Higher Education: Policies and Reforms

Muddasir Kasrani BalochEducation is the most important factor behind the development which mankind has achieved. It develops the sense of discrimination between the right and wrong.  Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) has declared education as a fundamental human right. The enlightened and educated quarters of the world widely believe that education is a great panacea for human suffering. The governments of the developed and civilized world leave no stone unturned for imparting quality education to their citizens but, unfortunately, in Pakistan the case is otherwise. Ghost schools unknown to the world, are quite prevalent in Pakistan. In Germany and most of the Scandinavian countries higher education is not just free for their citizens but also for the foreign students. In Pakistan, higher education has almost become luxury due to unbridled soaring fees.

 The main purpose of universities is to equip with the art of the making of the knowledge itself rather than imparting the available knowledge to the students. The only way for the working class and middle class to rise higher on the social ladder is to equip them with quality education. It is the sole responsibility of the state to provide quality education to all the segments of the society irrespective of class, creed and colour. But in Pakistan the majority of the population has no access to the higher education because it has become a very profitable business rather than a service. People invest millions and turn them into billions in a very short span of time. No one can over emphasize the importance of private sector of education in promoting education but there must be a strong check on the quality as well as fee structure.

Education policy in Pakistan hardly exists and if it does, is not properly implemented. As far as Government institutions are concerned it is only confined to paper work. The bitter truth is that we develop policies but never give the rational method and procedure to get the desired results. Higher Education Commission (HEC) is given with the responsibility to formulate policies for the universities of Pakistan. The recent developments which came from HEC are:  the establishment of criteria for the appointment of lecturers. The minimum qualification for the appointment of lecturer has been raised to M.Phil from masters and for the promotion and the appointment of Assistant Professor has been raised to PHD from M.Phil. These policies are good for the future development of higher education. But HEC has just established the ends not provided the means for achieving these standards, which should have been established for getting the desired results. Teachers teaching in universities know very well that getting a study leave is not an easy job, which needs either political links or to be in the good books of administration. HEC should have established the standard procedure for the study leave that it should not become a tool in the hands of the administration to exploit the teacher’s community.  Study leave should become a right for the teachers after serving a particular period of time rather than a privilege of administration, which it uses as a weapon to maintain its unchallenged monopoly.

There is another lacuna in the system and the biggest hurdle for promoting quality education that is the absence of any practical and pragmatic procedure for the appointments and promotions in universities in transparent way. . Roussoue has rightly pointed out that “Man is born free but everywhere in chains”. It is an open secret that Vice Chancellors in universities are appointed more on the basis of political relations rather than qualifications, therefore they have to oblige their benefactors by appointing their recommended candidate in the universities. In this way the incompetent people make their way in institutions providing higher education. Their presence in the universities is tantamount to letting a cat among pigeons.

 Many enlightened people have already interpreted the problem but the point is how to change it. It is the pressing need of the hour to set a system which should immune the universities from the infiltration of incompetent people who make their way by using their relations with politicians.  Merit and transparency can be achieved in a way that HEC should develop a Commission in corroboration with Federal Public Service Commission, which enjoys the trust of the people, for the selection of lecturers and other teaching and non teaching staff all over Pakistan.  It will not only prove to be the last nail in the coffin of appointments of incompetent people but also give the sigh of relief to Vice Chancellors from political pressures as well as add the prestige of the profession.

It has been witnessed that all the prestigious institutions carry out rigorous psychological test for the recruitment. No one can ignore the importance of psychological test in the recruitment process but it is being neglected to the criminal extent for the appointment of teachers both at the primary and higher education level.

No one can over emphasize the efforts of higher education commission in order to equip the teachers with latest techniques and trends. But it is also a fact that there is still room for improvement especially in utilizing the available resources efficiently. For example HEC should have its own accommodation centers in the major educational cities of the world because most of the stipend given to the students is spent for accommodation. HEC should buy flats or hostel in such countries as Germany where Higher Education is free and accommodation charges are high. The property bought by HEC in form of hostels or flats will be the asset of Pakistan from which thousands of scholars will benefit… Germany has established and reputed universities.  It’s not a big deal for HEC to provide accommodation to the students because it has millions of funds for the faculty development programmes. No doubt that there may be certain legal problems in buying a property for HEC but not totally insurmountable.

The bread and butter of the discussion is that we cannot translate our vision of our progress  in to reality without immunizing our universities from the cancer which is the infiltration of incompetent people in universities and other institutions by political interference. If government cannot allocate new resources for education then at least it should make efficient use of available resources in order to save the upcoming generations from the curse of ignorance.

Writer: Mudassir Kaisrani

The writer teaches English at Lasbela University, Balochistan. He can be reached at    Mudassir.kaisrani@gmail.com

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