The Failing Education System: Look

Prof. Yaseen Iqbal

Our education system is constantly crumbling. Some intellectuals wrote a lot about it and communicated their concerns through electronic, social and print media to let people and the policymakers know about this. However, all those whose response counts least bother about it or maybe they don’t even like to know or understand the severity of the issue. The main purpose of education is to educate and train youth to handle the future national and global challenges. If the system is producing incapable graduates, it is the duty of the policymakers to improve the relevant governance and address the issues. Teachers and intellectuals along with the civil society can only invite the policymakers’ attention towards such failures and warn them about the consequences. It is the responsibility of the state to identify the abusers of the system and their supporters and take appropriate measures to bring the system back onto the track. When this is not being done in a country, the institutions fail, and the nation suffers, and ultimately leads to a national chaos. Furthermore, higher education institutions groom national leadership but when student’s politics are banned, the leadership will emerge from somewhere else. Also, how can one expect educated leadership for tomorrow in such a situation? The only reason for this ban is the inability of the relevant authorities to contain student politics and resist outsider’s influence. If the vice chancellors, principals and teachers are intellectually, ethically and morally stronger than the politicians and rulers, they will amicably govern these institutions as well as the student’s politics. However, if they are appointed on the personal desire of irrelevant authorities in violation of merit, then their selectors will govern them as well as their institutions. Such employees cannot be missionary teachers or educationists but will just do as directed which is happening today either at administrative level, teaching level or both. The result is evident in the form of better performance of some private institutions despite minimal facilities / funds and poor performance of public sector institutions despite maximum facilities and funds.

Universities are established to nurture courage, positivity, and inventiveness. These institutions equip youth with skills to transform their knowledge and resources into improved social behaviour and marketable products for socioeconomic development. In this way, universities transform societies, and the present-day European society is commonly presented as its example. Contrastingly, our institutions did not only fail in inculcating logical thinking, love for truth, and resistance to falsehood but further paralyzed our youth. Instead of learning, generating and applying new knowledge, they lost even their own traditional norms and skills, evident from the increasing social unrest and imports. In such a situation, teachers and intellectuals must come forward in an aggressive manner to lead the policymakers and society otherwise they will be led by the semi-literate or illiterate elites.

In Pakistan, universities were mostly established by elected governments but equally suffered at the same hands as well. Such governments make every effort to safeguard their vote bank via obliging their voters and supporters. For them, recruitment in universities is the easiest and cheapest option as it needs only an obedient VC. Democratic regimes in the developed world also need votes, they also need to oblige their voters and supporters but not at the cost of their national future. We imported democracy from the West but did not learn how do they oblige their voters. Unlike us, they provide their societies with the best possible social services uniformly via appointing the best possible teachers, doctors, judges, security officers, clerks etc. to serve the society. In our case, individuals are obliged through unfair means by those who are elected or appointed to ensure justice and merit. This encourages every citizen to ruin the system and rob the country, and hence, lawlessness spreads like a fission reaction.

Commonly, people worry only about the financial impact of political appointments but their more disastrous aspect is not even felt. In fact, most of the political appointees are either ineligible or incapable and that is why they opt for this route. To safeguard their future and avoid their duties, they form pressure groups or groups backed by political parties. These groups offer undue support to university administration and higher authorities. Consequently, they get quick promotions to reach authoritative positions, governing and statuary bodies, and hence, hijack the whole system in an apparently legal manner. In some cases, even departments / colleges are either upgraded or new ones established to accommodate and oblige these appointees. This game is not limited to the politicians/teachers/administrators alone, an uncle chairing a selection committee appoints the chairperson of a national organization while the same chairman heading another selection committee selects the nephew of the same uncle. Now, there are only two possibilities that either the relevant authorities/policymakers are helpless to resist this or equal partners and beneficiaries in this gamble; the readers should pass the judgement.

We as a nation must think that when such employees are appointed by Sardars, Chaudhuris, or lawmakers and policymakers, will they serve the nation or their supporters and selectors? Think as a nation, this is a very serious issue. Such employees ruin the system till their retirement, and as per law, even the PM cannot remove them. Even if it is done, the case goes to court of law where it hangs for ages. Who can dare to ask such appointees to do their duty? When appointment orders are issued on telephone calls, and distributed in bungalows of elites who do scrutinise the documents of such employees? Who does assess the moral and ethical level of such appointees? Can one expect a VC/teacher/clerk appointed in this manner to offend his/her own kingmaker and when he/she is a candidate for another post in near future as well? The current situation clearly demonstrates that the responsible authorities could neither resist political pressures nor realized or address the repercussions. For example, people term the survival of Pakistan despite mass-scale corruption a miracle but they never mention the billions of dollars taken in loans. The situation in education institutions is not much different but no such miracles did happen because they could not get loans from abroad for their survival, and institutions are in financial crisis. The most vulnerable among the stakeholders is the student and therefore, the fees will increase, barring the entry of the poor talented majority: a national loss.

This is a national issue but as an example, let us look into the situation in KP. Here, an unusual VC Search Committee was constituted through special amendments in KP Universities Act to ensure merit in the appointments of VCs. However, keeping in view the performance and aftermath of this committee, the policymakers were expected to watch its outcome. Since 2015, most of the VCs recommended by the same committee were either incompetent or ineligible. The only possible reason for selecting such VCs may be that they could be easily removed if they fail to oblige their kingmakers. Some institutions remained without permanent VCs for months and years. When 60 candidates were interviewed for 7 VC posts, the 53 eligible and spotless candidates were turned down and only the 7 either ineligible, academically poor or known for their poor performance were recommended. Proofs of merit violations were submitted to the concerned authorities by the victims. Court decisions regarding violation of merit are on record. The performance of this committee became very visible to the government when some VCs or their associates were removed on charges of unspeakable sexual harassments, misuse of authority, and financial corruptions. Even for these removals, the authorities waited for media to broadcast videos of confessions publicly. If the decisions are made on the basis of media reports, then, what is the duty and role of the relevant VC and higher authorities? When two VCs are removed, complaints against another three reach the chancellor’s table? Just, google “irregularities or harassments in KP universities” and see the number of hits on search engines. Are these publicly broadcasted proofs not enough to convince the authorities? People submit proofs of merit violations in appointments, financial corruption and frauds to the chancellor, Prime Minister, Pakistan Citizen Portal, HED and HEC and expect appropriate action under the law. Is there any place where a victim can submit a complaint and get justice? Is there no other alternative in this country of 220 million heads to replace the ones who are proved offenders? If none is brought to justice, is it not mental deafness and blindness? This nation still remembers the performance of Ayyub Khan’s 11-ministries government for the whole of east and west Pakistan and watches the performance of hundreds of ministers and advisors today. Is it not that teachers teaching democracy appreciates military dictators?

To enable universities to play their due role, the least the government can do is to appoint heads of institutions and teachers who are intellectually and ethically stronger than ministers and politicians to resist such irregularities. There were teachers and VCs in the recent past who resisted pressures even from the then presidents, and that’s how the level of teachers, VCs, and institutions was raised?

To address these issues, a committee must be constituted to invite and investigate complaints against all these ministers, secretaries, VCs, Pro-VCs, deans, chairpersons and senior professors responsible for this mess. The guilty ones must be punished proportionately, and all the losses must be recovered. The same committee should be kept as an education watchdog to address all such issues at every level till complete clean-up of the institutions in the country. VCs should be appointed through headhunt process with no advertisement which makes them beggars even before their appointment.

It must be noted that visionary, ethically sound and capable candidates will never beg for such appointments. The government and appointing authorities will have to headhunt and honour them with due authority and then see the outcome. If such university leaders are there, allow students politics to let the universities groom your national leaders. May Allah guide us. Ameen.

The author teaches Physics and Materials Science at the University of Peshawar.