The News International
Published Date: May 17, 2020
Aligning higher education with Covid-19 realities
The senior academia and educationists across Pakistan have termed Covid-19 as an opportunity to align the entire higher education in the country with the future socio-economic realities.
This consensus emerged at an online ‘Post Covid-19 Scenario – Challenges and Options for Higher Education Institutions’ organised here by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in coordination with Higher Education Commission and Allama Iqbal Open University.
The participants said that the situation resulting from the global pandemic demanded a total paradigm shift and a broader academic policy dialogue to ensure the quality and future-oriented education. Dr Nadia Tahir, Managing Director, Quality Assurance Agency, HEC, said that the universities across Pakistan were tasked to develop SOPs and Learning Management Systems (LMS) to ensure quality online learning to students.
She said that the universities would now have to set the targets for the progress as Covid-19 has changed the entire landscape of the education. She says HEC and the universities have to work together to achieve the shared goals and its quite heartening to know that the universities across Pakistan are accepting the challenge to avoid disruption in the learning. The conventional teaching system now needs to be replaced with “equip and empower students” approach.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, said as predicted by the UN, we would have to live with the pandemic from now onwards for quite a longer period or permanently. He called for the need to grab opportunities out of the Covid-19 challenges by applying a proactive approach.
He said that eliminating digital-divide must be ensured while introducing online learning as we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. He said that HEC would have to ensure that the new learning provided by the universities is compatible with rapidly changing job market.
To respond to critical need of bridging research-policy gap, he ensured the participants that SDPI would be there to provide all out support and facilitation in this regard. He said forming Education Advisory Council would be one of the suggestions for the government to respond to emerging challenges in the field of education.
Dr Zia Ul-Qayyum, Vice Chancellor, Allama Iqbal Open University, observed that the technological solutions should be utilised to create an enabling environment for the education amidst the crises posed by the pandemic. He said that a policy dialogue on the academic issues must be initiated to explore the opportunities to meet the unprecedented challenges.
He opined that SDPI being a vibrant think tank and research institute may take the lead and facilitate such a dialogue forum adding that open distance learning policy also needs to be introduced to provide necessary guidelines.
Dr Shafiq-ur-Rehman, Vice Chancellor, University of Balochistan, on the occasion highlighted the issue of lack of connectivity faced by the students in remote areas.
Dr M Asif Khan, Vice Chancellor, University of Peshawar, sharing the same concerns said that while the universities are taking all the possible measures to be adaptive to new environment, we must ensure that no student is left out from the learning process due to lack of access.
Dr Fatima Dar, Director, Iqra University, said that with breaking of the pandemic, the universities in public and private sectors are confronting with similar kinds of challenges. She said the broader cooperation among the universities would be important to share learning and experience mutually.
A journalist observed that as the lectures will be recorded, the academic freedom may be compromised in a country like Pakistan where out of context comments and conspiracy theories may be used by vested interest and obscurantist elements especially in social sciences for personal score setting.