The HEC Conundrum

There have been some drastic measures in educational policies by Higher Education Commission. Since its inception, HEC has tried to formulate uniform education system, transparent meritocracy, vigorous research studies and the computerization of the Pakistani education system. Though some of the policies have been promising, recent changes in policies, if not properly revised, could lead to abysmal predicament and educational crisis.

Recently, it was hinted by the Federal Higher Education Commission to allow students who have a master Bachelor of Science (BS) or Master of Science (MSc) degree to get admission in PhD. Ostensibly, the policy seems encouraging as students will not have to bother with Master of Philosophy (MPhil) saving them both time and money. Besides, the MPhil program was launched to filter graduate students for PhD and inculcate in them the basic research skills required at doctoral studies. Throughout the world, the maximum requirement for PhD is Masters’ degree, but it has not been so in Pakistan and some handful of South Asian countries.

If HEC is serious about allowing graduate students to pursue doctoral programs, it would require redesigning the BS curriculum to the level of MPhil—the work done in MPhil should be transferred to BS, thus to render the former superfluous.

However, if the curriculum is substantially pertinent, then comes the question of its effective teaching. Evidently, the BS program has so far enabled students to introduce themselves in proper colloquial English, grasp multi-dimensional yet minor subjects and with any luck writing an authentic graduate-level dissertation. This change in policy would shake the fundamentals of Pakistani hierarchical educational system.

The burden of MPhil will shift to BS/MSc, weights of the graduate programs will fall on the shoulders of the college and so this will go in perpetuity. Parallel to the graduate and postgraduate programs, this shift in policy necessitates all the levels of studies to better their curriculum and upgrade pedagogical fractions of an already overwhelmed educational system.

If this change is to take place, HEC would require all the levels of studies to cooperate. It is evident that HEC tends not to interfere below Higher Studies and the ones under their jurisdiction are apparently not cooperating. Already numerous universities have announced MPhil and PhD programs (requiring MPhil for PhD) for fall 2020 session. Either these institutions don’t accept the shift in the paradigm or they realize that the HEC’s utopia of uniformity in educational system transcends practicality.

The HEC needs to dial down the speediness of this policy, the hinted policies raise more questions than they answer.

What would the previous MPhil scholars do?

The minimum cost of an MPhil program in Pakistan is from 5 Lakhs to 20 Lakhs, it varies from private to public and the reputation of the university might bring other costs in the baggage. The MPhil students might have done their PhD for more or less, provided that the current policy suggested was enacted before.

What HEC can possibly do is to lessen the durability of doctoral programs for them, as much of the course work taught previously suffice for PhD, and a test to assess its understanding is always an option. Alternatively, HEC by letting the door of MPhil open can still ask students to appear in a test for PhD after BS/MSc programs and based on merit they would be allowed to pursue their doctorates. Otherwise, students can pursue PhD post to the completion of their MPhil. While these are tempting choices but only the fittest candidates would make it to the doctoral studies.

What about the students coming from affiliated colleges whose only chance of learning scientific research is MPhil?

This question would involve the institutions of BS/MSc programs. For students to pursue PhD following graduation, they must be well-equipped to conduct research studies on a high level and capable enough to present them clearly. The problem exacerbates in the case of scientific studies, students coming from remote areas often have poor laboratory if any. This is not some freak exception, because most of the citizens are struck with outright poverty thus resulting in students’ reliance on affiliated colleges. Due to less tuition/admission fees and ease of access.

Most colleges have science subjects limited to bookish studies and presentations, the scientific project conducted at the end of graduate-level is of a theoretical framework as there is lack of scientific tools and they have to manage with the ones available for secondary school students (FSc). To save time and money, they go for easy and feasible research projects duo to the fact that students are expected to learn advanced research skills at postgraduate level.

If deprived of MPhil, vouchsafing them with scientific skills and laboratorial dexterity at the graduate level would be the responsibility of the ones who pursue such policy changes (HEC or Federal Government). If students coming from government colleges have to compete with private university students appearing in PhD test/interview, then this system would be apartheid for the poor.

Discrimination, although based on pure meritocracy can be mitigated if changes take place at a basic level so students can relate at higher studies. Without any practical changes at the rudimentary stage, the present policy change is banging head against the wall. If such steps are taken from MPhil/BS level, it would curtail the progress of an already struggling educational system.


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