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Pakistan’s Education System Awaits Saviour


Dr Lubna Zaheer

There’s no doubt that our education system needs much improvement. Be it school, college or university education, we are facing innumerable problems at every level and with the passage of time these problems are multiplying at the cost of quality education. We are well aware that the developed nations made education a ladder of development. Take a look around us and we shall find many examples of when education played an important role in getting people out of poverty. This means that education always guarantees the development of nations and individuals.

But in Pakistan, we have not been able to achieve the target of 100% primary education despite passing seven decades. Even today around 25 million of our children of school age are deprived of enrollment in schools. In other words, they aren’t lucky enough to see the shape of the school. The same situation is seen in the higher education sector. We are proud that we are among the countries with the largest youth population. But it doesn’t take seriously that only a few per cent of young people have access to college and university education. That means the majority of young people are deprived of higher education. Just imagine what will be the future of these young people.

It should also be a matter of concern for us that children and youth who have the opportunity to study in school, college or university, have to face many problems including poor quality of education. Despite the passage of decades, we are unable to solve the fundamental problems related to education. For years we have been hearing that the quality of education in government schools is poor or basic facilities are not available there. The question is, why do we not organise the training of teachers? Why have we not been able to establish an effective system of monitoring them till date? Why could not we ensure the provision of basic facilities to schools?

Many, including me, continue to write and speak on higher education issues. We all know the problems the education system is facing. But till date we have not been able to find solutions to these problems and remove the defects of the system. This is probably because education is not among our top priorities. It is understandable that the responsibility cannot be imposed on any individual, group or class for fault lines in the education system. Politicians in power, bureaucrats, teachers, administration, and even students themselves are all responsible for the breakdown in the system.

I belong to the higher education sector, so let me give an example. After the 18th constitutional amendment, education was the responsibility of the provinces. Have the federation and the provinces fulfilled their full responsibility in this regard? The answer is definitely no. Over the years we have been witnessing a tug of power between the provinces and the federation. For example, the provincial higher education commissions were to be established after the constitutional amendment. Punjab and Sindh also established these commissions. But till date federal and provincial are engaged in a cold war instead of cooperating with each other. Universities are constantly suffering from this situation. There are two groups of Vice-Chancellors, some with the Federal Commission and some with the Provincial Commission. In principle, it should be settled with mutual cooperation.


According to the Constitution and law, the responsibility should be done while staying within their respective jurisdictions. But this has not happened. In the same way, no strategy has been devised to get the public universities out of financial pressure. Everyone knows that for the last seven or eight years, universities across the country have been surrounded by financial difficulties. Public universities have to look to governments for funding. These are not private universities, which operate on the principles of business and where the administration keeps increasing the fees at will. If there is a slight increase in the fees of government educational institutions, the uproar starts. Therefore, bound by the government policy, it is the duty of the government to help the universities. But it has been seen that no strategy has been formulated till date in the context of financial problems of public universities. Even today the university teachers of Balochistan are losing their lives on the streets. But no one is asking. It’s time to either fund government agencies or let them adopt business models too.

When we talk about quality education, we hold the teachers responsible for it. This is quite justifiable. We have diverted the attention of the university teachers from the classroom to research papers. Their development and financial benefits are now tied to research papers. The result is that the teachers’ focus is diverted from the students and the teaching. Apart from this, every day we keep hearing stories of poor research done in varsities. Unfortunately, some of the stories of plagiarism by teachers in our universities are known globally. We have been hearing these stories for years. Of course, our rulers are also aware of this situation but no policy has been made in this regard till date. Now these problems cannot solved with mere critical speeches.

Separately, it’s also not new that dozens of public universities across the country are working without permanent heads. It has been more than a month since the federal and provincial governments were established. These governments are engaged in government affairs, cabinet meetings are being held, and various projects are also being announced. But dozens of public universities across the country are still eyeing for the government’s attention. The affairs of these universities are being run on a temporary basis by handing over temporary charge to pro vice chancellors and senior professors.

Now, this crucial matter has reached the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Probably, the Chief Justice has also asked the provinces to submit reply in this regard. The question is whether such cases of important nature should go to the courts and be buried under the pile of cases? Of course not. It will a pleasant moment if the concerned governments take a timely decision on these matters. Higher education is not such a common issue that it should not be paid attention to. Maryam Nawaz Sharif has shown a lot of dynamism after becoming the Punjab Chief Minister. She has presided over many meetings in the field of education as part of reforms. Some decisions have also been made in this regard. A very responsible official of the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) was telling me that the new chief minister has entrusted him with many tasks. I wish the CM would also take notice of the delay in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors in universities, order start of the process of appointments and complete the matter as soon as possible.

Dr Lubna Zaheer

— The author is an academician and political analyst

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lahore Mirror