Playing ball with Education

.. by Islamuddin

Standardization of measurements and time began in 1960s with SIs in Paris and GMT in London and since then both have become globalized including in Pakistan. But standardization of educational certificates and degrees has yet to take place. Our first education policy in 1970s was the first step in this direction with some universities starting semester system. However instead of moving forward we have backtracked. The advent of WTO and ISO certification regime in 1990s gave new impetus to the globalization drive in the education sector. This regime requires 4 years of degree program (B.S) divided into 8 semesters. M.S replaces M.Phil to be followed by Ph.D. Despite international urgency we slept and failed to upgrade our institutions to offer these courses. Suddenly with increasing heat being placed on the government notifications are being issued asking colleges and universities to start 4 year degree programs completely ignoring their capacities for the task.

This year students with less than 800 marks at intermediate level could not get admission in B.S. Left high and dry candidates are trying to get admission in Associate Degree program which has replaced the old B.A/B.Sc but could not get admission in this program because syllabus for this has not yet been made available to colleges. Some of the newly established universities find it difficult to start B.S courses for want of resources. Almost all private and many government colleges can only offer Associate Degree program but the enabling notification and syllabus have not been issued causing delay which would adversely affect completion of courses in time. It would have been in the fitness of things for the government to mandate universities to offer B.S and colleges to offer Associate Degrees. That is the only way out of our current predicament failing which 80 % of our student population would stand deprived of education beyond intermediate. The poor would be hit hard because Associate Degree program which is cheaper than B.S is not available to their kids. Above all private students do not figure out in the new dispensation, as there is no provision for private B.S degree.

In Chitral the situation is even worse. Chitral University has not yet been formally commissioned by HEC although it does offer B.S programs in few traditional subjects but the legality of its degrees is not certain. Together with its post graduate college only a handful of students can be accommodated in B.S program. None of them offers admission in emerging marketable disciplines. This is forcing students to move out in search of marketable disciplines at a cost that majority of them can ill afford and consequently Chitralis would be deprived of education beyond intermediate. Had SBBU not been gifted to Dir by our worthy representatives to please the powerful Najmuddin ostensibly as a trade off, Chitral would have been in a better position to offer B.S programs in variety of subjects. Give the current snail speed with which the university project is moving or shall I say stagnating, it would take decades for the University to give some semblance of a seat of higher learning. Our elected representatives have no time for the University project and consequently HEC funds are only trickling down instead of flowing. This is not how universities are built. Without a full -fledged university, offering contextual and marketable courses, Chitral would lag behind in development. University level research and innovation would go a long way to unleash the creative energies of Chitralis and fast track its multi-dimensional development.

It is hoped that the government would wake up to its responsibilities and bring some clarity to the emerging confused scene in higher education on lines suggested above i.e. mandating universities to offer B.S and colleges to offer Associate degrees. If a holder of Associate Degree chooses to join B.S, then his 4 semesters of Associate Degree may be deemed to be part of initial 4 semesters of B.S and the remaining 4 semesters may be completed in the university. In case of a shortfall in content Knowledge a bridge semester, as suggested in earlier HEC notification, may be offered to Associate Degree holders before they can join 5th semester of B.S. In view of the tough criteria for B.S admission teaching quality up to intermediate may be improved through inter alia, cheating free examinations. HERA and the University of Jurisdiction may not be allowed to fleece their affiliated colleges by demanding fresh registration fee for Associate Degree program and instead their earlier affiliation/registration for B.A/B.Sc may be treated as fee for the purpose of Associate degree program. The high rate of fee charged by HERA may be rationalized and brought down to make higher education less costly for students. In fact it would be appropriate to even eliminate this fee as HERA incurs no expenditure in providing service to the colleges or students. In the past HERA Peshawar remained under NAB inquiry for corruption. However since then HERA has been cleaned up and things are being handled more professionally. Monitoring of education sector regulators including universities may be tightened to eliminate corrupt practices…  by Islamuddin, Chitral 11 Oct 2020

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