Compromised standards of higher education in Pakistan

Lahore: Pakistan started out from only one higher education institute, University of the Punjab that was established in 1882. From then, till date over 190 private and public sector universities have been providing education to the youth of Pakistan. Though the increase in numbers present a constructive picture of an educated society but surprisingly enough, no university of Pakistan could make a place in the top 600 of Times Higher Education World University rankings or any other international ranking system. India however, starting the journey side by side made its mark in the world of education with five universities in the top 500 of the world universities and 33 in the top 1000. The statistics clearly shows the preference of Pakistanis on quantity versus quality of the institutes.

The private sector universities in Pakistan are specifically on the rise. With two private universities till 1991, more than 75 private sector universities have been established until now. Truth tracker approached students of various private and public sector universities to get a clear picture of the quality of education provided. Moiz, a student of Mass Communication in a private university, explained the issues faced by the student body. “Mass communication requires practical exposure more than the theory but no opportunities are available for students to engage in such practical knowledge seeking activities. It is totally up to the student to make an effort for any useful exposure or else the employers do not hire anyone with a mere degree. The facilities for training, research and extracurricular activities are almost none as compared to the amount of fees taken from a student in each semester.” Another private university student, Ali, also alluded to more or less the same situation of the private institutions. “The teachers are not competent, evaluation system is unsatisfactory, research and training opportunities are very limited, students are in access as compared to faculty members and no check and balance is maintained on the content delivered. It is as if the university is a shopping mall run by businessmen and students are just here to buy degrees with faculty playing the role of salesmen”, he stated.

A student of the renowned public University in Lahore, Sadoon Ali, described the inner picture of the public institutions. He stated that the public universities, no doubt, take the students on meritocracy but due to the lack of management system, cannot make them a skilled worker for Pakistan. The professors enjoy their permanent employment and do not pursue their duties honestly and as a result the students do not prefer to come to class. Since, it is very difficult for the university to rusticate such students or professors, the system goes on and sets a trend for any incoming freshman student.”  On the other hand, a student from a public university expressed satisfaction from her institution. While talking to the Truth Tracker she said that, “I am satisfied with the quality of curriculum and teaching methodologies of the lecturers at my department. The marking criterion is also up to the mark. She further expressed her concern by saying that, “We are not given as much opportunity of working in physics lab as is required. So, I think that universities should focus on imparting practical knowledge to the students.” –

Prime Minister Imran Khan promised the most ambitious educational agenda by reforming the educational institutions of Pakistan but it is yet to be determined whether his government will walk the talk. The issues plaguing the educational system right now are multifold. In this regard, an Assistant Professor of a public University in Lahore, Imran Alam expressed his concerns to Truth Tracker, “The problems of Pakistani educational system cannot be analyzed from a single dimension. The issues are manifold. Management of the universities have failed to provide an environment conducive to learning for students and teachers. Political groups are working in the institutes that create hurdles in the progress of any educational activities. Apart from that, the faculty members lack job satisfaction and are always looking for a way to save money.” he further voiced, “The students lack discipline and motivation. The universities have failed to provide the requisite research and training opportunities to students that could help them excel in the society. The issues thus, have a reciprocal effect. The state needs to fulfill its responsibility towards the students and in turn the students also need to fulfill theirs to the state”. Faculty member at a private university, Professor Salman pointed out that competent teachers cannot work effectively in a private setup because these institutions work as a business enterprise.

Teachers are not paid well; they lack job satisfaction and have limited authority on how to deliver content and evaluate students. Thus, faculty members cannot play their productive role in shaping students. Similar concern was voiced by a lecturer at a public sector university. “40% students of my class failed and I was required not to fail such a high ratio of students. So, I had to pass some of them”, says Tauseef Iftikhar, lecturer at a public sector university. “Moreover, the modern liberal environment of especially private institutions is distracting students from gaining quality education”, the professors agreed.

Truth Tracker reached out to Advocate Adnan Ahsan, an academician, education analyst and member of various education committees, to speak about the deteriorating quality of education provided by higher education institutes in Pakistan. He said, “I do not mind expansion of educational institutions until and unless they do not compromise on quality of education, which they are doing right now.” He further added, “There should be first of all, an independent ranking system to rank the education providing institutes of Pakistan. Faculty members should be hired on a contract basis and evaluated according to their performance. A minimum pay scale should be set to increase job satisfaction in them. There should be minimum criteria for admissions that students need to fulfill in order to be eligible for higher education. Opportunities of research such as well-equipped libraries, research engines, plagiarism software, tutorial system, databases etc. should be ensured by every higher education institution. Practical field of study should also be accredited by independent bodies after the degrees.”

Not only the higher education institutions are multiplied but also, the student enrolments are exponentially elevated in recent years. The demand of quality education in the country has thus inflated by leaps and bounds while quality right now, conversely, have decreased to an alarming level. The students now a days may have access to the degree on paper but they do not have access to the kind of education that would enable them to make a real difference in the socio-economic development of Pakistan, the very motto of Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan. The government needs to take into consideration whether the universities are acting as a catalyst of change by producing productive degree holders every year. Tauseef Iftikhar, commenting on this, added, “The government should focus on setting up vocational training institutes for skillful labor force.” If no immediate quality control and consolidation is taken into account, the problems of unemployment, lack of skilled workers and substandard education would prevail and continue to grow constantly for a long period of time.

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