Highs & lows of higher education during 2008
The promise of the education sector
Karachi, Jan 03: Having witnessed the highs and lows of higher education during
2008, educationists remain confident of a prosperous 2009. The hope for a
thriving year is premised upon the addition of several new departments,
institutes and centralised laboratories in the public sector universities in
2008, especially in the University of Karachi (KU) and NED University of
Engineering & Technology. Numerous conferences, seminars, workshops and
symposium, both national and international, were also held during the past year,
and helped ushering in optimism and increased confidence amongst teachers and
students in the higher education sector.
The KU Pro Vice Chancellor, Dr
Akhlaq Ahmed, regarded the past year as fruitful for the KU, as the Department
of Mass Communication moved into its new building and Food & Science
Technology is to follow the suit. "About 3,500 students and teachers from
various universities were sent abroad for higher education. They have yet to
return to their respective institutions. Hopefully their return will usher the
universities to the era of higher educational standards accompanied by good
discipline," claimed Ahmed.
"The KU currently has 150 to 200 PhDs. We
need more and hopefully the 200 lecturers, who were inducted in the university,
will be groomed to assume the mantle as university teachers. We have begun the
grooming. Two workshops were held in 2008 and we intend to increase the number
in coming years," he said.
The VC of Federal Urdu University for Arts,
Science and Technology (FUUAST), Dr M. Qaiser, said that the
institution was concentrating on improving the standard of education at the
institute and getting used to operating as a university rather than a college.
Despite the optimism, there remain a number of critical issues regarding
the sector. For starters, the Ministry of Education increased the percentage of
education budget to 2.5 per cent from the meagre two per cent. "We need at least
four per cent of the GNP to pull out the messy educational system to minimum
acceptable standards," says Ahmed. "We need more if we want to be at par with
other nations," he asserted.
Critically, the higher education sector in
the country has also been threatened by new policies of the present government.
Nearly 59 public sector universities are suffering from monetary crisis after
the refusal of the federal finance ministry to release the Higher Education
Commission's fourth quarterly installment of development and recurring grant
worth over Rs8 billion for 2007-08. According to an HEC official, the
government's step to withhold the HEC grant has created hurdles for public
universities to carry on their projects.
"Grants and funds have however
been provided to all higher learning institutions of the country for various
projects as well as the payment of salaries to employees. The fourth quarterly
installment was due in April, but not a single penny had been released on
account of the grant so far. This will aggravate the situation at the
public-sector universities. In the regard, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has
also been approached, requesting him to intervene and get the grant released," a
senior HEC official from Islamabad confided, who requested anonymity.
The withholding of HEC grants has affected major public-sector
universities to a great extent. The KU is waiting for Rs220 million, the FUUAST
is also to get its share of Rs70 million from HEC. Thus, the decision of the
government to deprive the higher education sector from its required grants is
being highly criticised in education circles of the country. Former HEC
Chairman, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, lamented the intrusion of politics into the
educational sector which is eradicating good work done by selfless people.
Furthermore, the financial crunch of the HEC has created enormous
difficulties for students who had received HEC scholarships to study abroad. The
continuous fall of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar is also
contributing to the hardships being inflicted on the students.
issue that needs to be redressed in 2009 is plagiarism at higher learning
institutions, including KU and University of Punjab (PU). Such cases were
ignored by the universities and plagiarists continue to occupy the chair of
their departments in universities, unashamed and unrepentant.
remains a need to increase the overall standard of education. While the lack of
commitment from many teachers in universities added to the decline of
educational standards and culture of apathy and disinterest among the students,
Dr Akhlaq Ahmed also urged the government to divert its attention towards the
primary and secondary education sector. "Students from schools hardly achieve
the required standard of education. The same students reach colleges and
universities, attain their Masters degrees but their standard is abjectly poor.
How can we expect to enhance the educational standards if we continue to get
such students?" he questioned.
Regardless, KU Vice Chancellor, Prof.
Pirzada Qasim, is hopeful that the institute will manage to overcome the
prevalent financial crunch in the industry, and believed that increased research
patterns will form the basis of lifting the sector out of its slum. The new year
will hopefully herald the dawn of a new beginning.
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SPLA slams hiring of retired officer as HEB chairman
Karachi: Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA) expressed their
concern over the appointment of Dr Fazal Haq Khursheed as Hyderabad Education
Board Chairman in grade 20, a press release said on Friday.
In a joint
statement, the central leadership of SPLA claimed that Dr Khursheed retired as a
grade 19 officer in 2001 as Associate Professor. Criticising Sindh Government
for overlooking existing employees, they questioned why retired people are hired
for important positions in educational boards and universities.
criticised the dual policy of government, saying that on one hand, the
government is claiming to replace On Pay Scale (OPS), low grade officers by
senior officers but on the other, they are bestowing low grade officers by
appointing them on important posts.
They also said that hundreds of
officers are awaiting promotions for years while a retired officer of grade 19
has been promoted and appointed at grade 20 which is injustice to others. The
central leadership also appealed Governor Sindh, Chief Minister Sindh, Chief
Secretary Sindh and Sindh Education Minister to remove retired officers from
educational boards and universities and help deserving officers get their right
by appointing them at these posts.
Latest books for libraries in Lyari
Karachi: Lyari Town Nazim Mahmood Hashim asked officials to issue latest books to all the
reading rooms and libraries in the area.
While visiting the old Mulla
Fazil Hall Library along with other town officials on Friday, the Nazim said the
textbooks will also be issued to these libraries so that the poor children who
cannot afford to buy books can visit libraries and avail the facilities. He
lauded the significant role of the libraries and said they have also played a
key role in promoting reading habit among the book-loving folk and the town
administration will like to promote this healthy culture. The News
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