Punjab colleges & four-year BS degree

Punjab struggles to sell four-year BS degree
Lahore, Nov 10: The number of bachelors' students in the 'top 26' Punjab colleges has dropped almost by half in the wake of the Shahbaz Sharif government's flagship initiative: the launching of four-year BS (Honours) programme.

The Punjab higher education department says some 12,400 students have got admission in the new programme offering 25 disciplines -- against last year's enrolment of over 23,500.

The programme was launched on Oct 15. These top 26 colleges in 12 districts have ceased to offer the old two-year degree programme. These were considered to be more resourceful of the 440 government colleges in the province.

The students who have enrolled in the new programme are uncertain as they await qualified teachers to turn up in full strength, and for infrastructural facilities to take shape.Many in the select group of colleges lack even the information technology (IT) labs which are an important component of the programme. An IT teacher from one of the selected institutions in Gujranwala says his college has not even been provided a course outline.

The teacher says the higher education department had promised that there would be no increase in the fee but each student had been asked to pay a monthly charge of Rs350 at computer centres being managed privately in the colleges. Since IT is part of each of the 25 disciplines offered in the four-year programme, it would mean that, without something which the department would consider as an increase, each student would be required to pay Rs2,100 in a six-month semester.

Ali Murtaza, a student of BS (Honours) at the Government College, Gujranwala, says only 18 of the 38 students who qualified for admission to the English programme there had enrolled.

This wariness on the part of the students is substantiated by a letter Punjab University Affiliation Committee's Chairman Dr Hafiz Iqbal wrote to the education department. It reads: "The syllabi for some of the disciplines offered in four-year BS (Honours) programme still need to be developed."

Ahad Khan Cheema, who was the driving force behind the initiative as the higher education secretary, has since been transferred. The administrative secretary, Haseeb Athar, is a fresh arrival and is busy taking briefings from officials. Additional Secretary Yawar Husain who admitted that the number of students had fallen because the affiliating universities had allowed only 50 seats in each of the 25 disciplines. "We got approved 100 seats for two sections in certain disciplines," he said.

He confirmed that some 400 faculty seats were vacant in the selected colleges. These include faculty seats that have become redundant as well as some which were not related to the BS (Honours) disciplines on offer.

The higher education department is unable to recruit qualified faculty because the boards of governors, constituted to exercise administrative and financial autonomy, have been unable to meet even once. Initially, the department could not finalise the BoGs' rules and regulations and in the meantime then Lahore High Court's Multan bench granted a stay against the boards. The case is pending.

As the classes have begun, the bloc allocation of Rs500 million -- Rs250 million each for faculty and setting up of IT and science labs and other infrastructure -- is lying unspent in the absence of the BoGs. This grant was in addition to the regular budget of Rs2.12 billion for the 26 colleges.

It is an alarming situation especially because the colleges are required to hold mid-term exams in the third week of December.

College teachers and students under the banner of the Joint Action Committee, Punjab, led by Punjab Professors and Lecturers' Association chief Dr Zahid Ahmed Sheikh have been protesting against the constitution of BoGs.

The protesters demand constitution of college or academic councils comprising senior academics and educationists instead of BoGs that will, they fear, eventually lead towards privatisation of education.

Dr Sheikh says the BS (Honours) programme is destined to fail because the higher education department has introduced it in haste. The existing faculty, which has no experience of teaching BS (Honours) classes, he claims, has neither been imparted training nor given orientation about the semester programme and the courses approved by the Higher Education Commission.

He cites the example of five colleges, including two girls' colleges, in Lahore, where some 10,800 students got admission to two-year degree programme last year. This year, the colleges were allotted 5,700 seats and admitted only around 4,150 students. He says even some of the enrolled students have since withdrawn, realising that the four-year programme might not be fruitful for them.

The additional secretary blames teachers' protests for creating doubts in the minds of the students about a programme which was set to bring about a revolution and train the students to take on the challenges of the modern world. Mr Husain seeks to justify the rather selective gathering of students in the 26 colleges on the basis of figures from the previous year.

He says some 22,000 students got admission to the two-year graduation programme and 1,500 in the two-year postgraduate programme in these colleges last year. But then only 10,000 students appeared for their BA/BSc programmes and only 3,500 of them got the degree.

In the new four-year programme, Mr Husain predicts, the higher education department will ensure that at least 8,000 out of 12,400 students admitted would get the BS (Honours) degrees. "It is these 8,000 BS (Honours) degree holders who will help bring about a revolution in the society," he declares.

The additional secretary says the department has finalised the rules and regulations for the BoGs for approval by the chief minister. For the moment, college principals have been asked to utilise income from their evening programmes to upgrade their centres and they have recruited 'college teaching interns' at a monthly salary of Rs10,000 to bridge the faculty gap.

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'Illegal fees': LHC summons BISE head
Lahore: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif on Monday took a suo motu notice of collection of different fees by the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE), Lahore, from students in violation of government's direction.

The chief justice directed the BISE chairman to appear along with the necessary record before court on Nov 10.

The notice was taken on an appeal published in a national Urdu daily by principal of the Allama Iqbal Public High School, Kasur.

The appellant pointed out that the Punjab government had abolished the registration and examination fees of all students who were enrolled in public institutions, and the decision had already been implemented.

He complained the BISE, in order to collect revenue, had started collecting a sum of Rs450 from each student under the so-called head of result card fee, including the private ones from whom the board had already received registration, examination and card fees.

Justice Sharif observed the matter of concern was that when the Punjab government had abolished these fees, how the board being a statutory authority could act in violation of its (government's) directions.

"In the circumstances, I would like to know the real facts of the case so in exercise of powers under article 199(1) (c) of constitution, I direct the chairman of the BISE to appear in court," CJ said in his suo motu order and also directed the advocate general to assist the court in the matter. Dawn

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PEF test
Lahore: The 10th Quality Assurance Test of the Foundation Assisted Schools partnered with the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has been completed in 834 schools located in 10 different districts. In a DGPR handout, a PEF spokesman say the QAT has so far been held in Okara, Pakpattan, Vehari, Lahore, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Lodhran, DG Khan, Rajanpur and RY Khan districts, adding that the test would be held in 193 partner schools in Muzaffargarh district on Wednesday (today).

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Rs20m damages suit: Notices issued to IUB VC, others
Lahore: A senior civil judge of Bahawalpur on Monday issued notices to the Islamia University Bahawalpur vice-chancellor and other officials on a Rs20 million damages suit filed by the former vice-chancellor of the varsity.

Plaintiff Dr Bilal A Khan has accused the incumbent vice-chancellor and others of launching a vilification campaign against him and dragging him into baseless inquiries after his retirement.

Besides incumbent vice-chancellor Dr Mukhtar Bhara, the plaintiff also enlisted assistant professor Dr Javed Chandio, lecturer Riaz Sindhar, deputy registrar Imtiaz Ahmad Sukhera, Dr Aslam Adeeb, presently working as registrar, dean faculty of arts Dr Najeebuddin Jamal, additional secretary (academics) of Higher Education Department Akram Chaudhry and MPA from Bahawalnagar Shaukat Basra as defendants.

The plaintiff contended that he remained the vice-chancellor of the university for five years from 2005 to 2010 and was awarded a number of titles and medals by various renowned non-governmental organisations.

He said that all defendants, in connivance with certain influential political figures, succeeded in initiating baseless inquiries against him. He said that inquiries were aimed at disgracing him and to injure his dignity and credibility among his fellow beings.

He said that defendants got published fake stories in newspapers against him only to tarnish his image in society.

The plaintiff stated that the additional secretary of the higher education department had played his role as a senior bureaucrat to maneuver and manipulate the official quarters concerned to humiliate him.

He prayed to the court that an amount of Rs20 million be recovered from the defendants as damages for their acts.

The senior civil judge also directed the defendants to file their replies fortnightly. Dawn

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