Education has been understood as preparation for life. It is an essential element in development and social change in accordance with our needs. Higher Education (HE) in particular is considered to play a crucial role in the grooming of the new generation for socio-economic change. It provides professionals to cater to the needs of private and public enterprises through knowledge exchange.

The 18th Amendment Act, 2010, passed in the National Assembly on April 8, 2011, introduced a number of changes in the Constitution of Pakistan-1973. It amended 102 articles and devolved 47 subjects to the exclusive legislative and executive domain of the provinces. Education is one of the key subjects being devolved to the provincial mandate. The concurrent legislative list that included education as a shared legislative jurisdiction at the federal and provincial level has been omitted, which will have a negative impact on education in general and HE in particular.

The omission of articles from the concurrent list and new entries in federal legislative list will have significant implications on the HE sector in Pakistan and Higher Education Commission (HEC). For example, one can hardly separate item 38 being devolved to provinces from Entry 12 FLL part-II. This reflects the negligence of the parliamentary committee in consulting scholars, educationists, VCs, reviewing HEC’s role, arranging seminars and conferences before devolution of the education sector.

It is important to note that articles 12, 6 and 13 were inserted as the mandate of the Council of Common Interest rather than HEC. The mandate of HEC under its ordinance of 2002, clause 10 (A, G, O and V) has been devolved to the province as per article 38 and is a significant shift. It has to justify its legitimacy as a single federal body on HE. The emerging scenario would need to re-articulate the federal, provincial and HEC’s role.

Federal role

The federal government is left to deal with international treaties, education in federal territories and inter-government coordination. Entry 16 (federal agencies/institutions for research), entry 17 (Pakistani students in foreign countries and vice-versa), and entry 7 (national planning and national economic coordination of scientific and technological research) remained unchanged. The federal government has to abolish inter-provincial coordination e.g., inter-board committee’s and inter-provincial education ministerial which were a part of the federal ministry of education.

Provincial role

The 18th Amendment redefines the role of provinces. Since its passage in April 2011, no concrete steps are being taken by the provinces, in particular the province of Balochistan, to deal with the HE sector.

Challenges for provinces

The curriculum and standard of education must be competitive at national/international levels (uniformity with national and international standards). This would need experts especially at the higher education level. New wings/sections have to be established for new responsibilities and new policies have to be approved from the cabinet or assembly e.g., Balochistan does not have the compulsory Primary Education Legislation for implementing article 25-A (Free and compulsory education for children of ages 5-16 years).

The province would require specialised arrangements to respond to the challenges confronting the HE sector. It must therefore have in place a provincial HEC or council in line with the HEC Ordinance of 2002 with clear composition, power and functions to deal with the HE sector and its standards, and it must be an autonomous body.

Legislation for special study centres

A new legislation would be required for centres of excellence, area study centres and Pakistan Study centres devolved to the provinces and previously working under Acts of 1974, 75 and 1976.

Provision of HR and financial resources

Balochistan needs to hire new staff to perform function in the HE sector. New wings/sections have to be established, delegation of new responsibilities to provincial education department e.g., Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, textbook boards setting standards for the private sector on policy and curriculum. This may require legislation from the parliament.

The legislative and administrative capacity of the provinces and provision of funds could be a serious challenge. The provinces have to project financial resources required for HE. The HE sector in Balochistan is under severe financial and HR crisis. It is not even in a position to pay salaries to its employees. Under clause (4) Article 167, the provinces can make plans to engage federal and international partners to borrow/receive assistants/loans for projects.

Impacts on HE

• The 18th Amendment Act will have a significant impact on the HE sector nationally and provincially. At the national level, no legal and legislative protection is given to the HEC as a federal unit. As per Article 38 devolved,

HEC may not justify its position as a single body on HE.

• Devolution would encourage multiplicity of standards/regulations on admissions, and minimum quality requirement for appointment, promotion, quality assurance on academics, curriculum and scholarships and would impact on overall knowledge exchange.

• HE at the national level will face serious challenges on access, quality, relevance and equity that hold fundamental positions promoting national cohesion. HEC will also face international challenges from international donor agencies on adopting economic and social change essential to education innovation at the institutional level. As devolution limits the HEC’s role in the provincial HE sector, it would also limit its role in cross borders/collaboration in sharing knowledge.

• The socio-economic development plan is very much connected with the country’s HE and science and technology programmes. For instance the HR requirements such as doctors, engineers, scientists and economists have to be determined at the national level and so is the funding that comes from the federal government. Devolution will have a negative impact on the process of national socio-economic development provincially and federally.

The devolution of the education sector especially Article 38 will have a negative impact on the HE sector at the national and provincial level as it is challenging the mandate of HEC.

The HEC and the provinces will face national/international challenges. Article 129 (“the provincial government subject to the Constitution, the executive authority of the province shall be exercised in the name of governor by the provincial government consisting of chief minister or ministers” will deeply politicise the appointment of VCs, rectors and presidents.

Uniformity, standards/regulations compatible with the national/international standards may not be maintained in the HE sector in all provinces. The 18th amendment would be a failure as far as the HE sector is concerned.

Challenges such as access, quality, relevance and equity require further response from the HEC.

Entry 38 may have to be placed in the concurrent FFL Part II. This requires HEC to approach the Council of Common Interest/federal government for reconsideration by the National Assembly. The dissenting note from Mr Ahsan Iqbal (member of the committee, now federal minister) that Entry 38 should be in the FFL Part II is already on record.

The HEC ordinance 2002 must be enacted from the Parliament.

The provinces need legislation for devolved subjects. There should also be specialised arrangements responding to challenges confronting the HE sector e.g., administrative and resource capacity. Policy and planning wings in the provincial education secretariat also need to be established. Besides, the development of autonomous bodies such as the HEC or councils is needed at the provincial level. Heads also need to be put together to come up with financial resources for HE.

The writer is former vice chancellor of University of Balochistan, Quetta

Opinion

Editorial

A new operation
Updated 25 Jun, 2024

A new operation

Clear deterrent action is needed against terrorist groups, but without upending the lives of people in the affected areas.
Power theft
25 Jun, 2024

Power theft

FEDERAL Energy Minister Awais Leghari’s statement during a TV interview that electricity theft amounts to Rs600bn ...
Fatal air
25 Jun, 2024

Fatal air

TOXIC air can cost us our children. It causes life-threatening illnesses, inflicts lifelong damage and leads to ...
Time for dialogue
Updated 24 Jun, 2024

Time for dialogue

If the PML-N and PTI remain mired in mutual acrimony, an ever-widening gap will continue to allow non-political forces to assert themselves.
Property taxes
24 Jun, 2024

Property taxes

ACCORDING to reports in the local media, along with the higher taxes imposed on real estate in the recent budget, ...
Fierce heat
24 Jun, 2024

Fierce heat

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, ...