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Pakistan:Globalisation and Education

By Noreen Shahid
January 28 2014




Globalisation has greatly influenced our thought process, culture and ideology. It has a huge impact on education. On one hand, globalisation has made higher education a web of knowledge through Information Technology and on the other, it has changed the structure of higher education through Neoliberal reforms. Due to higher demands and global necessities, public structure of higher education is converting into private structure. With increased number of higher education candidates, the role of universities has been transformed into knowledge workers from knowledge producers.

Universities have been commoditized which has also affected the moral structure of universities. Resultantly, it has impaired the interpersonal relationship between students and teachers and turned it into a consumer-seller relationship. Universities are offering programs according to the demand of international or local economy producing knowledge workers for private business.

With the revolution in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), various changes occurred in higher education. Although, digital broadcasting, web, e-mail and other fast and user friendly ICTs have promoted quality in higher education yet it brought many challenges for the developing countries. Rating of universities is done according to the access of ICTs. Unlike developing countries as Pakistan, the majority of developed countries have access to ICTs. Therefore, Pakistan has always been ranked lower in the list of countries with better higher education. These ICTs produce a global market in the teaching and training of knowledge workers. North America has become the largest global market in world. They have been able to claim large share of international students who spend more than $11 billion on tuition and living expenditures. Moreover, 55 percent of foreign students come from developing countries like Pakistan.

As a result of privatisation in higher education, number of universities is increasing day by day. But there is an imbalance in quantity and quality of higher education. Quantity is preferred over quality because of lack of funds. In 1947, there was only one university in Pakistan i.e. University of The Punjab, Lahore. Four years later, one university was set up in Peshawar and two in Karachi. During the regime of Ayub Khan (1958-69), two professional engineering and agricultural universities opened. The most remarkable work in public higher education was done during the Bhutto regime (1971-77). Seven universities in Sindh and southern Punjab, nine centers of excellence for promoting high quality research in different fields and seven area study centers were opened. During this era controlling authority of higher education UGC (University Grand Commission) which is now reformed as Higher Education Commission (HEC) was established.

With invent of neoliberal policies, privatization in higher education appeared during the Ziaul Haq regime (1977-86). Two private universities Aga Khan University and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) were opened. Both produced a dual education system in Pakistan. From this era on, English medium schools were established to serve elite class. By the Universities Act of 1974, autocratic powers were shifted from state to vice chancellors of the universities. With increased demand in higher education, number of universities increased. Hence, foreign faculty was imported in order to maintain quality of higher education. As a result, 85 percent of university budget was spent on salaries and allowances whereas the remaining budget was spent on research and other facilities. This caused low quality of higher education in Pakistan. To meet the crisis, tuition fees were increased. Even self-financing in public universities increased from 25 to 50 percent. This made the higher education an exclusive commodity, limited to elite class only. It left no room for lower and middle class to meet or exceed the demands of the market since degrees in higher studies were made mandatory to get a job.

In Pakistan, HEC is made responsible to meet international standards of higher education. Over several years, HEC has been playing a vital role in enhancing quality of Pakistan universities. During the 56 years period (1947-2003) not a single university was ranked amongst top 600 world universities. Now two universities of Pakistan are amongst the top 500 universities globally. Seven Pakistan universities are amongst top 250 universities of Asia. To promote higher education in Pakistan HEC financial budget has been increased up to 57.8 billion. It promotes research, thus Pakistan is contributing significantly in international publications. HEC has awarded 5000 PhD and 3000 indigenous scholarships to enhance the quality of higher education in Pakistan. But still, there is a long way to go.

Privatisation has turned education into knowledge economy. Only 5.1 percent of Pakistanis aged between 17 to 23 were enrolled in 2011. It is paramount to improve the quality of education in Pakistan ensuring more enrolments from the lower echelon of the society lest it becomes purely a commercial activity catering the needs of global economy but deepening the chasm between ruling class and ruled.

About the Author: Noreen Shahid is a social worker and studying sociology at University of the Punjab, Lahore.

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