ISLAMABAD - As continuously increasing education expenditures were reaching beyond parents capacity, experts believe that modern and novel teaching methodology could be one of panacea to address this issue.
In a tug of war between the parents and owners of private educational institutions, either the students miss the opportunities of quality education or the lives of their parents become miserable.
The owners, despite earning significant profit, are often seen complaining of extra expenditures in running their institutions due to the price hike of essentials.
If, for a moment, their claims were accepted, there could have been no justification for them to continue with this business if there was no profit. But they go with it, and the easy way to recover their expenditures is to shift the burden to parents through an increase in fees.
Therefore, educational experts have come up with the notion of adopting proper planning, the use of the latest technologies, and a systematic approach to reducing education costs at schools.
For them, it might initially seem counterintuitive to invest in new technology. However, choosing the right software and tools can reduce the need for working capital and minimise the use of material resources.
“In many cases, private institutions are charging hefty amounts, and the government should actively engage with them to get fee structures rationalized,” remarked former Vice Chancellor Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Dr Shahid Siddiqui. “When they are earning millions of rupees, the chargeable amount is becoming unbearable even for middle-class parents, while kids of poor people cannot even think of studying at these institutions.”
“The government and the owners of private institutions should sit together and think out a way forward to address this issue,” he added. He pleaded in favour of the idea of distant learning through the latest online techniques and said, “It will make us technologically efficient and help save money.”
Dr Siddiqui said different schools use bulk paper to maintain records of teachers and students and prepare reports, timetables, syllabuses, and much more. “Imagine how much money is spent on maintaining this physical record. But, by going paperless and moving databases to the cloud, they can cut down on a sizeable amount of money.”
He regretted that non-formal education had been a deprived area since 1974, as after AIOU, only Virtual University was established to provide distant education. “Virtual or distant learning is an easy source for students to access quality education on lesser fees than to physically approach the educational institutions.”
“Then there is another dilemma of the number of books and notebooks,” he mentioned and said, “It is unkindness to our babies, seen carrying kilos of books on their backs.”
“Why do we overload our primary- level students with books and notebooks?” he stated. “Can’t we reduce the number of books and shift them to the latest modes of learning in this era of the latest technologies?”
He said the formal universities are converting to an online system, which will surely reduce the cost of education.
Keeping in view the hardships of parents, Vice Chancellor Islamia University Bahawalpur, Prof Dr Muhammad Ali, came up with the idea of amending the laws and creating a corporate cluster by using the physical assets of education departments to earn money and provide cheaper education to students.
“We can use science and technology parks as money-making hubs, and by cutting extra expenses, we can establish ‘endowment funds’ at colleges and universities to support needy students,” he stated.
Recently, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) under the Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project conducted an extensive capacity-building session for public sector universities on financial autonomy and revenue generation. The meeting was aimed at encouraging higher education institutions (HEIs) to develop projects for generating funds and revenue to meet their needs. 75 vice chancellors, treasurers, and registrars from public sector HE Is discussed the possibility of resource generation.
As, for decades, education has remained a neglected sector, the expert strongly pleads to enhance the budget for the education sector. “First of all, the government should take education as a top priority and allocate at least 5% of the GDP for this sector,” said renowned educationist Murtaza Noor. “As per law, education is free from Grade I to 16, and the state should ensure facilities for such students, especially scholarships for those in dire need.”
He suggested establishing students’ alumni to support poor students, control the cost of education, and award scholarships to kids from marginalised segments through charity. “The private sector must also be bound to give fee concessions and scholarships to deserving students under corporate social responsibility (CSR).”
Fund allocation for the higher education sector in Pakistan was very low as compared to international standards, while the financial contribution by the provincial governments for HEIs had also been negligible, except in Sindh province.