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Time to Save the Higher Education Commission

Posted by yourpakistan on April 5, 2011


By Dr.Attaur Rahman

There is an impending disaster looming in front of us (something also mentioned in a recent editorial in this newspaper on the matter of devolving the functions of the Higher Education Commission [HEC] to the provinces). What has been decided by the cabinet (on the recommendation of a parliamentary committee on devolution headed by Raza Rabbani) is to tear higher education to shreds and hand over the pieces to the provinces.

What has not been realised by our policymakers is that the process of socio-economic development takes place through central strategic planning, which is intimately connected to a country’s higher education and science and technology programmes. The minimum quality requirements and the numbers of engineers, scientists, doctors, economists and social scientists needed for nation-building have to be determined through careful central planning regarding human resource requirements in various sectors. A multiplicity of standards and regulations would be disastrous. That is why the world over, including in India, higher education planning and funding is done centrally, even though universities are located in the provinces.

All the vice-chancellors of public sector universities, on November 27, 2010, therefore, unanimously resolved that the status quo of the HEC should be maintained since it has performed exceptionally well and is completely protected under the 18th Amendment. Pakistan’s highest level science body, the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (whose members have included such luminaries as the late professors Abdus Salam and Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, and whose present members include Dr A Q Khan, Dr Ishfaq Ahmed and Dr Samar Mubarak Mand, and of which I am now the president) held a press conference in Islamabad recently, protesting in the strongest possible terms, the fragmentation of HEC. A strongly worded article protesting the dismantling of the HEC, by Dr AQ Khan, was published in The News of March 29, 2009. All this fell on deaf ears. The motivation behind the shredding is “to teach the HEC a lesson”. This, he wrote, was for upholding the principles of merit, not bowing to political pressures and, particularly, for refusing to verify forged degrees of a large number of parliamentarians as being legal.

Pakistan made remarkable progress during 2001-2008 in higher education. There was a 600 per cent increase in scientific publications in international journals and a 1,000 per cent increase in citations in this period. Today, several of our universities are ranked among the top 500. The University of Karachi was ranked at 223 in the world, NUST at 260 in the world and Quaid-i-Azam University at 270 in the world, in the field of natural sciences. This is no ordinary achievement after decades of stagnation. The World Bank, USAID and the British Council published comprehensive reports on the higher education sector, applauding it and calling it “a silent revolution”.

Pakistan won several prestigious international awards for the revolutionary changes in the higher education sector brought about by the Higher Education Commission. These include the TWAS (Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Italy) Award for Institutional Development in October 2009 and the Austrian high civil award “Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeischen am Bande” (2007), conferred on me as chairman of the Higher Education Commission.

An eminent educational expert, Professor Wolfgang Voelter of Tubingen University, paid glowing tributes to the Higher Education Commission in an article in a Pakistani newspaper on November 28, 2008 under the heading “The Golden Period”. I quote: “A miracle happened. The scenario of education, science and technology in Pakistan changed dramatically as never before in the history of Pakistan. The chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Education recently announced it as ‘Pakistan’s golden period in higher education’.” Professor Michael Rode, former chairman of the United Nations Commission on Science, Technology and Development wrote, and I quote: “The progress made was breathtaking and has put Pakistan ahead of comparable countries in numerous aspects.” The world’s leading and oldest scientific society, Royal Society (London) recently published a booklet entitled “A New Golden Age”, considering Pakistan to be the best practice model to be followed by other developing countries.

India became deeply concerned at these developments. In an article entitled “Pak Threat to Indian Science” published in the leading daily newspaper Hindustan Times, India, on July 23, 2006, Neha Mehta reported that Professor C N R Rao, (Chairman of the Indian prime minister’s scientific advisory council) made a presentation to his boss and expressed serious concerns at the remarkable progress made by Pakistan in the higher education and science sectors. The article wrote that “Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science”. The Indian leadership need not be concerned since we are ourselves hell-bent on destroying our nation by undermining the development and progress of higher education, science and technology and then being doomed to perpetual slavery.

The HEC was created as an autonomous federal regulatory institution with the prime minister of Pakistan as its controlling authority. The composition of the commission reflects a balanced federal structure with representation from each province, as well as the secretary education and secretary science and technology, together with eminent academic and research experts. All powers and functions of the HEC defined under its legislation are covered and protected in the provisions of the 18th Amendment. But, alas, who cares about what is legal and what is not.

Lower level education has been a complete mess, because of half-witted plans and lack of a national commitment towards education. Some of our leaders have now come up with this strategy to destroy the higher education sector as well. My plea to the government is: Please stop this suicidal madness. Something good happened in Pakistan after some 55 years of neglect. Let us not destroy this wonderful initiative.

I hope that the president, prime minister and the army chief will intervene to stop this madness before it is too late. If ever there was a case for the chief justice of the Supreme Court to take suo motu action on, this is it.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2011.

 

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6 Responses to “Time to Save the Higher Education Commission”

  1. M. Yousaf said

    Dr. Atta Rehman has waisted the resources of Pakistan on higher education without any vision or clear target. The Government should constitute a COMMISSION or Enquiry COMMITTE to carry out the audit of HEC expenditures.

  2. arif said

    Mr Yousaf, you right, he has big waist but believe me, he has not wasted resources. I also have questions regarding few HEC policies but this all scientific environment and trained manpower are only due to Dr Atta. We just need political will to bring revolution in higher education because we have professionals.

  3. Gul Sanat Shah said

    HEC in Pakistan is biased institution and award maximum scholarships on favouritism. I have the proof of their biased even they don’t listen to the one who has no high-up approach to them. HEC has spent huge Pakistani money for the purpose which has no or very little effect on upgrading scientific education in the country. I am not saying that others institutions in the country are working properly and honestly. HEC is worse than most of the institutions in the country. We are not good Muslim and also not loyal to our country. I know how we are wasting money in the shape of scholarships, tenure and tract system and HEC projects. We have no firm believe on Akherat otherwise we would have never said that HEC should not be dissolved.
    It is very shame for us and for our politicians that on one side we are saying that provinces should be strong and other side we want an institution which guide us for wasting poor peoples’ money on federal level from which only one special category is getting personal benefits. This is unfortunate that we have no good suggestions to have a provincial sound HEC and also good funding for those primary and high schools where the poor have no room for sitting and no teacher for teaching. The selfish people and politician knowingly supports a wrong cause to get own benefits and vote. We don’t realize that our fight is only and only to get Haram benefits. HEC like other institutions is playing an important role to make us morally and economically corrupt. Please go to any university in the country and ask how they are using tenure and tract system. Already employee professors are getting leaves and joining tenure and trace system. Frankly speaking, due to sick system we are doing nothing in spite of getting huge salaries and other benefits. Look to the universities’ politics, professors are not interested what student are writing but he is interested to have a paper in scientific journal with impact factor. HEC has made impact factor corruption in our sick system. By this impact factor sickness, the already little practical work has diminished.
    Being a Muslim and Pakistani, we should pressurize our politician to have good funding for our primary, secondary education. There should be good funding for research facilities in our local university. Pakistani money should not be spent for education outside the country. We have good teachers in universities but they need only research facilities. We have good researchers in our research institutes but they need research facilities and surely they can produce good practical results. We need a strong provincial system based on justice which can only select eligible candidates for foreign funded scholarships. There are lot of foreign scholarships but we need only to send suitable candidates on these scholarships.
    At the end, I will say that we should fight to reduce injustice and corruption not to fight for strengthening the corruption promoting institutions in the country. Those who are active to save HEC, they can fight positively for sound provincial institutions who can promote local educations.

  4. maina said

    The dissolution of HEC is totally out of justice dicision. I know personally very well the HEC criteria was totally on merit. many Pakistani with no high approach gained the scholarships who could not get before that. Before that all the scholarships were given to the people having approaches. I myself lost my scholarship two times from the ministry of higher education with no solid base and my scholarship was sent to the next members that i was told.But after the formation of HEC, GRE test system was introduced that is totally on merit and many poor people like me got the HEC scholarship with out any approach. not only me i also know my others colleagues with me who got it only on merit.

  5. 7 Sanat – Sanatın Yedincisine 7 Sanat…

    […]Time to Save the Higher Education Commission « Your Pakistan[…]…

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