HEC’s policy to overhaul university education

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KARACHI:

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), in accordance with its latest undergraduate policy, recently published the credited and uncredited hours of practical learning, internship and general education (GE), including thematic studies.

In an effort to develop the ability to write in a clear and concise manner, the policy states that students will now be required to take courses in quantitative reasoning and essay writing. For hands-on learning, which is also compulsory, students will have the option of choosing between entrepreneurship, youth club or sport. Whereas Pakistani studies and religious studies, as part of social studies, will soon be made compulsory in the GE section.

In addition to this, the said policy also made internships compulsory for four- and five-year degree programs. However, they will not be credited and therefore internship grades will not be taken into account during the academic grading process.

After consultation and approval by the relevant board, these changes will be incorporated into the curriculum of a few five-year professional graduate programs, while the policy will be implemented from June.

Meanwhile, the Association of Private Sector Universities of Pakistan (APSUP) raised some objections to the policy, saying it was hastily drawn up. Apart from this, APSUP also recommended involving all stakeholders. “No pilot experiments have been carried out for this policy, and HEC has not set up a teacher training program. While undergraduate and doctoral students. the policies, instead of being implemented in stages, were rolled out in the same academic year, ”HEC officials said.

According to a study by The Express Tribune on HEC’s new undergraduate policy, the Higher Education Commission has divided undergraduate degrees into five different types: The first category is a BS (Bachelor of Studies) in arts and sciences in four years. The second is a four-year professional diploma (Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Bachelor of Nursing). The third type is a five-year professional degree (Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Oriental Medicine and Surgery, Bachelor of Homeopathic Medical Sciences, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Doctor of Pharmacy, Bachelor of Law, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery / MBBS ). The fourth is a four-year degree with the relevant board, comprising agriculture, business studies, IT, education, and technology, while the fifth type is a two-year associate’s degree.

As per policy, in order to qualify for the BS degree, each student will need to complete their 120 credit hours. For a course with three credit hours, students will be required to study at least 40 courses over the four-year period.

The 120 credit hours will be divided into 30 credit hours per year and 15 credit hours per semester. On the basis of which, five courses, each of 3 credit hours should be chosen for each semester. However, the first time around, students with written permission will also have the freedom to enroll in more than five courses or less. The categories of the undergraduate degree are based on three components. The first is general education (GE); the second concerns discipline while the third component will be based on practical learning.

These categories are then divided into subcategories. An undergraduate student will be required to take two courses from three broad disciplines (arts and humanities, national sciences and social sciences) in the first category of GE.

Likewise, relevant courses in Pakistani Studies and Islamic Studies will also be part of the GE section in Language Skills and Civilization. Although based on 120 credit hours, GE will represent 39 credit hours in four-year bachelor’s programs. A total of 13 courses will be taught. As per the policy, a student will be required to take 13 39 credit hour courses in the first three or four semesters of graduation.

Failure in any of these courses until the start of the fourth semester will void the student’s promotion to the fifth semester. In addition, each university will be required to assign a pedagogical adviser for the guidance of students. In accordance with the policy, hands-on learning with non-credit courses will be a compulsory part of the degree, and no degree will be awarded without it. However, these courses which are not credited would not be part of the grading of the courses or activities.

As part of uncredited courses or activities, students following the fourth semester will be required to register for a nine-week internship. Students can apply for internships in government institutions, local communities, autonomous institutions, government agencies, businesses, educational institutions and NGOs.

Students will have to opt for entrepreneurship, youth club or sports facilities, offered by universities to students as part of their practical learning. Universities are thus required to set up an entrepreneurship laboratory, a youth club and a sports club.

The lab will host lectures, teamwork, writing sessions, math workshops, presentation sessions, fundraising events, startup events, and marketing events. Likewise, a theater club, a book reading club, a university magazine and newspapers, a university television and radio station, a debate club and a student association will be part of the youth club. Students who would like to do practical work through sports activities would opt for sports activities.

Additionally, the policy also requires universities to issue a two-year associate’s degree to a student who wishes to study only two years of a four-year degree program. APSUP involving detailed objections wrote a letter to the head of HEC, Dr Tariq Banori, claiming that the association’s seven different undergraduate policy sessions were held in Lahore, Peshawar, Bahawalpur, Sukkur, Karachi and Quetta over the past two months. . The sessions unanimously revealed that the vision of the internship was part of the old HEC policy, but that it was not qualified as compulsory for students in each discipline.

An internship is a custom which cannot be characterized as compulsory, but which has been made compulsory in the new policy, which adds to the burden on universities. In addition, there is still some ambiguity as to who reserves the power to issue internship certificates, the host organization or the university.

Likewise, the association argued that with current infrastructure, most universities are not suited to provide hands-on learning. “It is not possible to immediately establish or functionalize a hands-on learning laboratory including entrepreneurship without trained staff,” the letter stressed.

The letter further highlighted the ambiguity regarding the 39 credit hours for GE courses. APSUP President Chaudhry Abdul Rehman, who is also president of Lahore Graduate University, told The Express Tribune that they had no objections to the policy, but stakeholders did had not been taken into account when formulating the policy. execution. “Private universities are already facing problems due to Covid-19. Therefore, its implementation without any preparation, capacity building, HR support or training is impossible. We are ready to support the HEC, but our reservations must be addressed first. The HEC has given a deadline until June for the implementation of the policy, which is impossible under all circumstances, ”said Rehman.

On the other hand, the vice-chancellor of Quaid-e-Azam University, Dr Muhammad Ali Shah, who is also head of the VC committee of public universities in Pakistan, has severely criticized the policy. “The biggest flaw in the policy is that it prohibits academics from granting admissions to the discipline. Will the university close its remaining disciplines if all students opt for a single subject? It is an American model, which cannot be implemented in Pakistan. Pakistani universities grant admission on the basis of prior education, so we cannot approve it, ”he said.

Speaking further, Dr Shah also expressed his disapproval of HEC’s decision to leave internships unrated. “The policy has removed if of the credit hours, which will not arouse the interest of students. Despite repeated attempts to discuss the matter with HEC, the President, Dr Tariq Banori, has shown no interest and this is also the attitude of the government, ”Dr Shah told The Express Tribune. “We are not prepared to accept the policy,” he reiterated.

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