Ceasing the right to education


Shaukat Ali
There is a change in the nomenclatures of varsity degrees. Higher Education Commission (Henceforth HEC) has directed the universities and postgraduate colleges/institutions not to admit the students in two years programs such as BA/B.Sc., MA/M.Sc. Apparently, the HEC has brought this change in the nomenclatures for two reasons i.e. to bring quality in education and to fulfill the requirements of international structures. Both the reasons are very convincing and appealing to the mind. It has become necessary to revisit all the structures of higher education for the betterment of the country. To this extent, this act of change is appreciable and admirable. The efforts of the HEC are laudable. On the other side, I would say, change when it becomes inevitable. In this case, the change was not inevitable. This change is nothing more than a fashion or it can be named as cosmetology of education. I am labeling it cosmetic change because of the reasons given below.
First of all, poverty is rampant in Pakistan. It is such a big phenomenon of Pakistan that has contributed a lot to the illiteracy of Pakistani society. Because of poverty, there are millions who are out of school. It means, there are a large number of families who are unable to afford school education what to talk of university education. Millions of children are out of school despite Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan. University education is already very expensive. Almost fifty per cent of families cannot afford to send their next generation to university. Most of the students were accommodated in colleges because college education was comparatively cheaper. That will also get expensive now. There were a number of students who could not afford even college education; they had the option to appear as a private candidate along with doing jobs to support their families. They had the option to continue their education. They were at ease that they could study at any time. They could appear in the annual examinations as a private candidate.
This change of nomenclatures has ceased their right to education. Now there won’t be any concept of studying as a private candidate. Ultimately the aspirant students will cease to study because of appalling economic conditions. This policy does not harmonize with economic and budgetary policies of Pakistan. Even the budget of education is getting lessened year by year. This change will further contribute to the illiteracy of society. The economic stability guarantees such revolutionary changes which are not the case of Pakistan. Would the Government and the HEC provide subsidized education to all the poor students?
Secondly, do our colleges and college faculties have the capacity to impart education according to the formulated new policy? The answer is a big NO. What has the HEC done to improve the status of the institutions of higher education? For God sake, stop selling the old wine in a new bottle. This is really nondescript. Before the application of this policy of change, the HEC must have been considerate about the existing structure and capacity of the workforce.
The HEC did organize intensive workshops for the teachers and pass them through a rigorous process but little has been thought about this. The teaching community is the biggest stakeholder in this regard but they have not been consulted, but Mr. Shahzad Roy. It is very ironical. It is ironical in the sense that he does not have practical knowledge of the field as well as he knows least about the problems of the public sector. Thirdly, the number of universities in Pakistan is too little to accommodate all the students coming to universities. The universities are a few. There is a score of cities of Pakistan that have universities. It is a kind of concentration of knowledge to a few cities. All these cities are already thickly populated and loads of students will rush to these cities. New crises will ascend instantly such residential, environmental, among others.
This policy will ultimately create a gap in demand and supply. Certainly, this gap will be filled by investors. Investors will establish universities and they will change education into a commodity. Finally, they will get social assertion. Before the implementation of this policy, it is inevitable to establish a university in every city of Pakistan. The migration of the students should be checked to avoid multiple problems. The dissemination of knowledge must be made easy and provided on subsidized rates. If it is difficult to establish a new university in every city, all the postgraduate colleges should be upgraded and declared universities. Cosmetic changes are no service to education.
–The writer is a freelance columnist.