KARACHI: Unless the private sector comes in, education problems cannot be solved. No country, especially Pakistan, has the resources to do it on its own.
These views were shared by the chairperson of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr Mukhtar Ahmed, at the National Education Conference’s session on ‘Quality in Higher Education: Issues and Current Practices.’ Ahmed joined a panel discussion on national education policy via video conferencing, responding to the queries posed by participants, largely consisting of academics, representatives of higher education institutes and the media.
Explaining HEC’s position on universities’ internal matters, Ahmed said that it is the provincial governments who handle internal issues. The 18th Amendment is a reality and even before its implementation, education was 80% a provincial matter. “HEC is involved in matters of funding, curriculum and policy making of higher education institutions,” he explained.
On the legal status of universities that are not registered with HEC and yet award degrees that are recognised elsewhere in Pakistan, Ahmed said that such institutions are illegal unless they have acquired a Non-Objection Certificate (NOC). He further encouraged the participants to inform HEC about such institutions so that action can be taken against them.
“I’m not concerned with university rankings but more with accessibility and pooling of resources,” claimed Ahmed. “We have woken up quite late. The universities we compare ourselves to have individual budgets greater than the total budget allocated for higher education in Pakistan,” he said.
He added that Pakistani universities have to provide solutions to the common man through research and spoke about the introduction of 10 to 20 hours per year of community service to focus on other aspects of students’ education as well.
While several arguments flared on the HEC chairperson’s comments regarding Article 25A and the state’s responsibility to provide education, the media too became a much hot topic.
The academicians spoke about the lack of specialised reporting in the areas of science, technology and the developmental side of education. Members of the media, on the other hand, spoke of the lack of cooperation and communication by institutions.
Saleem Mughal, a teacher who teaches television production at a university, spoke of how essential it is for final-year students to contribute towards public institutions. “Our students, when they go in the industry, have no sense of working, hence, the universities can be blamed for their inefficiencies,” he claimed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2016.