In its ongoing mission to enhance the quality of higher education, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has started the process of revamping the four-year undergraduate curriculum.
“The purpose of revamping curriculum is to make the undergraduate degree a terminal one and produce graduates who are truly educated and have enough knowledge and skill to emerge into the professional world,” said HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri. He emphasised the centrality of undergraduate studies for overall enhancement of the quality of higher education.
The overall aim is that on completion of undergraduate studies, the student should have the ability to think critically and analytically assess problems, evidence-based observation, a deeper sense of civic and social rights and responsibilities, and should have grown personally as an individual.
HEC is focusing on undergraduate studies because it is the backbone of higher education. In the rest of the world, an undergraduate degree is typically a terminal degree for most students, who on graduation have adequate knowledge and skills for employment or other meaningful projects. The case should be the same in Pakistan. Moreover, graduates interested in further education, like Masters or MPhil or Doctoral Studies, should have sufficient knowledge and adequate grounding in research.
The revamping effort began in January 2019. The bedrock of the effort is cooperative partnerships with universities in revamping the curriculum structure, and then implementing it institutionally.
To that end, HEC has initially identified 30 general universities across Pakistan and grouped them into five regions, including Balochistan, Islamabad-Rawalpindi/Azad Jammu Kashmir/Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh. To begin with, HEC engaged with the Vice Chancellors and Rectors region-wise, who shared their views on problems of the current four-year integrated curriculum, and unanimously agreed on the urgent need for revamping.
On HEC’s request, the university heads have nominated a curriculum reform team of faculty and administration. These teams will help develop curriculum structure and lead the implementation of the revamped curriculum in their respective institutions.
In the next step, HEC has planned a series of five regional consultative workshops. The first workshop of the series was organised at the International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI) from April 5-6, 2019. The participants were nominated teams from five identified universities in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi/AJK/Gilgit Baltistan region as well as an observer from each of the remaining 24 general universities in that region, again nominated by the concerned university head.
The workshop was designed to foster a better understanding of the needs and purposes of revamping the curriculum, obtain critical inputs in development and implementation of revamped curriculum, and to develop participants’ know-how and skills so as to enable them to lead the revamping effort in their universities.
HEC will organise a follow-up workshop with the participating teams from five identified universities, and continue providing technical support to them in the implementation process.
Similar workshops will be held in the other four regions in the coming months. In this manner the structure of revamped curriculum will be developed and implemented initially in 30 identified universities in the five regions. As this process unfolds, other general universities in the country will be brought on board.
HEC is also mindful of the reality that postsecondary or undergraduate education is also being provided in colleges and technical institutions. So, in close consultation with all the stakeholders, HEC will also work on curriculum frameworks for these types of institutions. As far as possible, their curriculum will be aligned with the revamped HEC curriculum so that the broader purposes of revamping are also achieved in those institutions.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2019.