To whom should we ask? To whom should we blame?

Today, six public sector universities in Punjab are operating without vice chancellors. No one is ready to take the responsibility of this devastating situation. Initially, it was believed that the delay is due to the incompetency of Department of Higher Education, Punjab who has failed to take proactive measures regarding the selection of vice chancellors. It is very clear that the tenure of a Vice chancellor is four years. Obviously, the process of vice chancellors’ selection would have been started well in time so that this situation of uncertainty could be avoided. But who cares! These are public sector universities. Youth from general public is studying here. How these universities are being run without vice chancellors and what kind of education is being offered – even a layman can imagine.  It is such a disturbing fact that both politicians and bureaucracy of Punjab government have given the universities a status of a civil secretariats office where anybody can perform any task. 

Now-a-days, the situation has become more devastating as the appointment of vice chancellor has become the issue of power; Governor Punjab vs Chief Minister. Is there anyone who can explain them about the the consequences of their dirty politics. Universities are not like their political constituencies. Neither, the appointment of a vice chancellor is similar to the appointment of a police SHO. Universities are the highest seat of learning where young people are being educated to bring national prosperity and sustainability. Someone has to explain to them that education plays a vital role in the development of a civilized society. Education is the primary agent of transformation towards sustainable development, increasing people’s capacities to transform their visions for society into reality.

I wish our politicians and bureaucracy can understand that educating young people in today’s globalized world is more complex and painstaking task than anything else. It involves caring for the development of students’ intellect, emotional, social and physical growth. Simply hard work, dedication and commitment is not enough. This requires professionalism. Quality education can only be achieved through an uninterrupted execution of intelligently crafted educational processes by a group of well trained professionals equipped with appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude working in a technology enhanced teaching-learning environment furnished with appropriate provisions. A small number of rightly educated students are more valuable for a secure and prosperous Pakistan than a large army of non-productive, misguided, frustrated young graduates. Vice chancellor is always a leader of his/her university. He/she is responsible of managing quality. What could we expect from a university which does not have a vice chancellor? I wish people in Pakistan could grasp the meaning of the latest concept of education in 21st century.

Unfortunately, the incompetency of politicians and bureaucracy has made “education” a national dilemma. In 67 years, 15 education policies has been drafted, many consultation sessions have been conducted, several green papers have been published, numerous situation analysis surveys have been conducted to find answers of questions like what are the deficiencies of the existing education system. Many action plans and strategies have been devised and implemented to seek any improvement; but the issue remains unaddressed. Even large injections of international funds/resources have been unsuccessful to bring any significant change in Pakistan’s education sector.  Some of them, extracted from UNESCO (2006) report, are listed below:

  • Teacher Training Project (TTP) (1992-2000) {$21.4 million};
  • Middle School Project (1994-2004) {$78 million};
  • Technical Education Project (1996-2004) {$60 million);
  • Second Girls Primary Education Project (1998-2005) {$44.9 million};
  • Decentralized Elementary Education in Sindh  {$75 million};
  •  Increasing Access of Girls to Higher Quality Primary Education in Balochistan Province’ project (2003-2006) {$2.4 million};
  • The Pakistan Canada Debt for Education Conversion (2005-2010) {$70 million};
  • Community Model Primary School and Health Training for TBAs (2002-2004) {$12,000};
  • Gender and Rights within Education Development in Hunza Schools (2002-2005) {$33,000};
  • Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities (2000-2004) {$760,000};
  • Strengthening Rural Primary Education in Pakistan (2000-2005) {$380,000};
  • AKU-Institute for Educational Development project (an EC contribution of $12.4 million);
  • Northern Pakistan Education Programme (NPEP) (an EC contribution of $20 million);
  • NWFP Education Support Program (Euro 20 million)7;
  • Norway government Financial Assistance to the Universal Quality Primary Education in 6 Districts in Punjab, Pakistan Project (2003-2007) {$5.4 million};
  • NWFP Basic Education Improvement Project (2003-2007) {$11.2 million;
  • USAID Education Sector Reform Assistance9 (ESRA) (2002-2007) {$74 million};
  • Creating Democratic Schools (2002-2008) {$12.5 million};
  • Releasing Confidence and Creativity: Building Sound Foundations for Early Learning (2002-2006) {$5 million};
  •  Aga Khan University Examination Board, (2003-2006) {$5 million};
  • Pakistan Teacher Education and Professional Development Program (PTEPDP)10 (2003-2006) {$5 million};
  • UK government Quality Education For All11 (2004-2007) {$282,191};
  • Drop Everything and Read – Mobile Library for Government Schools in Sheikhupura (2006-2007) {$72,058};
  • Educational Rehabilitation and Development in AJK (2005-2008) {$2.4 million};
  • UNESCO fund for Preparation of a Strategic Framework for Teacher Education and Professional Development (2005-2008) {$3.3 million};
  • The World Bank gave $625 million for FY2004-07, with $325 million as direct support for education, and $300 million through the proposed Poverty Reduction Structural Credit and Provincial Development Policy Credits.

  Apart from all these investments, the issue of education remains the same. One of the main reasons is that the universities are unable to produce rightly trained manpower. At the same time there are very few educators who are aware of educational processes. Consequently, ill prepared university graduates become the part of the system which affects the quality of services. I wish people in Pakistan could realize the importance of quality education. It is the only hope of our survival and it should be our top priority.

It is rightly said that action speaks louder than words.  In Pakistan, the issue of education has never been taken seriously. The current situation clearly demonstrates the sincerity & understanding of our politicians and bureaucracy towards education.   The appointment of vice chancellors was a national responsibility rather a duty of Governor Punjab, Chief Minister of Punjab, Minister Education, and Secretary Higher Education.  Without any doubt, all of them have failed to perform their duty. Is there anyone who can ask them? I can only wish, in place of blaming each other and playing this dirty politics, they realize their duties and make the appointment of competent vice chancellors so that the future of young generation could be saved.

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Published by: Dr. M. A. Pasha

I have obtained a M. Sc. in Physics (Gold Medal) degree from Islamia University Bahawalpur in 1981 and a Ph. D. degree in Computer Science from University of Southampton, UK in 1996. I have more than 30 years experience in tertiary education, ten of which have been in strategic leadership positions, including as Professor of Computer Science and Dean, Faculty of Computing & Information Sciences, Imperial College of Business Studies, Lahore; Professor of Computer Science and Director, Division of Science & Technology at University of Education, Lahore; Pro-Rector of Dadabhoy Institute of Higher Education, Karachi. Director, Institute of Computer Sciences & Software Engineering, The University of Lahore; Dean, University of Central Punjab, Lahore; Advisor to the Vice Chancellor on Information Technology, University of the Punjab, Lahore; Principal, Punjab University College of Information Technology, University of the Punjab, Lahore; Professor & Pro-Rector, Dadabhoy Institute of Higher Education, Karachi. I also have the honor to work as Vice Chairman, National Computing Education Accreditation Council (Pakistan); Chairman Inter Universities Faculty Board for Policy and Framework Development of Computer Science and Information Technology Degree Programs (Punjab, Pakistan). In addition, I have worked in various academic and administrative committees of public as well as private universities performing diverse nature of assignments. Presently, I am member of the Chief Minister’s Committee to “Develop a Vision for Information Technology in Punjab”. I have delivered various teacher training workshops and taught at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, supervised postgraduate students and published 40 papers in national & international journals & conference proceedings. Knowledge Management, WWW Multimedia Content Management, and Artificial Intelligence are the key areas of my interest. I have attended various national & international professional trainings, conferences and took part in international ICT consultation sessions in Cambodia and Bangladesh in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

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