Rebuild human capital [Part – III]

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Sixth, reorganize the higher education system and research institutes where the criteria for the allocation of public funds would be based on the promotion of emerging technologies and the generation and application of knowledge to solve national economic and social problems.

One of the most neglected areas in the higher education spectrum today is that of university colleges. These colleges should be placed under the supervision and oversight of the provincial HECs while the national HECs should continue to deal with universities across the country to ensure uniform standards of excellence in the respective fields.

Rigorous evaluation of existing centers of excellence, institutes and regional study centers should be carried out and only those that are functioning well should be retained and the others closed. Faculty members should be allowed to engage in consulting business, build their own businesses using their patents and innovations, and keep a significant portion of the net profits for themselves and their staff. Technology parks should be established in major public universities such as QAU, Punjab, Karachi, Sindh, Peshawar, Balochistan which still have hundreds of acres of unused land in their possession or have leased it for commercial purposes. University professors should no longer be recruited within the framework of the government scales of the BPS but under contract with the possibility of transforming them into tenured after having fulfilled the eligibility criteria. The current dual path of appointment is not conducive to fostering collaborative work between teachers.

Seventh, develop technical and vocational training centers in cities in collaboration with industrial employers and in rural centers based on the specialized skills needed for that particular field. Coastal districts should have competences related to the sea, mining districts related to mining, livestock districts veterinary services and artificial insemination, etc. Tractor drivers, mechanics, equipment and machine technicians, etc. should benefit from continuous professional training. The public-private partnership where the physical infrastructure and hardware is provided by the government while the design, development and delivery of courses is the responsibility of the private sector is proving to be a successful model to replicate.

Eighth, Edtech, Healthtech, Agritech and Fintech are becoming very active in bringing new technologies and techniques by disrupting existing ways of doing things. Drones and sensors as well as laser leveling have proven to be effective tools for precise use of inputs according to the situation, increasing the productivity of even small farmers. What is needed are commercial arrangements to increase utilization and intensify these operations through leasing, renting, cooperative or joint sharing. The task of training and updating human resources in these areas has not yet been assumed by either the State or the private sector. As a public good, this responsibility should be assumed by the state – in close coordination and consultation with private sector actors.

Ninth, to provide financial aid to talented and deserving students from poor families and backward neighborhoods for undergraduate and graduate studies in universities – public or private – where they are able to gain admission. The package should include all tuition and living expenses, accommodation, travel, books, and other incidentals so that these students are freed from financial worries and can focus on their studies. In the case of Balochistan, every student in the 26 districts except Quetta should be eligible for this aid. Preference should be given to those pursuing scientific, technical, professional studies (engineering, computer and information technology, medicine, biotechnology and genetics, agriculture, animal husbandry, mining, fishing, horticulture, etc.) and female students from rural areas.

Tenth, reorient the entire landscape of hundreds of federal and provincial government R&D institutes – particularly in agriculture, industry, health, energy and water resources. Their funding is initially insufficient and whatever is disbursed goes to pay the salaries of staff, most of whom are non-scientists and support staff. There is not much left to carry out the studies and the projects themselves. The private sector invests little in R&D. While defense research organizations have done remarkable work in their own field, they have not been able to contribute to dual use in civilian sectors.

There is also a gap in the rules for recruiting new PhDs between universities and research organisations, since most staff belonging to the latter category leave to join higher-grade professorships in universities – leaving a quality residue. unacceptable (with the exception of a few committed ones). Funding modalities should be revised so that only competitive research grants in specific areas of national priority are made available to researchers, technical support staff, equipment and other materials. Promotions should no longer be made on the basis of seniority but on the basis of agreed key performance indicators.

A popular theme in the reform conversation is that low public spending on education and health is the real culprit of the current situation. Such preoccupation by well-meaning commentators and analysts pays no heed to whether the desired results can be achieved by simply increasing spending in the face of the current system mired in leaks, waste and inefficiencies. Throwing good money after bad money is a wrong political choice.

ASER learning outcomes reports and other studies clearly show that the current governance and management structure characterized by excessive centralization of power and authority and concentration of resources at the provincial level is dysfunctional. . It is almost impossible to supervise and look after schools and hospitals spread over 35 districts of Lahore. Management at school and hospital level has no power to reward good students or penalize recalcitrant staff. They have no funds to carry out essential repairs and construction which is being done by another government department run from Lahore.

The regional education and health authorities are headed by assistant commissioners who are already overloaded with other huge responsibilities and have little time to devote to these matters as these play no meaningful role in their performance appraisal . District education and health officials have strangled medical directors and superintendents and turned them into bureaucrats and paper salesmen rather than those who can deliver the services citizens want. Recruitment, assignments, transfers and promotions are done on the basis of political connections and sifarish rather than performance and achievements. In this system, why cry out for an increase in public spending from 2% of GDP to 4%, citing the example of other countries?

However, if the program described above for the transformation of the existing state to the proposed threshold is followed faithfully, then it is absolutely imperative that public expenditure on education and health be doubled from current levels at the expense of other unproductive expenditures and untargeted subsidies. . There is no doubt that the financial implications of paying large sums to STEAM teachers and training them, setting up labs and purchasing equipment, bringing out-of-school children back into the mainstream, expanding vocational and technical training and equipping them with modern gadgets, increasing the amount of competitive research grants, converting BPS university teachers to tenured salary scales, providing scholarships and stipends to less talented students, the commercialization of the application of new technologies in education, health, etc.

Accordingly, there is ample justification for doubling or even increasing the levels of public spending on human capital to enable Pakistan to compete in the globalized world of the knowledge economy. We must realize that the above agenda requires a nationwide approach to maintain momentum through political cycles. The failure to pursue this program, despite these many difficult challenges and constraints laid out in this article, is simply unimaginable.

Concluded

The writer is the author of ‘Governing the ungovernable’.

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