Higher education science policy from new perspective


Pakistan, a nation of around 120 million with its potential, deserves much higher scientific stature. It needs visionary and honest leadership than money. Pakistans relative position in the world of science has been regularly on the decline as compared to India and China. Diagnosing the problem will be the first step towards reversing this downturn.

In 2002 after the creation of Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan adopt a trickle-down strategy, in which more than fifty universities were established in the hope that good science in universities will energize the masses, and a bottom-up approach, in which the general public is targeted with schemes to popularize science. But unfortunately this plan does not work properly. This policy was simply based on the assumption that the answer to our problems lies simply in more money.

Money is not the primary constraining factor in our problems, nor will an abundance of it solve them. More money is undoubtedly better, but if there is a strong system with no or very less leakage. Since 2002 Pakistan invested around Rs 300 billion in higher education sector but very less outcome. We have to see our own core problems which makes hurdle and generate our own solutions for them.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS: I suggest that our policy-makers consider the following.

• First, provide modest funding to a very large number of small, single-investigator, in government universities – to achieve diverse ideas from whole country and a feeling of mass participation.

• Provide heavy and directed funding into a few specific projects of national importance – such as energy, water and public health – with high levels of accountability and proper exit opportunity.

• HEC must have proper checks and balances system for research evaluation in order to curtail fake research papers.

• We need long-term solutions which include improvement of undergraduate level teaching institution and teaching laboratories with respect to greater uniformity and transparency.

• If we really want to grow as develop nation we must target poorest of the poor in our higher education policy and need to allocate special funding for them.

• In a healthy organizational setup, the decision-makers are also active members of that institution who has a stake in the future. We have a system where our vice-chancellors are appointed by politicians in Islamabad or provincial capitals.

• The most important decisions in an academic system concern the appointment of faculty; this must be properly checked. In our country promotions and appointments in most of the institutions are often based on loyalties rather than merit.

Pakistan needs to look beyond government funding and find other means that can renovate the face of science in the country. The private sector and philanthropic organizations must stride in if the country is to realize its huge scientific potential. The government should provide encouragements for foreign universities, funding agencies and multinational corporations to invest in Pakistans higher education sector within a regulatory framework under strict supervision. The government could help to promote the economic and social gains on these investments to other interested parties. I personally feel that money injections from diverse funding sources will help to drive competition, improve scientific output and will improve check and balance as well.

The true measures of a countrys scientific strength are found in the numbers of competent teachers and excellent students in schools and undergraduate level, because these translate into real assets for future of a society.

One of the vital questions is what should be the appropriate level of financial support needed for our higher education? Is there a quantifiable rationale beyond “more is always better?” In my personal opinion excess of recourses also spoil the research institutions and most of the time researchers are not going for economical solutions and as consequence wasting money.

Pakistan has to seek its own solutions for its problems.

We must move to more rational, humble and tolerant society rather than our current conservative school of thinking that denounced philosophy and rationalism.

We seriously need honest and visionary leadership in both political and scientific level who can be better role model for our younger generation.

The writer Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CNRS, Laboratoire des Glucides, Universite des Picardie Jules Verne, France.

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