Pakistan higher education challenges

Challenges in Pakistan higher education
Islamabad, Jan 04: The mission of the Higher Education Commission is "to facilitate institutions of higher education to serve as [engines] of socio-economic development [for] Pakistan".

Since its establishment as an autonomous body in 2002 under the controlling authority of the prime minister with its policies being guided by the policymaking board, there have been successes and failures.

That is generally true when one needs to run, and not walk, and the HEC did just that to catch up with our deficiencies of the past 62 years. There have been teething problems similar to those experienced by most young organisations, but the HEC has overcome these.

There has been considerable success at the HEC in the last six years. The number of universities has increased from 74 to 129 i.e. 74 in the first 56 years, and 55 in the last six years. There have been some concerns due to this phenomenal growth, and issues pertaining to quality are being noted.

University enrolment has approximately tripled from 135,000 to 315,000. The number includes some 70,000 students in private universities. Access to higher education has more than doubled from 2.2 per cent to 4.7 per cent. Women's enrolment has increased from 37 to 46 per cent; and development and recurring budgets have increased. There may have been some errors of judgment, but it is being ensured that these are not repeated. Future funding will be dependent on fulfilling certain criteria.

About 5,000 scholars are pursuing their PhD in foreign countries, and another 4,500 are pursuing the degree locally. There are a number of concerns here on the academic standards of PhD advisers and students which are being monitored. Foreign faculty hiring and tenure track programmes are being handled.

The National Research Programme for universities, the Pakistan Education and Research Network with 10 gbps bandwidth and video-conferencing facilities at more than 70 universities/institutions and the National Digital Library with 45,000 e-books and 23,000 full text journals have been established. Besides there have been curriculum reforms and the criteria for Masters and Phd degrees have been set.

Quality enhancement cells have been established in 30 universities and leadership training has been provided to vice chancellors. There have been learning innovation programmes for faculty members. Publications have shown an improvement, although there have been some allegations of plagiarism which are being looked into.

Pakistan has been called a 'rising star' in Science Watch, and independent assessments by the World Bank and the British Council have all been praiseworthy. Five years ago no Pakistani university ranked among the top 600 universities of the world in the Times Higher Education Supplement. Today, five do.

So where do we go from here? Emphasis will be on the development of universities as institutions of higher learning, increasing equitable access, improving the quality of teaching and research and stressing leadership, curriculum development as well as innovation relevant to socio-economic development.

Our universities need to contribute positively to transforming society by imbuing in it qualities of greater tolerance, pluralism and prosperity.

To increase equitable access, the HEC plans to establish campuses in tier-two and tier-three cities, including the underdeveloped, rural and tribal areas, eventually upgrading them to the status of fully fledged universities.

The goal is to establish a sub-campus or a 'community college' of existing universities in most districts of Pakistan within the next 10 years to bring education to the doorstep. The goal is also to reduce the gender gap at all tiers of higher education. More opportunities will be created for women and 'soft disciplines', including social sciences, humanities and the fine arts, will be supported.

Plans are to use technology including radio, TV and the Internet to bring education to homes. Most universities will have a distance-learning office. Public-private partnerships will be encouraged through incentives. The criteria for establishing universities and degree-awarding institutes in the private sector will be rationalised to allow more private investment and wider participation without compromising on the quality of education.

The Education Policy 2009 has committed seven per cent of GDP to education by 2015. This is a phenomenal sum when the actual expenditure on education is less than 1.8 per cent. The Unesco-recommended figure is four per cent of GDP.

In aiming to keep pace with the Millennium Development Goals, Pakistan hopes to gain an 85 per cent literacy rate by 2015. Under the education policy, access to higher education will be increased to 10 per cent from the current 4.7 per cent by 2015 and to 15 per cent by 2020. This is the HEC's main challenge which translates into a post-secondary education enrolment of about three million from the current 1.1 million.

What kind of funds are required to achieve this goal? The current allocation of higher education is 17.5 per cent. In the new education policy it is to be raised to 20 per cent by 2015.

Considering all growth indicators and annual depreciation, this comes to a 35 per cent increase in funding for the higher education sector every year to meet policy goals by 2015 - assuming that the nation has the absorption capacity to do so as an increase in budget does not necessarily guarantee absorption or results.

The HEC, however, has a good track record in the last six years to incur and expend all expenditures and complete nearly all projects due to proper project management and audit teams.

In conclusion, the HEC will facilitate institutions of higher learning in Pakistan to move ahead with improved equitable access. It will correct imbalances, ensure better educational governance and accountability, focus on world-class quality in education and research, innovate and help create a knowledge economy relevant to Pakistan's socio-economic development. Dawn

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Candidates sent back by QAU selection board
Islamabad: Quaid-i-Azam University administration's mismanagement and lack of preparation to convene the selection board on Saturday for fresh appointments have caused problems for the candidates who had arrived from various parts of the country and some even from abroad.

The cases of many candidates who had applied for the post of associate professors and lectures were deferred till the next selection board. A candidate who had arrived from abroad was asked to come again as the university had not completed his evaluation reports and his case was not completely processed.

The university administration wasted the time of different subject specialists by inviting them without preparation.

Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Vice-Chancellor expressed his ignorance about such occurrence causing sheer disappointment to candidates as well as the subject specialists/experts.

"However, if some cases are postponed, the university would call them up for re-evaluation on January 15, 2009," he added.

It is important to mention here that the teaching faculty of the university already had expressed their reservations saying, "The selection board was conducted to appoint some favourites of the vice-chancellor. The administration is making these appointments under the rules namely Tenure Track System (TTS) Version II while the QAU syndicate has not formally adopted the TTS," an academic staff said on condition of anonymity. A university cannot implement the TTS unless it has adopted it after due approval of its syndicate or the competent authority, he added.

The academic staff of the QAU has alleged that the posts were advertised in February last year and in principle, all 49 candidates of grades 20 and 21 should be interviewed in one selection board. But all the candidates were not asked to appear before the board on Saturday.

Therefore, candidates for the posts in grade 18, 19 and others appeared before the board from different cities even from abroad and had to go back without having a chance of interview. The nation

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Art therapy workshop
Islamabad: Offering a unique holiday experience - both therapeutic and fun, Media Vision on Sunday arranged a one-day art therapy workshop at Madawa Public School in I-11/4 slum area.

The workshop was aimed at introducing the basic principles and practice of art therapy to emotionally, behaviorally, developmentally and medically challenged children from Swat and NWFP residing in the federal capital.

Media Vision Art Director Samina Jamshed conducted the workshop, which was attended by over 50 internally displaced children.

The workshop "Innocence vs terrorism" blended theories and experimental exercises offering a thorough introduction to the therapeutic use of fine art as a powerful treatment modality for children.

The children drew caricatures, paintings, a variety of art that helped them express their thoughts, feelings, conflicts, strengths and increased their self-esteem and coping skills. Jamshed said Media Vision had taken this task to console children who experienced terrorism and witnessed its aftereffects.

"We provided all the material including colour pencils, crayons, sharpener, eraser, glue, scissors, multi-coloured fancy papers to these destitute children free of costs," said Jamshed, adding, lunch was also served to them. Daily times

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Teachers protest drive
Peshawar: Expressing serious concern over the government's failure in recovering the kidnapped vice-chancellor of the Kohat University of Science & Technology Prof Dr Lutfullah Kakakhel despite lapse of 58 days, the Tanzim-e-Asatiza has declared to launch a protest drive for his safe and early recovery.

A meeting of the university campus, Peshawar chapter, of the Jamaat-e-Islami-backed Tanzim-e-Asatiza was held on Sunday. The participants said that the government was least concerned about the recovery of the kidnapped vice-chancellor. They said that about two-months had passed since his kidnapping but no concrete step could be taken for his recovery. They said that the government knew the kidnappers, who had forwarded their demands for the release of the vice-chancellor.

They lamented the attitude of NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani, who is also the chancellor of the universities. "The chancellor should have resigned due to his failure to recover head of an institute of higher learning," he added. Dr Lutufullah was kidnapped by unknown people from Akhurwal area of Darra Adamkhel on November 6 while he was on his way from Peshawar to his university in Kohat.

The political administration and security forces came into action soon after the kidnapping and conducted raids on various suspected dens of outlaws and militants and arrested scores of Akhurwal tribesmen under the collective responsibility section of the Frontier Crimes Regulations. The action, however, failed to bear any fruit.

For about 25 days the whereabouts of the vice-chancellor were not known, as no one had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Later Tariq Afridi, TTP commander in Darra Adamkhel, allegedly claimed responsibility for the abduction and sought release of his four militants.

The vice-chancellor also reportedly made a phone call to his university with the request to expedite efforts for his recovery. There were also reports that the kidnappers had contacted the family of the vice-chancellor for clothes and medicines. The Tanzim-e-Asatza meeting was told that the vice-chancellor was ill.

It appealed to the militants to release him unconditionally on humanitarian grounds. The news

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Schools of excellence
Attock: Punjab government will establish two high schools for boys and girls separately in the city under a special programme to provide modern and quality educational facilities to students.

Spokesman for the district administration said in a press release on Sunday that on the directive of chief minister Punjab, Government Pilot High Secondary School for boys and Government Girls High school No-2 would be constructed and called "schools of excellence".

The schools will have modern educational facilities like libraries, computer laboratories and well-equipped auditorium. New academic blocks, parking and playgrounds will also be constructed at the both schools by a private firm, the spokesman said.

The schools of these kind are being established at the district headquarter levels across the province. Dawn

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