm ad-infinitum, but they get down to business. They “Just Do It” and they are trained to “Think Done”. We believe in higher education that would instill optimism and positive approach in our students. Here we would teach you how to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here we would learn how to overcome adversity. Here we look at problems and not be daunted by their immensity. Here we learn how to take the bull by the horn and turn him in the direction where we want to go. Here we learn how to analyze the problems, here we learn how to develop alternatives, how to design solutions, how to implement them and how to turn a problem into an advantage.


But, this requires discipline, commitment and sustained habits of excellence:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Rigor and hard-work which is the objective of the examination system and GPAs. Character and ethical values for which rules and regulations had to be adhered, and sustainability of high performance is enshrined in the system of CGPA and self evaluation.  Read, read and read.

Participation in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities: Unlike schools, where the demographics of the students are typically confined to a small segment, a university offers you an opportunity to interact with students of all kinds of demographic backgrounds, income levels, ethnicity, experience, and exposure. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from others, learn how to understand people, make them understand your point of view, exchange ideas, develop interpersonal skills and life long relationships. University environment offers you the last opportunity to develop relationships untainted by transactional and situational expectations of reciprocity and exchange. I expect each one of you who graduates from here to have in his or her mobile at least 400 numbers of fellow students, whom you can consider as friends. By friends I mean those whom you took out to a lunch or offered snacks, or you were invited to a lunch or snacks by them. Around hundred of these should be senior to you, another hundred who are junior to you and the remaining who are your batch mates. If you have not cultivated these friendships, you have not fully utilized the experience of being in a university. This advice was also given by Late Dr Professor Matin A Khan to me during our orientation long time ago.

4. Impact 

When I see your youthful faces, when I see the energy that you have, when I look at the aspiration that you hold in your hearts, when I see your ambitions, when I feel your expectations, I become hopeful, I become optimistic and I become hopeful and energized.

You have the energy and you have the potential to turn any adversity into an opportunity. I remember thirty years ago when I was sitting in an orientation program like this at IBA. That was 1985. Prof Dr Matin A Khan who died recently was the acting director of the leading business institute of that time. He was addressing an orientation like this one. He mentioned about the Hanafi School of Marketing and Management. He mentioned that in marketing the essence of identifying a successful sellable product is to identify a need. Look around us. What is it that we require? What are the needs? What are the problems? Each problem is a need. Each need and a problem is an opportunity, a potential for a successful product and a company.

Behind Every Problem there is an Opportunity

If you want to build a successful company and a successful business, go no further. Just select a problem from among the myriad of problems that we are engulfed in. Each problem is the need around which a successful company and a product can be designed. What are the problems that often depress us: Corruption, nepotism, traffic congestion, bureaucratic inefficiency, electricity load shedding, water scarcity, lack of safety at home, street crime, and the list goes on and on. One way is to be depressed about this. The other way is to consider these as a challenge and an opportunity. Pick up the one that depresses you the most. Make the alleviation of that problem your life long mission. Dedicate yourself to solving it. You can make a rewarding career out of each of these by providing business solution, by providing a philanthropic solution, by providing a product or a service, by writing research papers and conducting executive trainings and doing consulting jobs and projects. There is an exciting list of choices.

What I am referring to is not just some theory given by a professor, which it is, but there are shining examples that inspire us. Let me give you some examples:

5. Impact on Society

World Largest Ambulance Service: Edhi

Look at the incomparable accomplishments of Abdus Sattar Edhi. World’s largest ambulance service at no cost to the tax payer, Pakistan’s largest social support organization run by a person who has no hi-fi degrees, but is a shining example of a person who meets the criteria of Iqbal: Dur dunya ka meray dum say andhera ho jaaye.

Vision of Indus Hospital: From 500 to 1500 beds

Public health and affordable treatment is one of the biggest problems in Pakistan. There is this gentleman right next to our institute. You all passed on your way to this Institute. This is Indus Hospital. Dr Abdul Bari Khan has turned this problem into a successful social venture. Do you know that Indus Hospital has around 500 beds and would soon have 1500 beds. About ten years ago, they envisioned to be better than Aga Khan, bigger than Aga Khan and totally free. Now they are nearing their initial goals: Indus Hospital is a hundred percent free hospital. Soon it will have three times the number of beds than in Aga Khan, and it already is a hundred percent paper-less environment. From end to end there is no paper flowing in the processes of that organization! How many organizations can boast of this accomplishment. Mind you, the hundreds of millions of rupees required to run such a huge hospital are all coming through donations. At no cost to patient or the poor tax-payer!

Dr Adeeb Rizvi with a Patient at SIUT

Look at SIUT. Dr Adeeb Rizvi has done wonders in Urology and Kidney related diseases. People from all around the country are gathered in the street in front of SIUT for free treatment. End to end treatment. Patient gets all the tests, investigations, treatments, operations, and whatever required under a single roof, absolutely free. SIUT performs the world’s highest number of transplants. Transplants that may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars are hundred percent free here. This is a shining example, right here, in this city. Again supported through philanthropic donations. At no cost to patient or the poor tax-payer!

We have TCF and their chain of schools spread around in needy areas. Over 1000 schools with over one and a half lac students studying at a minimal token fee of hundreds of rupees per month. All through donations.

Do you know there is an Akhuwat Foundation disbursing absolutely interest free micro finance loans. # Families 6 lacs, Total interest free loans +9Bn, Percentage of returns 99.8%. Now the organization that started out through donations, is now entering the sustainability regime by recycling the returns of loans for extending fresh loans. Remember. These are hundred percent interest-free loans. Again, at no cost to the poor tax-payer.

Last but not the least. You are sitting in an institution that was started by Mr Shahjehan S Karim some twenty years ago from a few rooms with a few lacs of donations. Now IoBM is a sprawling complex spread over tens of acres, boasting of one of the finest infrastructures, with thousands of students; self-sustainable and supported by indigenous resources with no external donation or grants.

This is what drive, commitment and sincerity of purpose can achieve. Again, at no cost to the poor tax-payer!

“Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

6. Impact on Industry and Economy

We often find mention of Pakistan in several indicators at the bottom of the list of countries. We moan that we are at the bottom of such and such indicator. Please note that all these indicators relate to the performance of the Government.

However, there are several promising indicators in non-government sectors.
Do you know that we are among the top in the world in several fields?

  • Pakistan is the third highest producer of milk.
  • We are among the top five in poultry production.
  • We are among the top in philanthropic contributions.
  • Pakistan is among the top producers of cotton, rice, sugarcane, wheat, mango, kinnow (tangerine) and some other crops. 

Looking at your beaming faces, your energy, your aspirations, your great expectations, I am confident that the outlook is positive. We have great hope in you. We want you to excel as entrepreneurs and as industry leaders.

We want you to turn from being job seekers to job creators. We would like you to create your own business, your own company, your own social endeavor. We would like you to leave behind Levers, P&Gs and Standard Chartereds of this world and create bigger and better companies than these multinationals. We want your companies to be bigger and better than these multinationals but also more ethical, more social, and more environmental friendly. We want your companies not to be based on exploiting the poor consumers, the poor producers of the world through shady deals with corrupt governments installed by exploitative superpowers.

7. Personal Impact

We want you to follow on the footsteps of the great philanthropists like Edhi, Bari, Adeeb Rizvi and create better and more effective social networks. We want to promote ethical entrprenurship, social entrepreneurship and business entrepreneurship. We want to see many of you owner of your own companies, master of your own destinies, creator of your own value propositions and bring about a revolution in our economy and industry. We want to see to become a beacon of ethical business and righteousness. We want to see you successful, and also to see our society and our people to be successful.

We want that you create your own world. You have the hidden potential that is the distinction of being human. The distinction of just thinking about it and bringing it in to existence. You have the creativity and genius. Hakimul Ummat Allama Iqbal reposed this trust and confidence in you:

Apni Dunya Ap Paida Kar Agar Zindon Mein Hai
Sirr-E-Adam Hai, Zameer-E-Kun Fikan Hai Zindagi

If you are among the living, create your own world; Life is the secret of Adam, the essence of the words Be and it was!

Create a world of your own if you want to be classified among those who are alive. The secret of being human is in life. The essence of life is in the Creator’s  Kun-Fukun (Be, and it Is). You need to be inspired by this life, you can “will” the things to happen in this world. This is the secret of our life and your life, this is the secret of the power of self development and self understanding, and self consciousness, and self determination. The whole universe will conspire to bring to life our vision and our dream provided we work hard for it, and provided that our will  is aligned with the will of the Creator. Then the state will come where khuda banday se khud poochay bata teri raza kya hay!

But these visions and dreams do not come cheap. Dreams and wishes (aarzoo, khwahish) are what you see when you are sleeping and not working, but vision is something that you see when you are awake, when you are working, making an effort and doing hardwork.

I hope that the world that you create would make your family proud, your country and your society proud, and would enable you to proudly present this as your contribution in the life hereafter.

[Essence of this delivered as Orientation Address for new Students as Dean CBM/CES, IoBM on September 8, 2014]

How to Create Impact through Education: 
  1. Curriculum’s Relevance to Social Impact: Why do our graduates want to leave the country?]
  2. How to Create Impact on Society: A Case Study of Experiential Learning Intervention in a Course on Social Advocacy
  3. Revamping Business Curriculum in Collaboration with Industry for Impact 
  4. Myth: We are backward because we lag in science & technology
  5. Myth: Impact Factor Measures Impact
  6. Why Project Based Learning? An Experiential Learning Case Study of Language Teaching
See Also:


6 responses to “Why Education and Why Higher Education: Leadership in Life and Society”

  1. Muhammad Shahid Avatar
    Muhammad Shahid

    Fantastic – you helped me connect the pieces – This will pave the way to what i am looking for since sometime.

  2. Do go through the links in my blog. I think the gap that you want to fill can be identified by going through my various links. I am trying to connect experiential learning in life with learning and education specially higher education as you can see from the various posts that I have on this blog. Thanks for appreciating.

  3. Excellent read. I really liked the idea of making contact during university time. Sir, do post these articles on medium.com for a more larger audience.

  4. Sir i always found splendid work in your blogs, you are cultivating much needed thoughts in our minds, Allah bless you, carry on !

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