- HEIs top executives want a policy satisfying national interests, int’l standards
In response to the letter from the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the Government of Pakistan dated December 17, 2020 on the subject of developing a ‘Pakistan Education Policy 2021’ through a consultative process, the 1st Regional Consultative Session for Central Punjab/Lahore region was held at The University of Lahore (UOL) on Monday, January 18, 2021.
This maiden hybrid roundtable meeting was organized by Mr. Awais Raoof (Chairman, BOG UOL and President All Private Sector Universities of Pakistan [APSUP-Punjab Chapter]),
Mr. Mian Imran Masood (VC, University of South Asia, Lahore and Vice President [APSUP- Punjab Chapter]) and convened by Prof. Dr. Mohammad Nizamuddin (SI, Pro-Rector, Superior University and former Chairperson PHEC) to deliberate and prepare recommendations towards the development of Pakistan Education Policy 2021.
The consultative session attracted 40 participants including Vice Chancellors, Rectors, Executive Members of APSUP-Punjab Chapter, Directors of QEC and ORIC representing over 28 public and private universities from within the region. Mr. Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani (Additional Secretary, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training) also attended this session that thoroughly discussed and tabled all-inclusive recommendations on areas within Higher Education such as academic excellence, technology, assessment, research, industry linkages and collaborations, employability and entrepreneurship, accreditation and equivalence, faculty management, international students, and funding.
A series of similar regional roundtable meetings were also held in Islamabad, Multan, Peshawar, Sukkur, Karachi, and Quetta to build consensus on crucial educational matters across Pakistan. The new education policy formulation process comes at a time when the country is grappling with education challenges including inequitable access to higher education, market-disconnected study programs, lack of adequate training facilities in both private and public sector universities and degree awarding colleges, unpreparedness of many HEIs in delivering online learning to its students due to the prevailing pandemic, lack of sound research-based studies, weak academia-industry linkages, loose adherence to international standards, systems and accreditation requirements and so on.
According to the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the desired education policy for Pakistan, must be all-inclusive and representative of the entire country, ensuring equitable opportunities for all children without restricting their development and employability, standardizing all educational stages and ages from early childhood education to tertiary education, capturing mutual interdependence of the education sector across geographic and thematic areas, strengthening the framework of Higher Education in Pakistan, and driven by a vision to achieve excellence and create valuable employment for the youth.
HEIs top executives make substantive policy recommendations
Mr. Awais Raoof started the meeting with a welcome note after which Prof Dr. Mohammad Nizamuddin (SI) as the Convener, expounded the meeting agenda and shed light on the various aspects of the existing education policy in Pakistan that provoked debate among the participants.
After detailed deliberations, the participants among other things recommended that; the new education policy of Pakistan should emulate the academic best practices of the developed countries; promote and prioritize the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching, learning and assessment in order to create social and economic impact; focus on high quality and rigorous research programs (MS/MPhil and PhD) and publications; emphasize practical and applied research for economic growth and progress of society as a whole; and make students’ academic projects productive.
The consultative session also called for a policy that: prioritizes academia-industry linkages aimed at creating pathway for future growth and development of students; focuses on entrepreneurship and self-employment options aimed to produce job providers rather than job seekers; streamline the existing procedures pertaining to the international students; establishes financial systems that support the needy students in both public and private sector institutions; and increases public funding aimed at establishing and improving infrastructure and human capacity development.
The participants also observed that access to higher education in Pakistan is still limited and considered the lowest in South Asia; and therefore, recommended for the expansion of distance learning systems with the full application of ICTs aiming at increasing access to higher education countrywide. The session further asked for the suspension of the new HEC Undergraduate Education Policy 2020 and Policy on PhD Degree Programs until all stakeholders reach final consensus on the new Pakistan Education Policy 2021.
There was a general consensus that political and administrative interference is adversely impacting the effective working of the universities and the participants, therefore, asked for a policy that empowers Vice Chancellors/Rectors to make binding decisions pertaining to their universities.
The line Ministry will be systematically compiling the recommendations/inputs to develop a draft document in four phases i.e. broad consultative process, draft document, re-consultation with the stakeholders, and finalization of the document and approvals.