IMPACT OF PAKISTAN’S BUDGET CUTS ON HIGHER EDUCATION

Budget cut, higher education

higher-education
Metaphoric representation for budget cuttings in a company.

Higher Education is very important for every human being. It makes one able to understand what is happening around us logically. Only educated person has the ability to take practical decisions and make right moves at the right time.
It not only enables individuals to put their potential to best use and do something productive in the upcoming future, but also plays a main role in shaping an individual to be a better, responsible citizen and an active member of the society.
An educated person with self-confidence and precise moves knows how to transform the world. Education provides the ladder for achieving success in life and enables us to utilise skills and caliber in a constructive way. Therefore, it’s the prime responsibility of an individual to get educated and live a prosperous life while being a responsible citizen.

Education is considered as the cheapest defence of a nation. But the condition of higher education in Pakistan bears an ample testimony of the fact that it is unable to defend its own sector.
Though 62 years have been passed and 23 policies and action plans have been introduced yet the educational sector is waiting for an arrival of a saviour.
The government of Pervaiz Musharraf invested heavily in education sector and that era saw a visible positive educational change in Pakistani society.
Now a days, the economic situation in Pakistan is under stress and education is the worse effected sector in Pakistan. The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan says,
“The state of Pakistan shall remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.”
In Human development Report Pakistan is placed at 136th position for having just 49.9% educated populace, which shows that people in the 6th largest country of the world are unable to get the basic education.

The main problem of such low literacy rate in our country is the allocation of funds for higher education, which is very low. It is only 1.5 to 2.0 percent of the total GDP, however it should be around 7% of the total GDP.
Allocation of funds should be made easy from provinces to districts and then to educational institutes.

For a country spending most of its budget on defence, education is bound to be neglected. Although there is a higher tendency among the parents belonging to different social classes to send their children for higher education and we all have witnessed that from the last few decades the private sector universities in Pakistan have grown by a large number and they are found to be the only institutions in the country which made rapid progress due to which international ranking of all Pakistani universities had improved and the growth of such institutions provides more variety to students and quality assurance as universities but it seems that our government is not in a mood to give students chance to continue their higher studies with ease.

The whole nation was stunned when on April 19, a special meeting of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was held in Islamabad, which was attended by the University officials from all over the country. It was revealed in the meeting that in the fiscal year 2018-19 the total recurring expenditures of HEC were Rs91.9 billion and the federal government only provided a grant of Rs65 billion and for 2019-20, HEC expenditures are expected to touch Rs103.5 billion and the finance division has revealed HEC would only get Rs58.5 billion. The federal government is paying HEC 45 percent less than its required expenditures, which will drastically affect higher education in the entire country.
The government has not just did this budget cut but they have also given some suggestions to HEC to follow , to cope up with this situation, which includes;

  • moratorium on new scholarship programs which will affect 21,000 students
  • doubling tuition fees in public sector universities.
  • stringent cuts in new admissions.
  • a moratorium on the construction of new universities and sub-campuses.
  • a ban on admissions in all universities opened in the last three years.
  • ban on new recruitments in universities.
  • cessation of funding for research.
  • renegotiation of co-funded foreign scholarships programs with World Bank and British Council.
  • HEC has told VCs to make arrangements to run universities from their own resources. The VCs have also been directed to get donations from alumni, philanthropists, industry and by attracting a broader array of students, including students from foreign countries to run universities.

Such anti-education policies, budgetary cuts and closure of various academic programmes shows that the government is bringing higher education sector back to the Stone Age. However , if the government continued to ignore the higher education sector, research and development activities would be affected badly and all the process of making achievements at international level would face reversal.

Although, the present government had promised that it would give top priority to the education sector and would boost and support higher education, contrary to their claims, the policies and steps being taken by the government are negatively affecting higher education sector in the country.

Since the government is not extending support to the Higher Education Commission, the HEC had to shut down some academic programmes completely while funding of some programmes had been reduced drastically, which was bringing the overall higher education sector to a halt.

The sad point is neither provincial nor federal HEC was providing any funding to the university teachers for participating and presenting research papers at the international conferences abroad, which is seriously discouraging as the researchers put in a lot of effort to do research, writing papers and get them published by reputed foreign journals.

The decision to cut down funding for higher education is akin to shooting one’s own foot. This decision of the government is directly affecting students and it has alienated the youth and in response to this, a lot of students have started a social media campaign and also begun protesting. They meet leaders of political parties to pressurise the federal government to reverse its decision. They are spending their entire time campaigning on this matter at the expense of their studies. These students have been distracted from their studies and they are the first casualty of the flawed policy of cutting costs of higher education.

CONSEQUENCES OF BUDGET CUTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Universities will find it extremely hard even to finance their day-to-day operations.
  • Less research grants resulting in less original research and innovation. May be low quality of research too.
  • Less scholarships to weaker sections of society would mean denying opportunities to them.
  • When foundation is weak, they are likely to face difficulties in finding a job later on. This means unemployed youth. It is a well researched fact that higher unemployment has high correlation with increase in crime rate.
  • It will lead to overall worse educational system in the country.
  • It will lead directly to teacher layoffs.
  • Supplementary and extracurricular programs get cut, as well, because funding is prioritised for core programs, i.e. your basic classes that everyone needs to have. Expect all that to take a pretty massive hit.

The future of our country is associated with education and if the government wanted Pakistan to prosper, it needed to prioritise higher education .

The government officials should fulfil their election promises and prioritise higher education; otherwise, teachers and students of all the universities in country would be compelled to take hard steps.

Educational budget cuts serve to harm both students and teachers, and governments should focus more on investing in youth and education instead of using education as the first thing that gets cut when the budget is tight.

Pakistan is already not doing well in terms of higher education and is already lagging far behind all major economies when it comes to Human Development Index however, expenditure in higher education is an investment in the economic growth of the country, in this very situation of our country, this decision to cut down its funding will be catastrophic and will be detrimental to present and future of our country.

The need of time is to bring education in its original form to masses because education is the only cure of the instability in the state and can bring revolution through evolution, by eradicating the social evils.

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