ISLAMABAD: When it comes to education, it seems the federal government is only interested in changing the name of the ministry.

According to a memorandum issued by the government, the Ministry of Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education will be called ‘Federal Education and Professional Training Division.’ With this, the ministry’s name would be changed for the fourth time in three years.

Under the 18th amendment, education was declared a provincial responsibility and in April 2011 the federal ministry of education was devolved to provinces.

An official of the ministry requesting not to be identified said after the 18th amendment a new ‘ministry of education and professional education’ was created. After that, the authorities concerned raised the issue that where all the training institutes in the federal capital would be placed.

“So in 2012 the ministry’s name was changed to the ‘ministry of education and professional training’ to deal with the training institutions,” he said.

“In late 2012, a dispute started between politicians and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) over the verification of degrees of politicians. So the then minister of MET started trying to place the HEC under the ministry,” he said.

The cabinet division, through a notification on February 22, 2013, amended the rules of business through which the HEC was placed under the administrative control of MET.

But to justify the placement of the HEC under the ministry, the name of MET was changed again to the ‘ministry of education, training and standards in higher education,’ the official added.

Though the matter was resolved after the ministry was renamed, an objection was raised in the Senate that education was a provincial subject and cannot be used at the federal level. Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who had been very vocal about the issue, said the name of the ministry should be changed.

According to the memorandum (copy available with Dawn), in terms of rule 3 of the Rules of Business 1973, “the prime minister has approved the change in the nomenclature of the ministry of education, training and standards in higher education as the ‘ministry of federal education and professional training’.”

In this regard, necessary amendments to the Rule of Business 1973 will be made, it added.

When contacted, Prof Dr Attaur Rahman, the founding chairperson of the HEC, said the educational system in Pakistan was in a complete mess. Pakistan is among the eight countries that have the lowest funding on education.“The prime minister’s promise to spend 4 per cent of the GDP on education has not been implemented. The education sector has been ignored by the successive governments. I had to go to the court to for the appointment of the HEC chairperson.”

Prof Rehman said the meeting of the commission of HEC could not be held for the last 15 months because of the issue of quorum. The HEC should be independent in utilisation of funds and it should approve projects through the Departmental Working Party.

“The provincial governments do not have the capacity to run educational institutions. It seems education is not among the priorities of the federal and provincial governments,” Prof Rehman added.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2014

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