In new world post Covid, CIEC continues with old ways

‘Evaluation of varsities with disregard for shift to online classes will make ranking questionable’


Safdar Rizvi April 11, 2021
PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI:

In 2019, the evaluation and subsequent grading of Sindh's private universities was interrupted for the year as the world reeled from the aftermath of a deadly pandemic.

After a gap of around a year and a half, the Charter Inspection and Evaluation Committee (CIEC), a body formed to grade and monitor Sindh's public and private universities and recommend chartering of private universities, has resumed the process, picking up from where it left off, employing old and now somewhat redundant criteria for evaluating and ranking varsities and giving little consideration to the fact that the modes of teaching have undergone a drastic change following the Covid-19 outbreak.

A CIEC panel, led by the body's acting head, Dr Tariq Rafi, visited Indus University on Friday for the varsity's evaluation under criteria devised prior to the coronavirus pandemic and focused on assessment on the basis of parameters more suitable for on-campus classes than online classes.

This will make the rankings issued by the CIEC questionable, the vice-chancellor of a university and a member of the CIEC, who has requested anonymity, raises concern.

Amid the pandemic

Currently, there are 41 private universities in Sindh, 32 of which are in Karachi. Last time the ranking for these varsities was issued was in 2018.

While another round of evaluation was commenced in 2019, the process was disrupted midway near the year's end as the government ordered the closure of educational institutions against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Until then, the CIEC, then headed by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan Rajput, had evaluated over 80 per cent of private universities in Sindh. The evaluation of the four remaining varsities, including Ziauddin University, Iqra University and Indus University, was deferred until 2020. Meanwhile, the term of the then CIEC head ended and Dr Rafi, the vice-chancellor of Jinnah Sindh Medical University, was appointed as the acting head of the body.

A more significant change during this duration, however, was the shift to online learning, the growing trend of using e-libraries and increased reliance on learning management systems.

These parameters, and a lot else that has become integral to delivering education post-Covid-19, remains absent from the CIEC's evaluation criteria.

Concerns and reservations

The CIEC member quoted above is of the view that the CIEC should have declared the evaluation of over 80 per cent varsities conducted during 2019 invalid, given the situation.

"Things have undergone a drastic change from what they were in 2019 and finalising rankings on the basis of evaluation conducted in 2019 will leave a question mark over the CIEC's grading," he explains.

He says that in principle, the CIEC head should have convened a meeting to consult the committee's members on the matter and new criteria should have been devised for the evaluation of varsities, covering e-learning, learning management system and other interventions in the education sector following the pandemic.

When Dr Rafi was approached, he refused to acknowledge that there had been changes in the modes of teaching and examinations after the pandemic.

"Everything is same as before and that is why we are evaluating universities on the basis of old criteria," he said, however, adding that new assessment criteria would be devised for the next year.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2021.

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