Decision to devolve Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan to provinces has resulted in an outcry from many circles. This decision is outcome of eventual devolution of federal ministry of education as a result of elimination of concurrent list after eighteenth amendment in the constitution.
HEC has provided services in maintaining standard and quality of higher education in Pakistan. In Brief the commission has worked to create a network of both public and private higher education institutes, managed curriculum, facilitated research and development, promoted technology, and financed and endorsed post graduate studies.
After elimination of concurrent list, Education administration has to be transferred to the provinces, as such it makes sense if HEC is to be devolved, because it cannot o longer operate in its current frame work. However federal government has jurisprudence on matters of higher education under federal legislative list (which is also modified under 18th amendment). What is yet to be seen is the proposal of the implementation commission as hinted by Senator Raza Rabbani. However a petition has been filed in Supreme Court of Pakistan and a three member bench is to start hearing from 11th April.
A controversy has erupted after HEC was advised of decision made by the government. As usual a debate has been started if HEC was an effective organisation or not, and as usual public is rewarded with contrary views as both camps have reasons in favour of their opinion. Again, as usual it has become a show of lack of discipline, communication, coordination, administration and everything else related to management and governance. Certain groups in Media (as usual) are promoting sensational conspiracy theories especially in the background of the fake degrees fiasco as HEC was held responsible to verify degrees of the elected members of legislative assemblies. Although there was nothing heroic of HEC but that they have performed their duty, also it is a very naive thought if politicians (even if they have a grudge against HEC) are conspiring because after eighteenth amendment it is inevitable that framework of functionality of HEC has to be reviewed and re-implemented. People deserved information based on a better evolution of the situation both by government, interest groups and media.
Education in Pakistan is a serious issue, it is traditionally been neglected by the governments and no serious consideration is given to education as opposed to other areas of administration and governance. What is most important for provinces is to establish a concrete policy of development of basic education, especially in Balochistan and Sindh. Provinces can help each other greatly and they can form committees and joint interest groups to not only facilitate devolution process but to gather valuable information from defunct federal education ministry. Similar approach is required in matter of higher education; in fact government of Khyber Pukhtunkwa has already formed a committee which will advise on the subject of devolution of HEC. This is constructive approach which should be adopted by all provinces and facilitated by federal government. With cooperation, trust and communication, ways can be find to manage and promote higher education in the country unanimously, HEC can be transformed in light of constitution and cooperation can be expanded between both public and private higher education institutes in all provinces with unified standards and quality control as this is usually the traditional way to manage higher education in many countries. With debate and agreement, laws can be amended to suit ground realities.
We must also not forget the fact that real challenge is to provide education to all citizens of Pakistan, and we need initiatives, cooperation and support in this regard on emergency basis.