by Azhar Ali Shah
According to some HEC officials and other educationists, though the Western model of devolved higher education system is good but it may not be suitable for us to follow and that we should look at our neighbors China, Saudi, Iran and India for developing our system! One wonders whom our neighboring countries are going to follow? And the answer is the West!
Take for example China’s experience with higher education as described by Xin-Ran Duan . Though initially based on the ideas of Confucius, China’s higher education adopted western (US) model with the establishment of Peiyang University in 1895 (changed its name to Tianjin University in 1951).
On becoming the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China changed its system of higher education from Western to Soviet Union. The difference between these two being that Western model was based on devolution in terms of management and common comprehensive university (one university for all disciplines) in terms of structure; while the Soviet model was based on over centralization of management and discipline specific universities in terms of structure (e.g., University of Engineering, University of Agriculture, University of Art and Literature etc.).
After the fall of Soviet Union in 1990s, China adopted open door-policy and started both devolving the power and management and merging the discipline specific universities into truly comprehensive universities following the advanced Western model again.
In order to describe how China’s over centralized system is going to devolve, I would like to present following excerpt from an article :
One major change in governance has been the introduction of the “two-level education provision system,” in which the central government (Minister of Education) shares responsibility for educational governance with local governments (provincial bureaus of education). The provincial bureaus of education have been assigned greater responsibilities and now directly administer most common universities and colleges. The chief executive officer of a university is the president, who is usually appointed by the government. In the past, appointments were made without public hearings, interviews, or competition among candidates. The introduction of these processes has had a positive effect .
So having gone through this are we still going to follow China, India, Saudi and others who are themselves evolving to adopt advanced Western model! Our 1973 constitution placed some subjects on concurrent list only for 10 years (I repeat for 10 year only) so the country develops the resources at center and then devolves to strengthen the provinces. HEC has developed its capacity in 10 years and that is the maximum as per example of 1973 constitution which we need to transfer to provinces so they provide the same services even in a more efficient, fair and democratic way.
It is therefore, HEC officials along with educationists, experts and general public join the hands to start what we believe are good things developed by HEC and evolve it further with the participation of all of us. Why do HEC officials think that they could do this work while only sitting at Islamabad? What is the point? What if sub teams of these persons along some additional persons are provided the same setup and resources at provinces? Why they can’t work there exactly in the same way as they are working in Islamabad?
It is in the light of the above that we request HEC officials along with our friends in the academia to kindly help our provinces in setting up the same bodies at provincial level and do away with the centralized HEC. These opportunities for change come once in a generation and should not be lost in the narrow mindedness of bureaucratic hurdles. In order to build a true Pakistan, we have to build our system at local level, which is fair, transparent, democratic, honest and trustworthy. This might require some personnel sacrifices but that is the way to go ahead if we are really sincere with our country as a whole!
PS: BTW, HEC still follows the outdated Soviet Model not only in terms of centralization but
also in terms of university structure! HEC’s period has witnessed more discipline specific universities than comprehensive universities! Discipline specific universities could be allowed in private sector but public sector universities MUST be comprehensive universities in order to make optimal use of resources and provide wider range of services. The comprehensive model of Universities will also make it easer for them to compete with Western universities in terms of World Ranking! Time to change now. Now or Never!
References: Xin-Ran Duan, Chinese Higher Education Enters a New Era (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3860/is_200311/ai_n9304718/?tag=content;col1 )
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 8, 2011.