Jac's view for the Privatization of Education

01-02-2021 By: Raja Mahboob Hussain

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In the name of reforms for the education system of our beloved country, such drastic changes are being initiated that are of basic nature and tantamount to changing the public sector of education that runs in public interest, to profit oriented private sector. These far-reaching changes have been made without consulting the stake- holders and without discussing their merits and demerits.

The issue involved is political and economic and is not that of administration of education, as it is given out to be. It hinges on the answer to the question that besides the elite class of Pakistan any other class, specially middle and lower class children are to be provided with a basic need like education, or they are to be deprived of even that. Whatever name may be given to it, public-private partnership, reforms, or inefficiency of the public-sector-system, the real question is: is it not the duty of the state to establish an education system that provides education to the poor, middle and lower classes children? Though its quality of education may not be equated with that of LUMS, Agha Khan University, Chief's College or Grammar Schools. If the military government is bent upon usurping the fundamental rights of people through the ruse of Autonomy, Self-support and the poisonous pills of so called Reforms, then the tax-paying citizens too have the right to defend and protect their rights.

The teachers, students and doctors, by utilizing their constitutional right, have been protesting against the government policies for the last six months, as these are detrimental to public interest. During this period the rulers perpetrated extreme state-repression in the form of lathi-charges and imprisonment. The lady teachers were dragged on roads by clutching their hair. Tear gas shells were fired. Teachers were dismissed from service. To suppress the movement, every third rate method was used that can not be imagined in a democratic welfare or Islamic state. Serious kinds of cases were framed without any justification. Unlike other movements in the history of this country, this organized and peaceful protest movement, run to safeguard public interest and in which thousands of people participated, did not damage public property---not a bit. The only crime of the teachers, students and doctors is that they demand that the government should do its duty according to the articles 37 and 38 of the constitution and provide the citizens less costly education and health services. The government seems hell bent on shaking off this basic and constitutional duty and thus deprive 95% of population of its right to cheap education and health.

It is the basic and essential duty of the state to provide its citizens with reasonable education and health services and it is also an inalienable right of the citizen. The article 37 and 38 of the constitution directs the state unequivocally:

Article 37-B, Annex-1

"Remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory education within minimum possible period."

Article 37-C

"Make technical and professional education generally available and higher education generally accessible to all on the basis of merit."

Article 38-D

"Provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment."

In 1998, a World Bank report, in its paragraphs no.128, 130, 132, the government of Pakistan was pressurized for certain economic changes and it was called to grant "Autonomy" to some prestigious colleges so that they may serve as models for corporate management in education. Under this pressure the government of Punjab granted autonomy to three colleges, namely, the Government College, Lahore, the Government College, Faisalabad, and Government Lahore College, for Women, Lahore and decided to establish boards of governors in them. The bureaucracy dug out an ordinance of 1960 from the attic room of its record. This ordinance was promulgated for the army training institutions like Govt. Cadet College, Hasan Abdal, Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, and Govt. Cadet College, Kohat. This ordinance was implemented in the above mentioned three institutions in 1960 and 1962. And according to this very ordinance of 1960, aforementioned three civilian colleges were granted partial autonomy and their boards of governors were constituted. It is interesting to note that this ordinance has nothing to do with the improvement of the standard of education. It was issued for some government colleges, (As is apparent from its implementation in 1960 and 1962 in military type cadet colleges) during Ayub Khan's Martial Law. This ordinance was neither for all government colleges nor was it a part of some well considered and thought out policy. Its objectives are quite clear from its preamble. It says:

"Whereas it is expedient to establish boards of governors for some government educational and training institutions in the Punjab for the efficient management and control thereof."

In the beginning this ordinance was made for West Pakistan. After the break of One Unit two cadet colleges remained under its purview while the Cadet College Kohat went under the control of NWFP. After the laps of 40 years, sudden impositions of this ordinance on all the government (civilian) colleges of Punjab is unwarranted and uncalled for. There is not a single sentence about curriculum in it.

Later the Punjab Assembly, through two acts also granted degree-awarding status to Government College Lahore and Government Lahore College, for Women, Lahore. In 1997 four more educational institutions, Govt. Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Govt. Queen Mary College for Women, Lahore, Govt. Fatima Jinnah College, for women, Choona Mandi, Lahore and Govt. College, Kahuta, Rawalpindi were given partial autonomy. Thus these five colleges are being run under partial autonomy. Under this very ordinance of 1960, the government of Punjab declared autonomy for twelve more colleges and one school in Faisalabad and established boards of governors for them.

The question is, are we to frame our policies keeping public interest in view or the dictates of IMF/World Bank? The people pay taxes to the government out of their hard -earned income so that the government may provide them some facilities. All welfare states, particularly an Islamic welfare state is morally bound to provide affordable education and health services to it citizens. In order to provide education and cure cheaply to its citizens the state spends part of the accumulated tax-money on health and education for the welfare of the people and strengthening of the state. If the government declines to spend this small amount on these sectors then 95 % of people will be deprived of their right to health and education. The future of the present as well as the coming generations will be darkened. By establishing boards of governors in the colleges in the name of autonomization. The government of Punjab is handing over national assets of billions of rupees to some unscrupulous money -changers that will ultimately lead to privatization of educational institutions.

Autonomy or Privatization(BOG)

According to the governmental stance, its object is to grant autonomy to educational institutions by establishing boards of governors, so that they generate their own financial resources and free the government of its financial responsibilities. It will also help in raising the standard of education. While the teachers, students and the masses consider it to be privatization. Let us examine the ordinance of 1960 and see if it would serve public interest and could be instrumental in enhancing the standard of education. According to section No.8-A of the ordinance of 1960 the board of governors will have the power:

a) To acquire and dispose off property and generally to enter into contracts, in confirmity with the purposes of this ordinance.

b) Recruitment and determination of the terms and conditions of the principal and the other members of the staff of the institutions and of the other officers and servants of the board.

f) To frame, subject to the approval of the government, regulations for the conduct of the business of the board

It is very likely that the powers given to the boards of governors will create more problems than resolve them.

1.. The national property will be bungled, misappropriated and misused.
2.. The powers to determine service conditions will encourage political interference in the educational institutions.
3.. The powers to frame rules and regulations will facilitate exploitation.
4.. The powers to enhance fee will increase financial burden on the poor population and the commoners will be deprived of the right to education.
5.. According to section 9, as long as a board of governors does not recruit personnel for its institution, it will have the power to keep the employees of the Punjab government, and can hand the services of these employees over to Punjab government as and when it deems proper. This will create uncertainty amongst the employees and distract them from their work.

The recruitment of the staff and other officers under present arrangement is done through Public Service Commission. The criteria is nothing but merit. The candidates have to compete and only the best are selected. The recruitment under the board is not going to be fair, objective and on merit. It will encourage nepotism and education will become a handmaid of the local influentials.

As is proclaimed that the BOGs will be authorized to introduce the curricula of their own choice. This will add to the already prevalent divisive tendencies. We are a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, people. We are in the process of nation building. This will compromise whatever uniformity we have at present.

The experiment of the board of governors has been tried before also. It had failed. In an institution of grand historical background, namely, the Govt. College, Lahore and the Govt. Lahore College for Women, Lahore and the Govt. College, Faisalabad the boards of governors were established in 1989. Before the boards of governors the academic standard of all the three institutions was laudable and exemplary. Nine years after autonomy, 1998, the governor of Punjab, constituted a committee, consisting of four renowned academicians, who's terms of reference were to assess Government College, Lahore's development, academic betterment and success under the new arrangement and determine whether the institution had achieved the objective for which it was made autonomous. A brief summary of report of the committee is given below.

Exorbitant increase in fee, fines and various kinds of funds, have made education in Govt. College, Lahore almost impossible for the deserving and the poor students. Any further increase in expanses will tantamount to closing the gates of this institution for the poor and intelligent students. The real object for which the World Bank was insistent to make some institutions self-supporting was to rid the budget of the expenses on education. This objective caused the increase in fee from 15 to 20 times. In spite of it the government grant to the college was increased twice. The object was not fulfilled.

After this report the government should have desisted from repeating this failed experiment but in 2002 by establishing boards of governors in 13 colleges of Faisalabad, it repeated the same failed experiment. It nominated some notorious money-changers as members of the boards. Some of them had been the members of the BOG of Government College, Faisalabad, and had not contributed a penny but instead became the source of political intervention.

In Govt. College, Faisalabad, though the fee increased four times yet the standard of education and the level of merit deteriorated. The institution that was preferred by the students for admission, now can not fill its seats even by lowering its merit. Hundreds of seats remain vacant.

Exorbitant increase in Govt. Lahore College for Women, Lahore and Govt. Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, has debarred the poor and middle class girls from taking admission in these institutions. After five years of autonomy of Govt. Fatima Jinnah College for Women, Choona Mandi, Lahore, neither its standard of education nor merit has improved. While in the same area the standard of education and the level of merit of the Govt. Aisha Degree College for Women, Timber Market, Lahore is far higher, though it has not been 'honoured' with the establishment of the board of governors.

The Establishment of the New Universities.

The establishment of the universities is a serious matter. Serious thinking and planning by experts and academicians is needed prior to sanctioning a degree-awarding status to an institution. Lest it becomes a laughing stock if its degrees are spurned as phoney. Without highly qualified staff, better service conditions, laboratories of high standard, well provided libraries and research centers, declaring a college to be a university by a military command is not a reasonable proposition. The colleges that have been declared to be universities do not fulfil the above- mentioned standard. They have neither the highly qualified staff nor better service conditions, standard laboratories, libraries and research centers.

Govt. College University, Faisalabad, and Govt. College University, Sargodha, three months prior to their newly acquired status of the university were refused affiliation with Punjab University by the PU Affiliation Committee for Masters in Punjabi and Economics. The committee observed that since highly qualified staff and the library facilities for the subjects was not available so the affiliation could not be granted. Thus both the colleges were refused affiliation. But the Punjab government has granted them the degree-awarding status by declaring them universities. Is it not a very cruel joke? Will not the credibility of their degrees be questioned?

On one hand the government takes the position that degrees of public universities including the Punjab University are not accepted abroad on the other it has resorted to declaring those colleges universities who were refused affiliation for post graduate courses as the they lacked the infrastructure for this purpose. If for argument's sake, we accept the argument of the government, then, if the degrees of the oldest and biggest university of the country are not accepted abroad then how could the degrees of those college-universities that were refused affiliation three months ago, be accepted? Would it be proper to give them university status while they do not have qualified staff, laboratories, libraries and research centers etc? Would their degrees have any credibility? Will their degree holders be able to win good jobs even within the country? Would they be able to compete with candidates against credible degree-holders? Without the provision of requisite facilities for universities, to grant three colleges the status of universities and allow them to award degrees is the negation of government's own stand.

The government of Punjab, in order to patronize a favourite individual, declared DSD( Directorate of Staff Development, an institution that provides training to teachers from primary to college level), was awarded university status. Sixteen education colleges and thirty-six elementary schools were made part of it.

The peculiarity of the Education University is that it has been established, but its charter has not been issued. Till now the purpose of its establishment has not been expressed. Forty- two institutions have been extricated from the public sector and made part of this so- called university. According to a recent press report the government has recanted and declared that these forty-two institutions would be affiliated to the university and not be constituent institutions as was notified earlier.

There is no example, anywhere in the world, of establishing a university for one subject. Besides it, in the PTC level institutions, B.Ed courses have been started without requisite staff and facilities, The fee, in these institutions have been increased exorbitantly. The staff of these forty-two institutions will be at the mercy of the vice-chancellor. The university will recruit its own staff and till then, for the interim period, the vice-chancellor will allow the employees of the government of Punjab to function according to his whims and will have the powers to hand their services over to the government as and when he wishes so.

Some days ago, the Education University announced to initiate Ph.D in all the subjects. All the students who applied for admission were granted admission. The ludicrous thing is that the Education University has neither the staff for any subject nor libraries, laboratories, research centers etc. According to the university's announcement the duration for Ph.D would be two years but for exacting heavy fee the duration was increased to four years. The candidates were told that they should search for their own guide, libraries and laboratories etc. Later it was announced that the science degree would be theoretical so that the laboratory would not be needed. The candidate was allowed to choose a guide from any subject if he intends to do his Ph.D in English. This happened in the Govt. College of Education, Lower Mall Road Lahore. Nadeem Aziz who is a candidate for Ph.D in English chose Dr. Asif Iqbal as his guide, who is a Ph.D in Philosophy, . The university has allowed this arrangement. More examples can be quoted where the guide's subject and the aspirant candidate's subject are not the same. The candidates have been asked that they should deposit their theses after the completion of specified time and if they have paid their fee they will be 'bestowed' with the Ph.D degree. Thus the relationship of the university and the student will be confined to payment of fee and receiving a piece of paper (Degree).

Recruitment on Contract.

Recruitment on contract is poisonous for the educational system. In an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty the process of learning and teaching can not go on smoothly. The experience of ad-hoc lecturers is with us. The recruitment on contract opens the way for exploitation and above all the experiment of recruitment on the basis of contract for grade18 and 19 has failed miserably. So it is a must that in educational institutions recruitment be made on permanent basis and not on contract.

Ours is a poor country. More than 40% of our population lives below poverty line. It is difficult for them to make both ends meet. Often one earning member has to feed many. The nation as a whole can get out of this abyss of destitution only through education. We request the Commission to prepare its recommendations keeping the economic plight of our masses in view. It is not a problem of some teachers, students and doctors. It is the problem of coming generations. We hope that the Commission will prepare its recommendations in the national interest and earn good wishes of Pakistani nation.

Raja Mahboob Hussain
Information Secretry
Joint Action Committee Pakistan


LPP (For a democratic socialist Pakistan)

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