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Need for educational loans

A new education policy has finalised

Apr 16 - 22, 2001

The Federal Public Service Commission, in its annual report released recently has pointed to the Ministry of Education that the academic standard were deteriorating so badly that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the commission to find suitable candidates for the various posts.

Addressing a Seminar on "Commercialisation of education and its effects on falling standard", speakers after speaker lamented the mushroom growth of substandard educational institutions which were fleecing the ignorant students and their parents rather than educating their wards. Federal Minister for Health Dr. Abdul Malik Kasi has said that crackdown on unauthorized private medical colleges was on the cards and the Government was formulating a law to check the mushroom growth of these colleges in the country. At the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council meeting, the Minister said that these colleges are exploiting the sentiments of the youth and resources of their parents for self-aggrandisement.

Pakistan is undoubtedly infested with unauthorised educational institutions including universities and medical colleges. What is ironic, however, is the fact that the unscrupulous elements, engaged in such clandestine activities, have escaped the rigours of law, despite operating in full view of the State institutions, especially at the Federal and the Provincial capital. The process has not only further deteriorated the educational standards, but has also undermined whatever integrity the degrees of our legitimate colleges and universities commanded at the international level. Strange is the fact that how and why these clandestine educational institutions escape the sight of the departments and agencies concerned, which are supposed to ensure undiluted educational system in the country.

One of the major factor which has contributed to the mushroom growth of substandard education in the private sector is the result of the paucity of seats in the institutions of higher learning in the public sector where fee and charges are affordable for the students belonging to lower middle and middle classes of our society. There are many reputable and first class institutions in the private sector but the cost of education in these institutions is so high that only the sons and scions of privileged can afford. Unscrupulous elements in our society, fully exploiting the situation have found a new form of lucrative business. Education institutions exploiting the needs of enthusiastic under privileged students are mushrooming rapidly.

The federal education Minister Zubeda Jalal, however, believes that the partnership of private sector was necessary to expand the educational facilities. The government efforts alone, cannot meet the nation's demand in this field. She, however, emphasises the need of developing of code of ethics for the educational institutions in private sector, a strict charter of requirements before licensing any one to enter in this field and close surveillance and monitoring of their operations by government agencies.

Explaining of the salient features of the new education policy finalized by her ministry, she said a key element of the education sector reforms agenda is the development of partnerships between the private and the public sectors and with the NGOs. Each sub-sector includes a strategic role for the private sector. The government has also proposed a package of incentives for the private sector's presence. But at the same time we will supervise their operation through close monitoring. Grant of charter to private universities would be provisional on scholarship to meritorious needy students, she added.

This condition alone does not hold any promise if the cost of education in these institutes of standard will be brought down to an affordable level for the students belonging to lower and middle class of our society or whose parents are used to living within their honest means. Few scholarship by these universities cannot meet the problem.

The only way out, under the circumstances seems to be liberal grant of interest free education loans to the needy students which may be paid back by them in easy installments when they are employed after completing their education. The loan should be available to only those needy students, who fully qualify the admission test by the government approved educational institutions in the private sector and is so recommended by them. The amount of loan should be based on the need of the student and if necessary, it should be adequate enough to cover, besides tuition fee and etc. the living expenses in the hostel.

This is a practice which is being followed since decades in the civilized world and has contributed tremendously to expand the higher education. Malaysian example is worth following. Students apply for admission to universities and other institutions. They are selected to pursue the courses of their choice. On the basis of this selection they apply to government treasury for education loan. The loan for the whole duration is approved in a very short period so that the students' time is not wasted and they join the courses on time.

The loan amount is not given to the student but is directly deposited in the institution's account every month. The student in turn enters into a contract or signs a bond that he will pay back the amount in so many years after completing the education. There is also a provision for insurance in case the student meets with an accident. The insurance money is included in the approved loan. If a student stops attending a course the remittance of the fees is stopped and the institution cancels his admission.

Would it not be a good idea to try this type of loan when we have failed in all sorts of other loans which have invariably been eaten up by borrowers and the lenders in collusion? I think this will prove to be the best investment by the government. In this way if we properly educate only 10% of the students who received this loan we will create such an asset that the loss in investment of 90% will look insignificant. It should be cornerstone of new education policy being finalized by the Ministry of Education.