HIGHER EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN

Past, present, and future

By SEEMA MUGHAL
Sep 13 - 19, 2004

Except for a plethora of platitudinous statements at the time of convocations, or other similar occasions, higher education was always kept on the back burner in Pakistan. Sure enough, Education Commissions were set up by each successive governments, and elaborate education policies were duly formulated; only to be consigned to the national archives, subsequently.

The feudal class, the obscurantist elements, and other vested interests combined to ensure that education in general, and higher education in particular, should not be given the priority it deserved. They succeeded even beyond their expectations. Even the Iqra tax, which was supposed to be spent exclusively on education, was diverted to other uses. And no questions asked!

The fact of the matter is that the importance of investing in the development of human resources was never realized, even though the glaring examples of Japan and South Korea were already there. Ironically, it was left to a military man, President General Pervez Musharraf, to display a political will which was required to give higher education its rightful place in the over-all scheme of national priorities.

And, in the person of Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, the President found a person who had the ability, the vision, and most importantly, the political will to do the job.

Prof Atta-ur-Rehman, and his talented team at Higher Education Commission (HEC), are going about their task in a sincere, dedicated, and business-like manner. Adhocism, which had been the bane of our education policies in the past, has finally yielded to a well-thought road map. Given the magnitude of the task, they are bound to encounter some turbulence along the way. Yet, what they have already managed to accomplish in a fairly short span of time, is indeed commendable, and augurs well for the future.

In the past, higher education had remained an exclusive preserve of the state-run universities. But, fortunately, under the stewardship of Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, it has been eventually realized that the public sector universities by themselves can not carry the entire load of tertiary level education. Hence, distrust has yielded to a more understanding, indeed supportive, attitude towards the private universities.

However, it is pertinent to mention that the process needs to be expedited, and further strengthened. In view of the obvious constraints, it would be unrealistic to expect any financial grant or subsidy for the private sector universities. But surely, the H.E.C. could play a more pro-active role in providing support for faculty development by awarding scholarships to teachers and research scholars of private universities.

The HEC should also assist in promoting greater inter-action, even linkage, among the public and private universities, such as exchange of teachers, and the use of libraries and laboratories by the faculty and research students of private universities. The H.E.C. has already taken an initiative in that direction by providing access to 30,000 books and journals through the membership of the Digital Library. Greenwich University is also privileged to be part of this exclusive club.

We at Greenwich do realize that the dynamics of higher education have undergone radical changes in recent years. The stewardship of a country, including its economic policies, cannot be entrusted to half-educated individuals with myopic visions. That is why we at Greenwich give so much importance to producing graduates with rounded personalities, who are well-equipped, and trained, to cope with the challenges of present-day life.

In the fast-changing global scenario, particularly in the wake of WTO, there is obviously a need for constant monitoring, and fine-tuning, of the disciplines and courses being taught at our universities. We also need to outgrow the concepts of education inherited from our colonial past, when it sufficed to produce individuals with a stereo-typed mind-set. Such a lead, and inspiration, in the fitness of things, must come from the Higher Education itself of course, in consultation with the universities themselves, both in the public and private sectors. It is sad that in past the private sector universities never formed part of the decision making. It is about time that this deficiency is rectified.

We at Greenwich fully share the concerns of Higher Education Commission towards maintaining the academic standards at the seats of higher education. We also fully subscribe to their ideals of a prosperous, enlightened, and educated Pakistan. We have a proven track record of supporting HEC in all their endeavors in the past; on our part, we mean to do so in future as well.

The author of this article is the Vice-Chancellor of Greenwich University
The article is written on the occasion of second anniversary of Higher Eduction Commission (HEC)