July 9 - 15, 2012
Higher education plays a pivotal role in the socioeconomic development of the society. In the present world, no nation can progress without higher education and quality research. Needless to say Pakistan needs an education turnaround. According to the Higher Education Commission, only eight per cent people in Pakistan have access to higher education, whereas in Indonesia the accessibility rate is up to 28 per cent, in Malaysia 31 per cent, in Turkey 38 per cent and in developed countries it is 60 per cent and above.
The education enrolment of Turkey, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, and India is ten times more than Pakistan's. Since the establishment of HEC, the number of universities has increased and so is the number of enrolment in universities. However, only 20 per cent of Pakistani universities have PhD degrees as compared to 100 per cent of India.
The functions of the university are to develop the people physically, mentally and spiritually. Higher education improves and promotes the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the nation. All over the world, universities are guiding and co-operating with the industrial and agricultural development organizations and they are developing their economics rapidly and meaningfully. In Pakistan, after more than five decades, the development indicators are not showing positive results. Focusing on higher education can also help eliminate terrorism, illiteracy, poverty, and unemployment which could lead to the progress of the country.
There are various problems related to quality of staff, students, library, and laboratory. Relevance with society needs, research facilities, financial crisis, arts students more than science students, weaknesses of examination, ineffective governance, and academic results are not at par with international standards. Dearth of financial resources is a big hurdle in promoting higher education system. Even on the last day of 2011-12, the HEC could not get over Rs9 billion under the allocated budget, landing it in dire straits. Due to this financial crunch, the payments to 10,000 students studying in the country and abroad on different scholarships and salaries to more than 2,000 contract employees have been stopped.
Owing to financial constraints, the cash-starved HEC will not be able to complete 150 ongoing projects. The non-release of development budget will not only affect the higher studies of students, but development projects, salaries of project employees and payment to contractors.
One of the most critical problems of the universities is political interference through students group affiliated with political parties and lack of political will and callous attitude of the government. Students groups are responsible for frequent suspension of classes, ransacking of departments, armed clashes and all other disturbances. Murdering faculty members and innocent students have become the order of the day.
The mass effect of lack of universities, funding and resources comes together in making it especially difficult for female students to pursue higher education beyond bachelor's level. Most parents are extra reluctant to send their daughters away from their homes to acquire higher-level education where local opportunities are inadequate.
Accessible, high quality education that is relevant with regards to the needs of the market is crucial for any developing country's efforts to achieve sustainable development and prosperity. It ensures that the country becomes competitive in the global marketplace and leads to increased productivity, and a better quality of life.
Higher education offers a great opportunity to Pakistan's youth to transform their lives into success stories. Thus, universities, colleges, and institutions of higher education must expand their resources to provide affordable education and relevant training opportunities.
Depending solely on governmental funding and annual budget is not enough to meet the increasing demands of access, quality, and expansion of higher education institutions. It is necessary that sustainable financial mechanisms that exist in perpetuity and increase each year (such as student endowment funds) and training centers that offer support to students wishing to establish their own start-up businesses are placed at each college/university.
The provinces should consider establishing autonomous provincial councils modeled on the HEC, which should focus first on improving quality at college's scholarships, foreign and local. The government should encourage investment in higher education sector for its promotion.
One problem has been in the context of the foreign faculty-hiring program. A strict performance criterion should be in place for the renewal of all foreign faculty contracts. All approved PhD supervisors have to be reviewed for the limit of supervision. MPhil and PhD program that do not have minimum relevant full-time faculty should be closed down.
To improve the quality of teaching, learning innovation and faculty development program have to be rejuvenated. HEC has to develop policies and criteria for the improvement and rating of program.
The area of concern at certain universities is poor governance. Universities should be asked to appoint chairmen and deans who fulfill the criteria of a full professor, and to refrain from appointing retired individuals in administrative positions. Qualifications for appointment as lecturers should be enhanced to have a minimum requirement of MPhil. Research that is inter-disciplinary, inter-provincial, and global and relevant to socioeconomic requirements needs to be supported.
Higher education not only improves the quality of life as the horizons of your awareness and exposure expand, but also has significant benefits to the community and society at large, When more and more people of a nation attain higher levels of education, it also impacts the economy and cumulative growth in a favorable way. It leads to better growth in the fields of science, technology, business and entrepreneurship as well as culture and social well-being. Quality education must be made accessible to all. Pakistan should reform and set new standards if it aspires to become a developed nation.