The National Assembly is continuing its trend of introducing hasty legislation in the run up to the election, as on Thursday 28 private member bills were passed, with 24 of them seeking the establishment of private universities in different parts of the country. The manner in which this legislation is being pursued and the timing of it too, only goes to show how education is understood and addressed by our legislators and policymakers.
As per reports, the bills were passed without quorum as Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf allowed lawmakers to move motions for the passage of the bills, even on behalf of those members who were absent from proceedings. Further, of the 24 bills for the new universities, 16 had been introduced by the members in the same sitting, and the speaker put them for a vote after the house through motions allowed him to do so without referring them to committees concerned. On top of that, these bills were introduced without the HEC being consulted regarding codal formalities.
Thankfully, some members did protest over the manner in which such legislation was being pushed through in the absence of ministers and members, the Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain was also right in pointing out that this tradition of tabling bills without the proper groundwork only results in the mushroom growth of educational institutions, without addressing the quality of education.
As it is, universities in Pakistan have been experiencing severe financial crises, which has resulted in them being unable to pay the monthly salaries of their faculty and staff members. The availability of qualified teachers has been a longstanding issue, and not much progress has been made when it comes to teacher training either.
The main issues are a lack of funds, poor quality of education, and institutions that are unable to invest in research, technology and infrastructure. The future of Pakistan is dependent on the quality of education and research produced by its universities. What we need is more thoughtful policymaking and legislation when it comes to education, and not opportunistic promises with elections around the corner.