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ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) act that would allow the board to expand its jurisdiction throughout the country.

Currently, government and private educational institutions located outside federal areas, garrisons and cantonment areas cannot be affiliated with the FBISE.

The Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training, which met at the Parliament Lodges, approved the amendment to widen the board’s jurisdiction unanimously after a discussion.

Standing committee discusses defence ministry-controlled universities, provincial HECs

The mover of the bill, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, told the committee that the scope of the FBISE in terms of affiliated institutions and candidates appearing in examinations was very limited at the time of its inception, but has now expanded manifold.

She said many public and private educational institutions have the option to become affiliated with foreign boards or with any local private, semi-government or government board for secondary and higher secondary certificates.

But, she said, institutions that want to be affiliated with the FBISE cannot do so because the FBISE act limits its jurisdiction to cantonment areas, garrisons and federal areas.

“Under existing provisions of the FBISE Act, 1975 the board can’t allow such affiliation without extending its jurisdiction through amendment in its act,” the draft amendment says.

Before the bill was approved, the state minister for federal education, Balighur Rehman, told the committee the FBISE’s jurisdiction needed to be expanded in order to provide equal opportunities to all the students and schools in the country who wish to register themselves with the FBISE.

He said extending the board’s jurisdiction will not only facilitate a large number of students but would also create a healthy, competitive environment and improvement in the standards of other boards in the country.

FBISE Chairman Dr Ikram Ali Malik told Dawn that students who move from areas that fall within the FBISE’s limits to other areas suffer due to changes in the syllabi.

He said Pakistani children abroad also study at institutions affiliated with the board, but when they return home they “don’t find any institutions affiliated with the FBISE in their locality”, which creates difficulties for them.

Dr Malik said the bill will now be moved to the Senate and, if passed by the upper house, will be referred to the National Assembly.

Universities under Defence Ministry

The Senate standing committee also discussed issues regarding universities controlled by General Headquarters, such as the National University of Science and Technology, the National University of Modern Languages, National Defence University and Air University.

Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak questioned the appointment criteria of vice chancellors at these universities. Mr Rehman told the committee that GHQ directly appoints vice chancellors to the universities, which fall under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, adding that the universities do receive funding from the Higher Education Commission.

Mr Khattak also said the quality of the large number of PhD programmes being offered by NDU should be checked, to which Mr Rehman said the HEC ensures the quality of education offered by all higher education institutions, including the aforementioned universities, and takes action against those who do not follow its rules and regulations.

An HEC official agreed with the minister’s claim, saying the commission recently closed down several NDU PhD programmes. The minister said the aforementioned universities offer high quality education.

Provincial HECs

The committee also expressed reservations over political interference in university affairs, and said the status of higher education in Sindh is unsatisfactory. Committee members argued that the role of the HEC should not be curtailed, and a powerful and independent commission is in the country’s interest.

Mr Rehman told the committee that Punjab and Sindh have formed provincial HECs following the 18th amendment, and Sindh has taken the matter to the Council of Common Interest level to get more powers.

He said the council has referred the matter to a committee lead by Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, adding: “The committee is deliberating upon the issue of provincial and central HECs.”

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2017