ISLAMABAD: During a recent meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI), which was chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, representatives of the provinces agreed that the federal Higher Education Commission (HEC) should be tasked with maintaining education standards while provincial HECs should follow their respective mandates.
The minutes of the 34th CCI meeting, held on Nov 24 in the Prime Minister Office and available with Dawn, says that matters pertaining to the HEC and other similar bodies were discussed in the post 18th Amendment scenario.
The issue of the devolution of the HEC has been lingering on for seven years.
“There was consensus amongst the provinces that HEC at the federal level may spearhead the initiative of maintaining education standards and provincial HECs may follow their respective mandate,” the minutes read.
Provincial HECs are to follow their own mandates, provincial representatives agree in CCI meeting
According to minutes of the meeting, Federal Minister for Education Balighur Rehman highlighted the importance of maintaining the standard of higher education and told the participants that a committee constituted by the CCI had held a number of meetings in this regard.
Sindh differed on the uniformity of the curriculum, however and, according to the minutes, the meeting was told that the matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court.
The CCI had directed that the Inter Provincial Coordination Committee (IPCC) try to evolve consensus, it said. During a meeting of the IPCC, Sindh Minister for Health Dr Sikandar Mahindro and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister had agreed to form a subcommittee.
The document goes on to say that it was pointed out that subcommittee meetings are attended by representatives of varying stature which affects decision making and that respective provincial ministers should attend future meetings in order to ensure better decision making.
“It was informed that higher education standards are improving and some Pakistani universities have achieved a respectable place among the top 500 universities of the world,” the document says, and that it would not be prudent for the provinces to set different standards.
“The provinces of Punjab, Sindh and KP endorsed the view point of the federal government,” it says.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal talked about the need for effective coordination between the provinces despite the devolution of the sector and suggested that results of exams held by the respective boards be compared to those of other exams such as entrance exams for various professional institutions held by the provinces.
The interior minister suggested that a national task force comprised of representatives of federal and provincial governments be formed to ensure uniformity of education standards across the country.
Minister of Inter Province Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada endorsed Mr Iqbal’s view point and the Sindh chief minister said he will ensure the participation of education minister for the early resolution of the issue.
According to the minutes, KP CM Pervez Khattak pointed out that Urdu medium education in government schools puts students at a disadvantage to those in private English medium schools. He urged for English medium education to be introduced in government schools at the primary level and said the education system in KP has been adapted already.
“We need to adopt a mixed system where the technical terminology should remain intact in English, while the conceptual learning should be in Urdu,” the interior minister said.
The Punjab finance minister is reported as saying that duality of education standards is not desirable and that the curriculum should be uniform across the country and the federal education minister said that the National Curriculum Council is represented by all the provinces.
According to the document, the CCI decided that all provinces shall ensure that their representation level is not lower than a minister or a secretary of the respective department and that the representation should not be changed for consistency.
It was also decided that a National Task Force will be constituted in order to ensure uniform standards of education across the country.
Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2017