–Harsh, transparent, merit-based decisions a must to reform the higher education sector
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) always gave special emphasis to the promotion of education in the country, so it would be a litmus test for the party, which is all set to form the government in the Centre, to fix the higher education system which is in disarray at present.
The incoming government of PTI will face serious challenges to bring about the desired results and have to take very bitter and bold steps to make sure the provision of higher education to the huge population as Pakistan has one of the lowest ratios in the world when it comes to the access to higher education.
Talking to Pakistan Today, various education experts, academicians and senior officials were on the same page that the new government has no option but to take bitter, speedy, just and merit-based decisions to bring reforms in the higher education sector as the challenges are humongous.
They were of the view that the government has to rid the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the universities of political interference and have to make sure merit-based and relevant officials on the high positions in the commission as well as in universities as due to the political meddling, the working of the institutions is compromised to a great extent.
Almost all appointments were being made on personal likes and dislikes due to which the education standard was going downward, they opined, suggesting that the new government have to hammer out a strategy to ensure merit-based appointments on high positions to discourage the culture of favouritism and nepotism.
Vice chancellors of the public universities, including Quaid-e-Azam University, Allama Iqbal Open University and International Islamic University Islamabad, are going to retire in October and the previous government had already advertised the posts and applications have been summoned.
Moreover, a number of other universities in the country are also having acting VCs, so a transparent competency and merit-based system are necessary for the appointment of vice chancellors, educationists suggested. They also suggested putting an end to the culture of adhoc-ism, as it would not only help provide employment to the unemployed youths but would also discourage the culture of nepotism and favouritism.
COMMISSIONS IN KP, BALOCHISTAN:
They opine that the government has to ensure autonomy of the federal and provincial HECs along with the universities besides creating trust-based cordial and effective coordination mechanism to ensure smooth functioning and working-relationship among all the institutions.
At present, Punjab and Sindh provinces have their own provincial commissions, hence the government has to speed up its efforts to set up autonomous commissions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan so as to ease burden unto the federal HEC.
The restoration of the student unions is also essential because it helped produce leadership.
FOREIGN VARSITY CAMPUSES:
In addition, a large sum of the population was deprived of education. Experts opined that neither the public nor the private sector have sufficient resources to ensure provide them education, therefore, the government should open the education system and allow foreign universities to open their campuses in Pakistan as it would not only produce qualitative students but also make skillful degree holders who would be in a position to face the modern-day challenges effectively.
Besides, setting up foreign universities campuses will create an environment of competition in the country as at present, Pakistan only produces degree holders rather than skillful and technical graduates.
The academicians advised that the education standard in the country was going down rapidly and it could be judged from the loss-making institutions in the country due to which the government has to take steps to ensure quality and standard education in the country.
HEFTY FEE & FACULTY INDUCTION:
Besides, private institutes receive admission fee beyond the capacity of the people. Keeping in view the rural poverty, the government should bring the admission fee under certain limits as that youth the far-flung areas, who left education half way due to hefty fee, can get higher education.
They were of the view that the government has to set up technical universities instead of general universities to prepare the students to deal with the modern needs.
The government should establish new universities, especially for women, in the backward and remote areas of the country to promote education. In many parts, the parents don’t send their children to universities located in big cities due to financial or cultural constraints, experts pointed out.
Students are being charged heavily several times for attestation of degrees, hence a system should be developed to make degree attestation affordable.
The universities have witnessed eight to 10 per cent annual increase in student enrolment, so the faculty induction and budget increase must be proportionate to this increase.