ISLAMABAD - At a time when the neighboring countries of Pakistan, including India, are doubling the funds for higher education, Pakistan is even slashing the higher education budget. “If you want to pull your country out of prevailing crisis and put it on the path of development, you must have to go an extra mile in education sector which would directly generate skilled workforce,” Chairman Higher Education Commission, Dr Javaid Leghari said in an interview with Pakistan Today. “Unfortunately, we are far behind in the education sector, even investment-wise, Pakistan is amongst the African countries as it stands at 189th, viz-a-viz promotion of education, among the total 195 countries of the world, he said.”
Answering a query regarding Pakistan’s commitment to the higher education as co0mpared to India, Dr Leghari said: “Our commitment to higher education has been scaled back in the current finical year by 10 percent, at the same time neighboring India has raised budget for higher-education by 25 percent. India has a population six times more than Pakistan’s. Its GDP, at $ 1.8 trillion, is 10 times larger than ours, its growth rate is 8.5 percent and Pakistan’s growth rate is 2.4,” Dr Leghari said.
However, notwithstanding the financial, Dr Leghari, who is known as one of the best educational experts in Pakistan, is still hopeful of bringing improvement in the country’s higher education sector.
“Despite facing shortage of budget, we are doing our best for the country’s youth, adding that when the HEC was established back in 2002, access of youth (aging between 17 and 23 years) to higher education was 2.6 percent, now it has reached 7.8 percent and we are committed to raising it to 10 percent by 2015, he vowed.” Dr Leghari said that while utilising available resources, the HEC was taking a number of steps for bringing improvement in higher education.
“For a healthy competition among the universities, we are grading them on the basis of their research works. Quality control cells have been established in the varsities, the requirement of lecturers has increased from Masters’ degree to M.Phil,” Dr Leghari said.
He said the HEC had recently finalised a mechanism to keep a check on the performance of all departments of the universities so that before taking admission, students should be aware of performance of their desired universities.
Talking about the World Bank’s recent approval of 300 million dollars for higher education, the visionary doctor said that if the amount directly came to the HEC, it could overcome its financial crunch to some extent.
Replying to a question regarding the HEC-funded scholars studying abroad, Dr Leghari said that after successfully completing their studies, some 695 scholars had returned to Pakistan and now they were teaching in various universities. He said the remaining 4,300 scholars were pursuing their studies abroad, “These scholars will bring a visible change in Pakistan’s education sector,” he hoped. Answering another question, the renowned expert said Pakistan needed to do a lot be at par with Bangladesh and India.
“Pakistan has 132 universities and India has 504. We have approved two new universities in next five years while India will set up 29 universities and 40 other institutes. Now time has come for us to think over it seriously,” he opined. To another query regarding verification of parliamentarians’ degrees, he said the HEC was not against anyone; it had just fulfilled its responsibility. He said: “Incomplete education credentials of 150 lawmakers were still lying with HEC and whenever we will be provided with the required documents from the Election Commission or parliamentarians, we will start the verification process,” he concluded.