Sunday, April 17, 2011

HEC's Indispensable Role in Pakistan's Higher Education

Those who cite the 1996 World Bank study to argue that the social rates of return for higher education in developing countries are 13 percent lower than return on basic education must remember the following: Hundreds of millions of lives in Asia were saved as a result of the success of the Green Revolution that was enabled by a combination of US aid, and the capacity of the recipient nations to absorb it by virtue of the availability of local college graduates in agriculture and engineering.

The Green Revolution succeeded in South Asia and failed in Africa mainly because of the differences in domestic technical and institutional capacity to absorb foreign aid and technical know-how in the two regions. Simply put, Africa did not have the basic critical mass of people who had the benefit of higher education and training in agriculture and irrigation that was available in India and Pakistan in the 1960s.

Going forward, the importance of tertiary education will only grow bigger in developing nations. The physical capital that was essential for development in the 20th century will no longer be sufficient in the 21st century. Instead, the human intellectual capital will determine success or failure of nations in this century. In addition to basic health care, the key input for the development of human capital is quality education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

The key role of higher education is to enable basic institutional capacity building for economic, political and social development. The college and university graduates with arts, business, science or technology degrees help promote economy, democracy, social mobility, entrepreneurship, and intellectual and industrial competitiveness of their entire nation.

Pakistan's Higher Education Commission has led a successful transformation of higher education in Pakistan since 2002 through reforms initiated by Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman, appointed by President Musharraf.

In a paper titled "Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability", Fred M. Hayward, an independent higher education consultant, assessed the success of the HEC-led reforms as follows:

"By 2008, as a result of its policy and financial successes, most universities had become strong proponents of the Higher Education Commission. For the first time in decades university budgets were at reasonable levels. Quality had increased significantly, and several institutions were on their way to becoming world-class institutions. Most universities had signed onto the tenure-track system. The first master’s and PhD students were returning from their studies to good facilities and substantial research support. Many expatriate Pakistanis returned from abroad with access to competitive salaries. About 95 percent of people sent abroad for training returned, an unusually high result for a developing country in response to improved salaries and working conditions at universities as well as bonding and strict follow-up by the commission, Fulbright, and others. Student enrollment increases brought the total enrollment of college age students to 3.9 percent—well on the way to the target of 5 percent by 2010.

"Research publications more than doubled between 2004 and 2006. Especially important was the emphasis on quality in all areas including recruitment, PhD training, tenure, publications—all requiring external examiners. While the percentage of PhD faculty has slipped slightly from 29 to 22 percent, largely because rising enrollments have taken place faster than increases in PhD training with higher standards, the extensive faculty development programs of the commission will soon result in the return of sufficient numbers of PhDs to more than reverse that trend. During this time the student/faculty ratio has improved from 1:21 to 1:19, and a number of universities have focused on upgrading the quality of their teaching programs. By 2008, a broad transformation of higher education had taken place."

Over 5,000 scholars have participated in Ph.D. programs in Pakistan. Thousands of students and faculty have been awarded HEC scholarships to study abroad. The HEC has instituted major upgrades for laboratories and information and communications technology, rehabilitation of facilities, expansion of research support, and development of one of the best digital libraries in the region. A quality assurance and accreditation process has also established.

Unfortunately, the leadership in Pakistan in recent years has demonstrated its total lack of the most basic appreciation of the critical importance of education in the South Asian nation.

Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.

Now there is an attempt to dismantle the HEC in the name of provincial autonomy under the recently approved 18th amendment of the Constitution. By all indications, this attack on the HEC appears to be politically motivated to punish the HEC for its role in exposing fraudulent degrees of many leading politicians in the country.

More immediately, about $550 million in approved foreign grants and loans are on hold because of HEC's uncertain future.

What is at stake here is not just the future of the current students on HEC scholarships, but also the entire nation's future prospects as the world rapidly moves toward knowledge-based economy. The Pakistani government must acknowledge the potentially serious harm its actions are going to inflict on the nation and reverse course immediately.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Dr. Ata-ur Rehman Defends HEC's Role in Higher Education Reform

Human Capital and Economic Growth in Pakistan

Musharraf Legacy
Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan Education Emergency

Politicians' Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan
Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan

Beyond the ABCs: Higher Education and Developing Countries

UK Aids Pakistani Schools

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?


Anonymous said...

great at the time when india is mega boosting its education system pakistan is throttling back,Brilliant!

Imran said...

When half of the parliamentarians are without degrees, they can’t do 2+2 let alone worry about education.

Absolutely corrupt and incompetent government and with their current policies, it has put Pakistan way deep into the ground. By the time they leave, it’ll be extremely challenging for the next government to crawl out of this mess and they’ll struggle, which will leave the Pakistani population in a perpetual chaos with no end in sight...

Riaz Haq said...

Labor force data from the World Bank for 2007 indicates that 23% of Pakistan's labor force has had tertiary (college) education.

This compares with 61% in the United States, 32% in the UK, 20% in Malaysia, 33% in Singapore and 17% in Sri Lanka.

It has no data for India or China.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on US assistance for higher education & research in Pakistan:

Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dr. Javaid Laghari, Chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to create three Centers for Advanced Studies at Pakistani universities.

With US support, these centers will promote the development of Pakistan's water, energy, and agriculture sectors through applied research, training for specialists, university linkages, and the contributions towards policy formulation, said in a press statement issued by US Embassy here on Friday.

"US-Pakistan cooperation in higher education spans more than six decades. This new program presents a new milestone in our joint efforts to strengthen Pakistan's university system to support the growth of the country's economy," said Dr. Rajiv Shah at the signing ceremony.

The Centers for Advanced Studies is a five-year $127 million program sponsored by USAID. The Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security will be established with US support at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Punjab.

The Center for Advanced Studies in Water will be created at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro. Meanwhile, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad will open the Center for Advanced Studies in Energy.

A satellite center for energy will be established at the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar.

A key component of the Center for Advanced Studies Program is linking Pakistani universities to universities in the United States.

These linkages will help engender, support, and fund joint applied research, student and faculty exchanges, pedagogical improvement, and development of new courses according to the needs of industry. It is expected that other universities will use these centers as a model for future growth and improvements.

The signing ceremony for the launch of the Centers for Advanced Studies Program was attended by the Vice Chancellors from the four participating universities, representatives from the Higher Education Commission, members of the Ministry of Science and Technology, other officials, and students.,-HEC-sign-MoU-for-advanced-studies

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on number of PhDs in Pakistan:

The Pakistani universities are now able to produce more PhDs in the next 3 years as compared to last 10 years. The total number of PhDs in Pakistan has reached the figure of 8,142.

According to the data available with ‘The News’, the number of PhDs has increased from 348 (1947 to 2002) to 679 in 2012 in agriculture and veterinary sciences, from 586 to 1,096 in biological sciences, from 14 to 123 in business education, from merely 21 to 262 in engineering and technology and from 709 to 1,071 in physical sciences. In social sciences, the number increased to 887 from 108 during last ten years.

The figures also indicate that during the last decade, special emphasis has been paid to the disciplines of agriculture and veterinary sciences, biological sciences, business education, engineering and technology, physical sciences and social sciences.

Expressing his view over this development, HEC Executive Director Professor Dr. Sohail H. Naqvi said that the production of these PhDs is the harbinger of a great future. “These researchers, who have worked on problems of crucial importance to Pakistan, will play a leading role in the production of knowledge workers with a potential to take Pakistan in the ranks of developed nations,” he added.

He further said that HEC since its inception has introduced various indigenous scholarship schemes to create a critical mass of highly qualified human resources in all fields of studies who conduct research on issues of importance to Pakistan. “These locally qualified academics and researchers are playing an important role to improve the research and development potential of public as well as private universities and it will also strengthen the local industrial sector. With the launching of the schemes, research culture in public or private sector universities has been developed in accordance with international standards.”

The education experts view this development as an achievement in the higher education sector of Pakistan.

Dr. Farida Faisal, a fresh PhD holder from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi in Economics, views this development as result of provision of incentives and various indigenous scholarship schemes introduced during last few years in Pakistan. She said that good aspect of this development is that along with quantity, there has been strong emphasis over quality of these PhDs, which will improve with the passage of time, she hoped.

She suggested that keeping in view the future needs of Pakistan; there is a need to produce more number of PhDs in the next ten years.

Dr. Ashfaq Ahmed, associate professor at the Institute of Business and Management, UET, Lahore, who has recently completed his PhD degree in Management Science with distinction from Foundation University, Islamabad, termed this achievement an outcome of reforms and education-friendly policies introduced by the HEC, which were aimed at promotion and research and academic activities nationwide and across the globe during the last decade.

In the first 55 years since Pakistan’s independence, a total of 3,281 PhDs were awarded at Pakistani universities. However, since the establishment of the HEC in 2002, over 4,850 PhDs have been awarded to-date, which is more than what was awarded in the previous 55 years.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nature report on Pakistan's science & technology policy:

As they hail Pakistan's first comprehensive national science, technology and innovation (ST&I) policy, the country's science leaders are hopeful of effective implementation and funding.

The 'National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy–2012', launched last month (23 November) with support from the Pakistan Council for Science and Technology and the ministry of science and technology, is expected to help Pakistan emerge as a scientifically sensitive nation.

Describing the policy, at the launch, as "demand-driven and people-centric ", Changez Khan Jamali, federal minister for science and technology, said it was a milestone in Pakistan's self-reliant development strategy.

Jamali said the new policy was focused on improving the quality of life for common people through the creation of a conducive industrial and economic environment.

Pakistan has an ambitious plan to increase its science budget to 1 and 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product spending by 2015 and 2020 respectively, against the present 0.6 per cent.

Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar, secretary in the ministry, told SciDev.Net that he looked forward to "having close to 1 per cent allocation in the 2013 budget."

"The only fuel to make this policy a success is real political and fiscal support, which government is committed to provide – so there are hopes for an innovative and technologically advanced future for Pakistan," Tarar said.

A national policy for ST&I has been in the making since 1960 when the National Science Commission of Pakistan was constituted and tasked with finding ways to promote scientific research.

However, various hurdles stood in the way, the chief among them in more recent years being funding cuts forced by the recession and natural disasters.

The new policy focuses on environment science, biotechnology, energy, water, minerals, ocean-sciences and engineering as critical areas demanding priority.

It recognises innovation as an integral part of the S&T system while emphasising development of human resources, training and education.

Manzoor Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, an autonomous body under the science ministry, told SciDev.Net that to make the new policy serve the country's socio-economic development better, public-private partnerships and academia-industry linkages would need to be forged.

"Higher Education Commission and the well-developed offices of research, innovation and commercialisation that already maintain R&D links with different public-private organisations, would be the beneficiaries of this policy," Soomro said.

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: Prof Dr Attaur Rahman has been selected for the People’s Republic of China’s highest national award ‘Friendship Award of China’.

The award will be conferred on him at a ceremony to be held in Beijing on Monday, says a press release.

The friendship award is for foreign experts who have made outstanding contribution to the economic and social progress. The award is being given to Prof Rahman for his tremendous contributions to develop strong linkages between China and Pakistan in various fields of science and higher education.

Prof Rahman was responsible for initiating a major programme of academic collaboration and linkages with Chinese universities and other institutions as federal minister for science and technology and later as chairman of Higher Educa­tion Commission. Under these program­mes some 400 students were sent to various Chinese universities and research institutions for PhD-level training.

Prof Rahman has initiated strong collaborations with many Chinese institutes. He signed an executive protocol for scientific cooperation between Chinese Academy of Sciences and Pakistan Academy of Sciences under which many workshops have been organised in Pakistan and China. These included a major international conference titled ‘IUCr South Asia Summit Meeting’ on ‘Vistas in Structural Chemistry’ held on April 28-30, 2014, Karachi, to celebrate the International Year of Crystallography.

Prof Rahman has also initiated a nationwide project for training students in universities of Pakistan in Chinese language through video-conferencing. A book by Prof Rahman titled ‘The Won­drous World of Science’ has been recently translated into Chinese language. He has recently been awarded International Co­­ope­ration Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Prof Rahman has 976 publications to his credit in several fields of organic chemistry, including 720 research publications, 37 international patents, 151 books and 68 chapters in books published largely by major US and European presses. He is the most decorated scientist of Pakistan, having won four civil awards — Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, and the nation’s highest civil award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz.

Riaz Haq said...

Soft-spoken education revolutionary Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created.
Khan is the founder, executive director, and faculty member at the Khan Academy, an online education provider.
Speaking at the Atlantic’s Navigate tech conference, Khan said that the online education providers and independent technology “boot camp” schools will end up playing an important role in pressuring legacy universities to change their outdated ways.
“I feel like society is ripe for challenging the model of school” he told The Atlantic’s editor, James Bennett, earlier this week.
“The credentialing piece is somewhat broken now,” Khan said. “A very small fraction of the population has the opportunity to attend a university that is broadly known.”
To that end, Khan said that he is working on a universal credentialing system that could compare a graduate of “Stanford or Harvard” by their raw abilities. Presumably, this credential would have to be some type of evaluation that would test and measure the abilities of all students, thereby making the granting institution irrelevant.
Last year, Sebastian Thrun, the CEO of online education provider Udacity, and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a tech industry credentialing system, the Open Education Alliance, with Khan Academy as partner.
Since then, Udacity has developed its own credential for the tech industry, the nanodegree. Similarly, Coursera, another online education provider, started awarding a “signature track” certificate to the graduates of some its tech courses.
Khan has not developed its own credential yet. Most important, neither Udacity nor Coursera has developed a degree or certificate that is comparable to a Stanford Degree. Both rely on the reputation of the granting organization — as opposed to some kind of test score. So, until Khan develops something more objective, a Stanford degree is still going to be a lot more valuable than anything else on the market.
Portfolios instead of transcript
At one point in the talk, a mother with children attending the University of California Berkeley expressed her frustration that her kids were having to turn to Khan Academy online videos to learn real world skills. She wondered how a $60,000 ultra-selective tier I degree could somehow not teach those skills.
Khan, who holds a Master’s in engineering from MIT, said that schools have dropped the ball on preparing graduates for the real world. Instead of graduating with a list of courses and a GPA, each student should have a portfolio of products.
“The transcript coming out of engineering school should essentially be the things that you’ve created,” he said.
Exams and grades are much (much) easier to administer to thousands of students. Having each student create some type of product (like a gadget or program) for graduation would require far more faculty time. There’s a lot of institutional inertia against doing anything that complicated.
Despite the fact that top tech companies like Google have publicly admitted that they don’t care very much about college degrees, colleges have not been moved to equip graduates with a portfolio of products for graduation. Khan suspects that online providers, like his Academy and others in the education space, will ultimately pressure colleges to change.
Here’s to hoping they do it soon.

Riaz Haq said...

#Harvard educated Dr. Tariq Banuri, current professor at University of Utah and member of #Nobel prize winning #UN #climatechange panel, to lead #Pakistan Higher #Education Commission. #HEC

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah professor Tariq Banuri has been appointed chairman of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission.

Banuri moves into the role from his positions as an economics professor and associate director of the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water at the U. He also serves on the executive committee of the U. Water Center.

Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission is an independent, constitutionally established institution with a mandate to finance, oversee, regulate and accredit all institutions of higher learning in the country.

Banuri has requested a leave of absence from his current position at the U. and said he is eager to explore partnership opportunities from his new post.

Banuri previously served as executive director of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre, a dedicated research institute for climate change studies in Pakistan. He was the founding executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Pakistan and founding director of the Bangkok Centre of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Banuri also was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He holds a doctoral degree from Harvard in economics, completed his master’s degree in development economics from Williams College and earned his bachelor’s in civil engineering from the University of Peshawar.