President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi has said that Pakistan is moving towards developing a non-elitist society and in this pursuit the hybrid mode of learning can play a vital role. He said that Pakistan is quickly transitioning into an era, wherein hybrid education is changing the whole spectrum of society by opening new possibilities and opportunities. It has made knowledge dynamic and non-static.
He made these remarks while addressing the closing session of the 3-day Pak-UK Education Gateway virtual conference entitled “Rethinking and Reshaping a Resilient Higher Education System” that concluded on Thursday. The conference was jointly organized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the British Council. Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Mr. Shafqat Mahmood and Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri also attended the session.
The three days of conference brought together scholars and higher education experts from the UK and Pakistan to share how universities in both the countries have responded to COVID scenario, and discussed further strengthening of strategic transnational education partnership between the two countries. Various sessions of the conference focused on building a sustainable future for international higher education, role of higher education leadership during COVID, international collaborations and internationalisation of higher education, future of distance learning, and mobility programmes.
The President appreciated the HEC-BC partnerships, which have led to development of Pakistan’s first Open and Distance Learning Policy. He emphasized that COVID, besides its catastrophic impacts on all the spheres of life, will leave strong imprints on the education system, and that the situation has created opportunities by making institutions adopt new highways towards progress.
Dr. Alvi asserted that the hybrid learning has made it easier for women to get educated and empowered, adding that it is one of the Government’s priorities to make education less expensive and less-elitist. He said that the Pakistani universities are providing virtual and open learning much cheaper, compared to the rest of the world, and stressed the need for teachers to adapt themselves to the new teaching requirements. “The faster we move, the sooner we will make it easier for people to acquire education in the prevailing situation.”
He also highlighted the need for development of a certification system to examine and assess students. He also underlined the significance of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK and across the world, especially professionals, in terms of their role in the uplift of systems in the country.
Minister Shafqat Mahmood said that 1.5 million Pakistani youth are critical asset of the country, and the Government is committed to investing in youth development to position them in the global market. Acknowledging the paramount importance of UK’s education system, he said that Pakistan is also putting strenuous efforts to make its higher education system compatible with the best higher education sectors of the world. “In this pursuit, the contribution of partners like the UK government and the British Council, who are consistently lending their hand to us, are highly valuable.”
The Minister said that Pakistan appreciated the openness of the British people towards the Pakistani diaspora. He said the programmes like Pak-UK Education Gateway can prove to be very helpful in rethinking and reshaping a resilient higher education sector. He admired the role of this programme in developing the Pakistan’s Open and Distance Learning Policy.
Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri congratulated the conference participants on the second anniversary of Pakistan-UK Education Gateway. He emphasised that it is high time to strengthen international collaboration to share not only the best practices but also the challenges the entire world is facing in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak. “We have to learn from each other and advance our educational agenda forward.” He said that as the COVID has changed the world, including the higher education sector, the HEC adopted an eight-component approach to mitigate the disruption. He also dilated on the measures taken for technology preparedness, teacher preparedness, student preparedness, course development, laboratories and libraries readiness, examination and evaluation mechanism, and student access to higher education.
In his remarks, Minister for South Asia, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Tariq Mehmood Ahmed said the HEC-BC partnership has ushered a new era of bilateral engagement and productive outcomes. He said that the UK government attaches high importance to supporting education in Pakistan. He informed the participants that 35000 Pakistani students have completed their degrees in the past few years in the UK universities, while 60,000 students are currently pursuing their degrees. “These numbers will continue to grow, as we building on the success of the bilateral partnership.”
Pak-UK Education Gateway, launched in 2018, aims to further enhance partnership between the higher education sectors of Pakistan and the UK under a structured programme jointly sponsored by the Government of Pakistan and the British Council Pakistan. Key areas of collaboration are innovative and collaborative research, higher education leadership, quality assurance and standard setting, distance learning, international mobility, community engagement and transnational education.
During the first year of execution, 21 travel and exploratory grants have enabled 50 plus faculty to meet relevant partners, seven large scale projects between UK and Pakistan have been shortlisted to embark upon crucial research ventures, strategic relationships have been developed between National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) and Advance Higher Education UK to help enhance the governance systems and Quality Assurance Agency of the UK is closely working with HEC to help establish quality mechanisms for the higher education sector of Pakistan.