ISLAMABAD: Senior academia and educationists have termed the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) as an opportunity to align the higher education set up of the country with its socio-economic goals and to have a broader academic policy dialogue in this regard.
This was stated by academics and policy experts during an online seminar on ‘Post-Covid-19 Scenario - Challenges and Options for Higher Education Institutions’. The seminar had been organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in coordination with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) on Friday.
Dr Nadia Tahir, the managing director for the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) at the HEC, said that universities across Pakistan have been tasked with developing standard operating procedures (SoPs) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) to ensure quality online learning for students.
HEC and universities will have to work together to achieve their shared goals, she said, adding that it was quite heartening to know that universities across the country are accepting this challenge to avoid disruption in learning.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that the UN has predicted we will have to live with the pandemic from now on for an extended period or even permanently. He called for grabbing opportunities emerging from the pandemic by applying a proactive approach.
“Eliminating the digital-divide must be ensured while introducing online learning as we cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” Dr Suleri said. He said that HEC will have to ensure that the new learning provided by the universities is compatible with a rapidly-changing job market.
Forming an education advisory council will be one of the suggestions for the government to respond to the emerging challenges in the field of education, he concluded.
Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Vice-Chancellor Dr Ziaul Qayyum said that technological solutions should be utilized to create an enabling environment for education in the pandemic.
A policy dialogue on academic issues must be initiated to explore the opportunities and to meet the unprecedented challenges, he said.
“SDPI being a vibrant think tank and research institute may take the lead and facilitate such s dialogue forum,” he suggested, adding that an open distance learning policy will help provide the necessary guidelines.
Balochistan University VC Dr Shafiqur Rehman highlighted the lack of connectivity faced by the students in remote areas. This concern was shared by Peshawar University VC Dr Asif Khan who said that while universities are taking all possible measures to adapt to the new environment, we must ensure that no student is left out from the learning process.
Dr Fatima Dar, director at Iqra University, said broader cooperation amongst universities will be important to share learning and experience mutually.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2020.