Universities must focus on enhancing the quality of education and research in addition to increasing enrolments and publications. As the economy improves, the funding situation for higher education will improve. This was stated by President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi while addressing the inaugural ceremony of International Conference on Quality Assurance System, Standards and Policies: Issues and Challenges in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training further clarified that the Government intends to enhance funding for higher education for recurring as well as the development budget.
The conference is being organised by Higher Education Commission (HEC) in collaboration with the United States Education Foundation Programme (USEFP).
President Alvi said that while education must focus on developing human intellect, it should also try to ensure that it is relevant to needs of the society.
The President emphasised that universities should improve their syllabuses, bring it into consonance with social needs and the psychological needs of the students. “Education must be a pleasure, which should not keep the students under a perpetual stress of achievement.”
He maintained that the past years have witnessed a remarkable infrastructural development in the education sector, but the majority of parents want improvement in quality of education for their children.
The President said quality improves with time, as it is a continuous learning process for individuals as well as institutions. “Let us identify our problems, reach solutions to them, and improve our ability to implement that solution within a specific timeline.” He concluded that commitment is the most vital factor needed in this regard.
In his remarks, Minister for Education Mr. Shafqat Mehmood said the Government is committed to investing in education. He said it is a priority of the Government to develop a single education system across the country.
He lamented that Pakistan is declining in the Learning Poverty Index, adding that quality has become a challenge with the expansion of access to education. He said the Government has launched the Kamyab Jawan Programme to promote start-ups and incubation activities. He maintained that 50,000 undergraduate scholarships per year have been announced under the Prime Minister Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Programme.
He acknowledged the contribution of the US Government in promotion of higher education in the country. He said the USEFP initiatives to promote higher education in Pakistan will further deepen the bilateral collaboration.
Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri said that the conference themes correspond with the HEC’s reform agenda. He added that the goal of this conference is to start a national conversation about “quality”. He maintained that quality is not a destination, it is a journey.
US Ambassador Mr. Paul Jones stated that the United States is proud of its educational linkages with Pakistan. “I have over three decades in diplomacy and have not seen more effective partner in education than HEC.” He said the United States has recently entered into 23 partnerships with Pakistani institutions, adding that 100 Pakistanis have been sent to the United States under the US-Pakistan Academic and Cultural Exchange Programme.
He informed the audience that the United States is proud of awarding 19,000 need-based scholarships to Pakistan students so far. He also mentioned the establishment of US-Pakistan Centres of Advanced Studies in three Pakistani universities, including National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad; University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar; and Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro.
The conference aims to improve the quality of higher education and advance mutual understanding of international quality assurance standards by bringing together academic experts from around the world. It will provide an opportunity for Pakistani university leaders to learn from experience of other countries and universities and share Pakistani experience with them, especially those countries that are in the process of building their higher education systems.
Moreover, the conference will seek to strengthen the quality culture, provide common ground to face up to the challenge of global competitiveness and support. It also aims to mobilise resources, establish standards, and facilitate mutual learning. It will seek to develop an improved quality system, including faculty and programme quality and identify mechanisms through which quality assurance system could contribute to sustaining and enhancing performance