ISLAMABAD - Terming acquiring of advanced knowledge in science and technology vital for the overall development of the country, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Razal Gilani has said that the Government is focusing on education sector and will encourage investment by private sector in education and promotion of research and development. He was addressing the 3rd Convocation of the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, here at the Convention Centre on Monday. Gilani said that Pakistan needed to respond positively and responsibly to the challenges of the coming times and it was only possible when everyone do hard work in real sense to catch up with the advancements in all fields, especially in the fields of science and technology. Prime Minister Gilani said that in todays world, no nation could properly progress in the absence of a sound human capital base and education. He said that the technical education was the key to successful human resource development. He said that in the fast changing and competitive world, higher education and technology were essential for a dignified survival and progress of nations. Access of people to advanced knowledge and skills has emerged as the single most competitive advantage at the global level. Right knowledge and right people with knowledge are the crucial factors for development, main drivers of growth and major determinants of competitiveness in todays global economy, he said. Gilani said, Knowledge, both as an input and as an output, is the key source of long-term growth and development. In a knowledge based economy the developed nations have made their place in the global community on the basis of realisation of importance of knowledge and consider their success to the strategic investment in education, particularly in science and technology. Gilani said that the Government was committed to see education, especially higher education, flourish in the country. He said that there was a need of harmony between the market needs and the quality and standards of education. He said that the Government wanted to work side by side with the private sector in promoting higher education in areas of science and technology. He said that any effort made in this direction, from any quarter, public or private, was, therefore, must be welcomed and the moral and official duty of the Government was to encourage and facilitate such efforts. He said that it was unfortunate that education had been a grossly neglected area in Pakistan. Different educational policies were made from time-to-time but never implemented. The Prime Minister pointed out that claims of improvement in this vital sector were made by different governments but in fact education was never given the due attention which it deserved. He said that the education also had a great role to play in the moral, social and economic development of a society and the promotion of human resources of right kind and capability. We have, so far, invested in general education and there is a mismatch between what is required by the industry and what is imparted to our students. Gilani stressed that there should be complete harmony between the market needs and human resource development policies and programmes. Our Government is committed to see education, especially higher education, flourish in the country. The Government would like to encourage the private sector to work side by side with the public sector to invest in education and promote research and development in higher education, especially technical and vocational education. I am sure that we can contribute to the educational, scientific and technological capacity building of our nation, he added. He said that the Government was adopting a holistic approach to education, which aims at enhancing literacy rate in the country, improving the quality of primary and secondary education and giving a boost to higher education and research. Our target is to achieve over 90% literacy by 2015 and obviously, it is not possible for the Government alone to achieve this target within the stipulated time period. He said that every dollar invested in higher education brought an exponential return of over 800 percent to the national exchequer. He commended the efforts of Higher Education Commission (HEC), which had brought a revolutionary change in Pakistan since its formation in 2002. It has increased the number of universities from 98 to 132, and also tripled the university enrolment. Up till 2002, only 3,000 PhD degrees were awarded whereas more than 3,280 have been awarded in the last eight years alone, he added. Gilani said the number of research publications increased from 815 in 2002 to over 4,000 in 2009 and were still growing by each year with the number of returning PhD scholars. At present, on HEC scholarships over 2800 scholars are pursuing their PhD degrees abroad while another 3800 are pursuing it locally. He expressed confidence that if this pace of growth and development continues over the next 10 years then Pakistan will be on its way to becoming a knowledge power country. Gilani announced a grant of Rs 10 million for SZABIST Islamabad Campus and congratulated Chancellor SZABIST Dr Azra Fazal, President SZABIST, Dr Izhar-ul-Haq, and the Board of Trustees of SZABIST for keeping the highest standard of academic education at SZABIST without compromise. He expressed satisfaction that SZABIST was contributing effectively to the cause of national building with a total commitment. He hoped that the new graduates will face this challenge bravely as their potential, dynamism and the ability to perform is second to none. Prime Minister Gilani earlier awarded degrees to the successful graduates.