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Importance of higher education highlighted in Saudi

Speakers in the podium during the annual technical seminar organized by the Institute of Engineers Pakistan, Saudi Arabian Center. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman (third from right), Ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia Naeem Khan (third from left) are also seen.

Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia): Higher education is the key for a country’s growth and this core message was echoed in Saudi Arabia at a recently held annual technical seminar organized by the Institute of Engineers Pakistan, Saudi Arabian Centre.

“Socioeconomic development of any country is no longer dependent on natural resources of the country, rather knowledge is the main driving force of world largest economies such as Japan and many European countries”- said Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, a topmost scientist from Pakistan in his keynote address. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman is the first scientist from the Muslim world to have won the prestigious UNESCO Science Prize and the recipient of highest national civil award in Pakistan. Nowadays Industrialization through innovation and production of high value goods belonging to engineering, pharmaceuticals, IT, biotechnology, etc. is the key to high GDP growth of a country, he noted in his key note address titled “Higher Education, Science and Technology – Imperatives for the Socioeconomic Development”.

He cited examples of latest innovations of science which are just like wonders and magic for a common man such as Harry Potter’s disappearing cloak has now become a reality by the invention of meta-materials which can bend the rays of light away and shows the covered object as invisible.

Dr. Atta gave also the example of Graphene (mono layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honey comb structure) material, a strand of which, approximately 150 times thinner than a human hair, is so strong that a huge elephant can be hanged through this strand without any breakage. It is 200 times stronger than steel. Similarly he gave many examples of new innovations from nano technology, DNA technology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, etc.

Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman emphasized that higher education has direct correlation with exports and gave example of South Korea which had only 5 percent higher education enrollment in 1960 with only $32 million exports and per capita income of only $72 only, but witnessed an increase of higher education enrollment to 92 percent in 2009 which led to an increase of exports to $354,000 million and per capita income of $30,200. Today, the GDP of South Korea stands at $1.2 trillion.

Moreover he told the gathering that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has a great impact on the economic development of the country. MIT graduates and faculty founded around 4,000 new companies which generate employment for 1.1 million people with annual sales of approximately $240 billion and collectively these companies can represent the 18th largest economy in the world.

He also gave the example of Malaysia which has been investing about 25 percent of its budget in education for the last 30 years and today about 87 percent of total high-tech exports from Muslim world come from Malaysia alone. In 1980, the GDP of Malaysia was only $26 billion, which increased to $303 billion in 2010 with per capita income stands at $14,700.

A country should have simultaneous bi-modal approach taking care for basic needs (health, primary education, water, etc.) and top-down knowledge based economy with emphasis on higher education linked with industry, he stressed.

Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman has made tremendous efforts for the progress and development of science and technology and higher education during his tenure with Pakistan government from 2000 to 2008 as federal minister and chairman HEC. He managed to increase the development budget of science ministry to 6000 percent and higher education development budget to 2400 percent.

The seminar was also attended by the Ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia Naeem Khan and the board member of Saudi Engineering Council Dr Ibrahim Al Hammad.

The Chairman of IEP-SAC Engr. Jaleel Hassan thanked the sponsors and the guests for making the event successful.

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