Editorial : HEC devolution - Monday 28th March 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/28/hec-devolution.html

REPORTS that the government plans to devolve higher education to the provinces have left many in the world of academia — as well as others concerned with the state of education in Pakistan — unsettled. In particular, the fact that parliament’s implementation commission on the 18th Amendment is considering splitting the Higher Education Commission into smaller units has raised eyebrows. The HEC, an autonomous body, is currently mandated with regulating the higher education sector in Pakistan. That may change if the parliamentary committee has its way. However, there seems to be a consensus in acade-mic circles that devolving higher education is a bad idea. Experts feel that higher education should remain with the federal government to maintain uniformity and to ensure that students don’t suffer. Former HEC chairman Prof Atta-ur-Rahman says the commission already has representation from the provinces.
There are claims and counter-claims about how the HEC has performed over the last decade or so. The commission’s defen-ders say that ever since the University Grants Commission was restructured into the HEC, it has had a positive impact on Pakistan’s higher education sector. They cite an increase in the number of academic publications, the fact that some Pakistani universities have improved their global rankings, increased university enrolment and a greater number of PhDs as proof of success. Others, however, pose some very valid questions regarding the HEC’s performance. They say the commission has concentrated on quantity as opposed to quality; a greater number of universities or PhDs has not exactly translated into better institutions or more capable scholars. Yet despite its weaknesses, it is fair to say the HEC has indeed brought about a positive change in higher education.
Devolving higher education can perhaps be re-visited at a later stage. However, we feel that right now, the timing for such a move is not right and the risks of experimenting with higher education are far too high. Education in Pakistan is already in the doldrums; devolving higher education may make a bad situation worse. Observers point out that the provinces lack the capacity as well as infrastructure to manage higher education. They say the move may lead to greater politicisation of education. Some academics have said that a central body is essential to oversee the universities’ financial affairs, provide a road map for the future and maintain monitoring capability. It is said that other states in the region — India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka — all have central authorities that regulate higher education. Reform of the HEC should definitely be considered to plug the loopholes. But the government should not throw out the baby with the bathwater for the sake of expediency.

No comments:

Post a Comment