COMBATING EDUCATION BACKWARDNESS IN BALOCHISTAN
SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER, QUETTA
Sep 10 - 16, 2007
Today, Islamabad and Beijing are poised to make Gwadar in Balochistan as mother port of the region, which requires handsome allocations for infrastructure development. There is a dire need for qualified and professional port staff for successful marketing of the port management to potential customers, building of export processing zone, trans-shipment and warehousing facilities, fixing of port tariffs for shipping companies in order to be competitive.
The technological backwardness in the province is likely to go against the interest of local people who may be deprived of having jobs in the Gwadar port project for lack of skill and expertise. In the future scenario, only a technical person would have some worth in Balochistan. Those who build up their capacities and develop technical skills would be fit to survive the future technological boom. The ground realities call for a rational and long-term planning for development of human resources in Balochistan.
The technical education and vocational training (TEVT) system in the province suffers from many structural and operational problems, leading to poor education quality, unequal access, limited resources, low efficiency, and weak linkage with the labor market. High dropout rates and a passing rate of less than half for examinations attest to the inefficiency of polytechnic programs. Finding work for graduates also takes a long time, partly because the skills needed for the jobs available are mismatched with the technical education given.
There are only two polytechnics under the Directorate of Colleges, Higher and Technical Education in Balochistan. The provincial government has approved in principle the establishment of a separate Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) in anticipation of expanding technical education in the province, and support for implementing this is urgently needed. Access to quality TEVT programs also remains limited, especially for the rural populations. Balochistan lags behind other provinces in terms of access to TEVT, with the two polytechnics and 11 training centers serving a population of more than 7 million.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping the province to boost graduate job prospects through a US$16 million loan approved for a project to improve its TEVT systems. The government will contribute $6.6 million and the stakeholders $300,000 toward the project's total cost of $22.9 million. The Provincial Planning and Development Department is the executing agency for the project. The project is due for completion in October 2010. The project will restructure and strengthen the TEVT institutions in the province, improve the quality and relevance of their programs, and increase access to TEVT programs, particularly among rural poor and women. The project will cover post-secondary technician education at the polytechnic level, middle-level technical and vocational training for students with grade-8 pass, and livelihood training for out-of-school youths and women.
The project will help establish the new DTE in Balochistan and strengthen the Directorate of Manpower Training. It will improve the efficiency of TEVT institutions by bringing in performance-based management systems and management development programs, and boosting the resources of the management committees. Training system development and examination reforms will also be introduced, and learning resource centers will be established at all polytechnics and training centers.
Facilities, including computer laboratories, will be upgraded and new ones constructed. The project will expand opportunities for females to receive skills training at all levels of the TEVT system. In Balochistan, two new polytechnics, one for males and one for females, and three technical training centers for girls will be established.
The project will bring in new courses, such as electronics in Balochistan. It will also support innovative schemes to make TEVT graduates more employable, such as entrepreneurship training modules, and provide assistance in accessing credit, on-the-job training, career guidance and job placement centers, and production-cum-service centers in selected TEVT institutions. To boost access to TEVT by the rural poor and women, the project will introduce an equivalency and certification system and carry out non-formal livelihood skills improvement programs at training centers.
There is a high need to create technical hands, and skilled labor in wake of the execution of Mega seaport project at Gwadar. The social sector in Balochistan has suffered from years of neglect and under-funding. In the next five-year plan, special attention should be focused on social sector in the province. The situation of educational facilities in all parts of the province excluding Quetta is worst. Efforts should be directed to increase education ratio and improving health standard in the province.
The government must take steps to combat technological backwardness in the province and establish technical institutes in various districts to develop human capital here. Not the government alone but all the social organizations, institutions and NGOs should come forward to help develop human resources in Balochistan.
The qualified teachers, instructors and trainers should be recruited and be accorded importance for human resource development in the province. The government should arrange for launching on-job training programs for the people in Balochistan. The education at primary, secondary and higher levels and the technical education according to the needs of 21st century should be provided to the students in the province. Secondary level education should be prioritized that remains instrumental in provision of critical skills, which are highly desirable for the economic development of Balochistan.
The ministry of education has already planned to establish Gwadar Institute of Technology (GIT) in Mekran. The government would provide Rs200 million to set up the new institute that aimed at strengthening entrepreneurship by establishing strong linkages between the institute and the industries of Gwadar port. The GIT would be established under the supervision of Director General, Gwadar Development Authority who would be responsible for day to day activities.
The GIT is a good step toward development of human resources in the province, and ultimately getting the local population involved in the development process. This will enhance industrial productivity and increase exportable output of the province. Many industries have been envisaged to be established in and around Gwadar.
Skilled manpower would be needed for the operation of the port and the allied industries.
Balochistan government has decided to convert the massive buildings of textile mills at Uthal and Bolan into technology academies where youth would be trained in various modern disciplines during FY 2005-06. The decision of setting up technology institutes and academies is good and timely and such institutes must be established in maximum districts of the province where youth would be trained in various modern disciplines.