Every now and then, the government officials are heard emphasising the need forhigh-quality education and the importance of increasing the literacy rate in the country. But rarely are they seen pointing out the flaws in the higher education system of the country which has been on a continuous decline for decades. The vacuum left by the quality of education in the public universities has been filled by average private universities whose number has been growing exponentially over the decades.
There is no arguing that efforts are neededto increasing the literacy rate as well as the quality of education and the grass-root levels, but at the same time, the higher education should not be ignored either. Students pay hefty sums to enrol in the private institutions, whose professors do not even possess half the experience the professors in the public universities. Except for a few private universities who have maintained the quality of education and their marketplace, the rest have become cashcows for the owners of the private universities. The deteriorating image of the public universities and a general sense that the graduates from the public universities are less groomed than those of the private has crept into the marketplace as well. Except for a few public-sector engineering universities, the market is dominated by the graduates from the private universities. Instances have been reported of pay disparity among the public and private sector universities as well, as some private institutes have become more of a brand. The government is itself to blame for its apathy towards the situation of higher education in the country for decades. The results are that no Pakistani university ranks among the top-500 universities in the world. The ever-growing number of the private universities whose main aim is to fleece the students is not helping the cause either. Since the top institutions of higher education can be counted on fingers, the merits are extremely high as well. The rest of the students are, hence, left to enrol in the private institutions as well as the substandard public universities.
The problem of education elitism starts right from the beginning as quite a few parallel education systems run in the country. The well-to-do families who can prefer the O/A Levels stream for their children, while the other follow the mainstream Matric/Intermediate stream — followed in the public schools of the country. One can easily observe the difference in the quality of education among the two streams. But both the steams have a substantial difference in the fee structure. Thus, the sense of elitismis set in right from the beginning of the education, which continues till the person graduates and lands in the market. Under the current mess that the higher education system is astudent with similar capabilities learns same courses with the hefty difference in fee. The same sense prevails in the market as well as the graduates from private institutes expect to be paid more since they have invested more in themselves than the graduates from the public-sector universities. There is only one way to deal with this mess in the higher education, and that is through increasing the quality of education in the public universities as well as removing the caveats that have tarnished the image of these institutes over the years. Moreover, a curb on the increasing number of private institutes not meeting a certain threshold of the HEC should also be banned. Lastly, this public-private disparity starts right from the beginning, and the government needs to reform public sector schools to bring it at par with the private to decrease this divide.
Reporter. Education elitism. Daily Times, January 29, 2017.