A deliberate but discrete policy decision was taken by the elected government in 1973to degenerate the quality of education from elementary to secondary level. Carrying on system of promotion of students irrespective of their scores in annual examinations was implemented. Pass secondary school certificates used to be issue by the schools and Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education after the declaration of results of Matriculation Examination to the student who failed in the subject of English. The education atmosphere of universities was vitiated by pocket students unions of political parties. The objective was to deprive the students belonging to middle class families from acquiring quality education. In the succeeding government this policy was changed.
The deterioration in education standard and acquisition of fake degrees by political elite eroded the acceptability of degrees awarded by Pakistani universities abroad. For the improvement of the standard of higher education and authentication of degrees, Higher Education Commission (HEC) was formed in 2002. The Commission achieved limited success in enhancing the quality of education. However, when it refused to authenticate the fake degrees of politicians, the subject of higher education was devolved to provinces under 18th Amendment and HEC was declared dissolved and to be devolved to provinces.
The attempt to devolve HEC to provinces was frustrated by the Supreme Court verdict of April 12, 20111 declaring the move as illegal. The judgment stated: “The HEC shall continue its functions…until a fresh legislation is promulgated. In case of any conflict/ consistency the HEC Ordinance shall prevail. However, without following standard procedures Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) was set up in January 2015, while Sindh created an equivalent body in 2013. The HEC and PHEs remain at odds with each other which impacted the process of improvement in the quality of education.
The previous PTI provincial government did bring significant improvement in the quality of elementary and secondary education but could not arrest degeneration in higher education. Now there is growing realisation in federal government about not only arresting further degeneration in education system but also bringing a significant improvement in it so that once again the lost prestige of degrees awarded by the public and private sector universities is restored abroad. Talking to media persons after the fourth interprovincial education conference in Lahore the other day Federal Information Minister disclosed that the government is taking measures to introduce a uniform syllabus in public and private universities.
Although introduction of uniform education system was easier before the devolution of higher education to the provinces yet the federal government efforts of education sector reforms were torpedoed by the PML-Q government in Punjab and MMA government in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. It will now be a miracle if the present federal government succeeds in persuading the provincial governments on adopting equal education system for which liberal financial allocations will be required for investment in elementary and secondary and higher education.
. Unbridled powers in the hands of universities’ syndicates, arrogant and averse to teaching and research old guard faculty members have to share greater part of degeneration in the quality education. None of the syndicate and old guard faculty members has ever produced quality research worthy of publication in the top notch and the most prestigious International Research Journal “Nature”. Ironically, the young schleps who have done top class research in foreign universities and published it in “Nature” are completely ignored for appointment on faculty positions because they don not have political backing. One such voracious research scholar is Dr. Shahid Khattak who was even excluded from the short listing process for the appointment as Assistant Professor in the public sector universities, Isalmai College University and Hazara University with a single line cliché observation: Your degrees are irrelevant.
The despicable and shameful culture of gross violation of merit introduced by the previous ANP government is all pervading in the PTI government as well. In such a dirty scenario how can the cherished dream of equal and centralized education system be realised. Actions speak louder than words. Will the PTI central leadership really focus on improving the quality of education by curtailing the powers of syndicates, ensuring appointments of faculty members strictly on merit, making higher education inexpensive and strengthening the research environment with the provisions of state-of-the-art equipment and smooth supply of chemicals to the institutions of higher education in addition to funding for subscriptions to reputed international research journals and providing access IDs to students? The answer is unfortunately not in affirmative.