INTERVIEW: BRIG.(R) AGHA AHMAD GUL
Vice Chancellor University of Balochistan
Sep 10 - 16, 2007
Balochistan's socio-economic life is a combination of strength and handicaps. The University of Balochistan is playing a vital role by spreading the light of education in the province with a view to enable its people to play their role in nation building and contribute their share for the development of Balochistan. Pakistan & Gulf Economist interviewed the Vice Chancellor of the University of Balochistan to share it with our readers about the state of education in Balochistan.
PAGE: How would you place Balochistan University when compared with other top universities elsewhere in Pakistan in terms of quality of graduates and the quality of faculty?
VC: The University of Balochistan is the highest and oldest institution in Balochistan catering for the needs of people who live in far flung areas. Balochistan suffers from some handicaps and enjoys some strength. The remoteness of Quetta doesn't make it a choice station for scholars and researchers. This, coupled with the students coming from rural areas where their education is seldom conducted in the best environment, creates serious challenge for imparting higher education. The University is suffering from serious shortages of teachers at senior level. Despite these handicaps, the University of Balochistan is trying its best to compete with other universities in Pakistan. Last year an exercise carried out by the Higher Education Commission to evaluate the performance of the Universities working in Pakistan. the University of Balochistan stood at No. 8 in general ranking and at No. 13 as regards publication and research, out of a population of 56 public sector Universities. It is a positive and encouraging sign for the students and faculty of the University.
PAGE: What are the core strengths of Balochistan University?
VC: Excellence and Commitment of majority of teachers and administration staff and indeed of the Chancellor and our Senate is our core strength. And then our real core strength emanates from our students who wish to learn and excel. The culture of a University is determined by its core values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors shared by its members. What is so clear to me is how energetic, creative and caring that culture has become here at the University. I have been meeting with the faculty, staff and students across the campus, and I am impressed with the commitment and concern for the University that is evident through their questions, comments and attitudes. A clear indicator is the fact that despite political polarization and frequent strikes in the City, University of Balochistan has not closed even for a single day this year.
PAGE: Currently, the Business Administration, Information Technology are much sought after areas by a large majority of students, what is the position in your university. Would you like to share the quality of faculty in these two departments?
VC: Institute of Management Sciences is established in the University and awarding the degrees in MPA, MBA, MBA (Banking and Finance), MBA (Executive) to the students. In all these programs most experienced and professional teachers/instructors are engaged to teach the students, particularly from Banking Sector. Department of Computer Sciences offers BS (CS), BS (IT) and MCS programs of Studies. We try to engage best teachers for the students. A positive sign about the students of IMS in particular and Computer Science in general is that 80% of the students have been hired on graduation by the private and public sector on well paying jobs.
PAGE: How many doctors are in the teaching strength of Balochistan University and how many doctors you are producing every year?
VC: At the moment, University has 53 PhDs out of which 39 are male and 14 are female. At an average the University of Balochistan is producing 10 PhDs per year. The University has sent 17 teachers to different institute at AIT and Technologically Advance countries for doing PhD. 9 more are planned to be sent this year. In strengthening our role as a research-intensive university with a reputation for excellence, our strategies focus on:
i. Developing areas of existing and emerging strength;
ii. Maintaining strong ties with our regional and other industry partners;
iii. Establishing new partnerships;
iv. Initiating cross-faculty and cross-discipline collaboration across thematic research areas; and
v. Fostering the development of our researchers and research students.
PAGE: What steps are you taking to further the quality of education at Balochistan University?
VC: The University of Balochistan is the highest education institution in Balochistan; however we do not have direct relationship with the school/college administration. To have coordination with these administrations, the University of Balochistan had proposed a Provincial Coordination Committee which is approved by the Chancellor/Governor University of Balochistan. The students coming from very remote areas where the medium of instruction is Urdu and they have no basic facilities and good environment for learning in most of the areas. To bring them at par with other students, the University has introduced learning of functional English for the students, established computer laboratories in almost every department, and provided multimedia and other Audio Visual Aids for teachers. The University has established Digital Library and provided the facility of Video conferencing which is the only facility available in the Universities located in Quetta. Our students and their education are of prime importance to us. In creating a vibrant and supportive learning environment, our emphasis is on:
i. Developing student focused services and systems;
ii. Supporting the aspirations of people from our region;
iii. Encouraging the enrollment of foreign students and the internationalization of our university; and
iv. Fostering a culture that respects and values diversity.
PAGE: How has the literacy rate in Balochistan and Pakistan effected the quality of education and what measures you would like to suggest enhancing literacy rate in the province?
VC: It goes without saying that literacy rate is directly dependent upon the plan and program of education in the rural and urban areas. The Provincial Education Department in Balochistan other than constructing buildings for schools with World Bank assistance has not been able to improve the education. Consequently, the literacy rate has not only remained low even the quality of education has been very low. This affects adversely the students at college and University level as they commence their studies with a serious handicap. Given the tribal culture of Balochistan and a very weak writ of the Government, cheating, fake and proxy degrees have thrived under the political patronage. When these seriously handicap students earn masters degrees, the same political forces see to it, that they are employed as teachers. What may seen a political expediency, goes on harming the very cause of education and keeps bringing the standard of education to lower and lower levels. The society as a whole, whether it is parents, political leadership or sometimes even judiciary seems to be more interested in students getting a degree even through grace marks, rather than being interested in that degree being worth its nomenclature.
ENHANCING LITERACY RATE IN THE PROVINCE
A number of steps are required to enhance literacy rate in Balochistan. First and foremost amongst them are hiring of dedicated teachers, who should be selected purely and purely on merit. A huge burden of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the politicians and the government to ensure this. To attract merit, emoluments of teachers would have to be raised to a level where healthy competition takes place and better human resource is willing to become a teacher and serve with a commitment even in the rural areas. The old concept of Inspector of Schools should be brought back, where the very designation implies that they should inspect the standard of education and performance of teachers through personal visits. Learning implements in primary and higher levels of education would have to be provided by allocating greater financial outlays. At provincial level, a Coordination Committee to be chaired by Governor should be established; as he will not be driven by political expediencies, as the Chief Minister or Education Minister become vulnerable to.
PAGE: Do you have any affiliations with any foreign educational institutes?
VC: The University has established links with the following foreign education institutes.
i. Asian Institute of Technology (Thailand)
ii. Sistan Balochistan University (Iran)
iii. Chabahar University (Iran)
iv. Zabol University (Iran)
v. Pasture Institute (Iran)
vi. University of Glasgow (UK)