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Higher education without coordination

Lack of coordination between the Federal Higher Education Commission (FHEC) and provincial HEC has led the education sector towards more controversies.

The FHEC, a couple of days ago, directed the provinces to introduce four-year bachelors programme in the public sector colleges. On the other hand, the PHEC had introduced a pilot programme of two-year Associate Bachelors degree with the semester system. The provincial commission had given an option to the students to resume the degrees if they thought feasible.

The FHEC had directed the colleges to start four year BS-honors programme in the colleges. However, when many of the stakeholders including teaching faculties of different universities, the PHEC and others registered their agitation, the commission had explained that the students could quit after completing two years of the programme.

Seeking anonymity, a vice-chancellor of the public sector university said that both of the commission should avoid taking immature decisions. A four year BS programme was started in at least 26 colleges of the province that badly failed, he said.

Neither the faculty members of these colleges were enough nor equipped with necessary laboratories. If the FHEC stressed to initiate it by 2018, it would be another failure, the VC said.

“The HECs should focus on capacity building of the faculty and provide labs with equipment if they wanted successful BS Honors programmes at public sector colleges,” he held.

The international practice was not being followed in Pakistan where universities and colleges offer four years for bachelors.

“There is a need to introduce a six year master programme after FSc but the HEC should at least ensure trained faculty and the well equipped labs in the public sector colleges,” the VC said, fearing that a majority of the private colleges and universities could mint money from students who also lacked these facilities.

Moreover, according to the source, the FHEC and the former University Grants Commission had badly ignored the colleges and focused on universities only. “Not only the staff of the varsities was highly educated but their labs were also equipped with necessary apparatus.”

According to the vice-chancellor, the HEC should first conduct the survey where the four year BS programme was feasible.

Federal HEC chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmad was not available for comments. However, when contacted, a spokesperson said that the PHEC had introduced the two year BS-Associate degree in the four colleges of Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujranwala.

Both the principals and staff of these colleges were being trained to cope with the new degrees, he told The Nation.

Out of total 721 public sector colleges, he said, about 90 colleges were offering post graduate studies. Only these PG colleges could be considered for these programs in the first phase, the spokesman added.

He further said that the PHEC would convene meetings of all the stakeholders on restructuring of college curriculum, VCs, principals, Higher Education Department etc on the issue.

“The Punjab government has approved Rs 200 million for the purpose of establishing Faculty Training Academy in Lahore. The PHEC and the University of Education will start the academy jointly and then such academies will be started in Multan and Rawalpindi.”

The PHEC wanted capacity building of the college staff at par with the university faculty, he concluded.

Iqbal, Javed. Higher education without coordination. The Nation, March 23, 2017.

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