On Higher Education in Pakistan II

Posted by sepoy on September 14, 2009 · 2 mins read

Continuing in the "catching up" mode ...

I really should have more to say about this [via biryanilady] but, I am just happy that Muhammad Boota exists. That aside, let us turn, briefly, to this report: Pakistan's reform experiment. Co-authored by some luminaries, the study takes stock of one of the two singing canaries of the Musharraf regime - Reform of Higher Education (the other being "Media"). They write:

For instance, by tying faculty performance to financial compensation it created deep divisions between winners and losers in a two-tier salary structure. And, by sending young scholars abroad by the thousands — to be reabsorbed on their return — it created a fresh base of support for its policies. However, support is far from universal — older and relatively independent universities have generally been more critical of HEC encroachment on institutional and academic freedom, and some only selectively participated in HEC programmes.

Despite this resistance, the HEC seems to have changed the culture of Pakistani academia considerably over the past 5 years3. The HEC claims to have caused a 400% increase in the number of papers published in international journals by Pakistani universities. It also takes credit for the appearance of three Pakistani universities among a popular top-600 chart of world universities, the ranking of Pakistan as a 'rising star' in five fields of science and engineering4 and external endorsements by evaluation teams from the British Council, the World Bank and USAID

And a note of caution:

The strongest criticism of the reforms is that by vesting most powers within one body, the HEC became the initiator, implementer and evaluator, making accountability problematic or impossible. This created opposition from those who might have agreed with the reforms but were opposed to the implementation. Greater transparency and accountability would have diverted some of this criticism.

But perhaps too soft a note? Pervez Hoodhboy certainly seems to think so. His strongly worded rebuke seems to miss most of the measured tone of the Nature piece but does repeat his oft-repeated criticisms of HEC. Deserved criticisms.

Also see: On Higher Education ...


gaddeswarup | September 16, 2009

I am more in tune with Pervez Hoodhboy's critique than the Nature article by some sort of comparison with happenings in India mostly observed from a distance during the last twenty years. I saw two 'elite' institutions in India and in my opinion the quality of work has gone down in both. Instead of the original atmosphere during the days of visionary but undemocratic leaders, now the culture of increments, promotions, in groups sometimes according to the regional and caste differences seem to have a bigger role. Some of these people get in to funding boards and there are cases of funding institutions for retired scientists of the in groups. More recently there have been huge salary increases and still fights for more. Some of these can be gauged from the recent discussions in Nanopolitan, for example: http://nanopolitan.blogspot.com/2009/08/iit-faculty-go-to-war.html I quote briefly from two of the comments: "It seems to me that IIT faculty have become obsessed with 'Twistian' syndrome of asking for more. (Oliver Twist had more reason to ask for more!) Nobody, nowhere must get more than them. They must always be at the top of the heap. Most of us in DAE research institutes accepted the 6PC recommendations way back in Sep last year and I haven't heard any whining and breast beating amongst the faculty in these institutes about being short-changed (leaving out TIFR who also always want more). Now I am told that IIT faculty will get 9000 less than their compatriots in similar positions in Universities. Apart from the fact that that is not the end of the world (are we always going to keep this caste system of IITs at the top, the universities kept somewhere near the bottom), having seen the official notification I just don't see how this is possible. I would be grateful if someone could explain this." and a response "...what IITians are asking not exactly “more”, but what they actually deserve. Obviously they compare the salaries with that of salaries from where they came and joined in IITs ( premier institutes of abroad, industries )." It is possible that India is doing relatively better than Pakistan due to the 'secular' nature of some of the institutions in the beginning but now outside reality may be catching up. There are many bitter comments from Dalit blogs and jokingly from others that some of the institutions are like 'agraharas'. Of course, caste problems are less in Pakistan but there may be dominant communities or groups. In any case, I am not sure about these top down models of development (except probably for brief periods) and opt more for primary education for all and such. I must add that I have not really looked at any quantitative studies like citation index. These are just my current impressions and I would like to know more.

Qalandar | September 16, 2009

RE: "...and opt more for primary education for all and such. " Definitely agree here. Not to overlook other failings/brutalities, but it is hard to argue with the success achieved by the likes of Cuba, China, even Syria, in the area of primary education -- and contrast with the specter of mass illiteracy that continues to haunt the sub-continent.

AIG | September 16, 2009

Does Pakistan need higher education? Just send the young kids to america to become doctors, the boomers are getting older and we need more help!

BRash | September 22, 2009

Have you checked out http://www.nextstepforward.net/ - Hoodhboy's been doing a lot over there these days, if I remember correctly.