Illiterate democracy

Published: September 29, 2010

In a democracy that thrives on fake degrees, it is perhaps little wonder that our political leaders do not think much about the financial woes of the HEC.

In a democracy that thrives on fake degrees, it is perhaps little wonder that our political leaders do not think much about the financial woes of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). So what if 9,000 PhD’s are unable to continue with their studies? So what if our education system, already in a terrible state, falls into oblivion?

No, the money should much rather be spent on extravagances such as expensive renovations of the Parliament Lodges (Rs60 million) and serving meals at the 2009-2010 budget session (Rs11.5 million for just half a month) and an $11 million statue to commemorate a former prime minister. No wonder the country is going through a crisis where every department (including the HEC but not our politicians) must contend with lower resources and do their bit for the flood-affected people.

Last year, the government cut Rs11 billion from the HEC’s funds. There were no floods back then. This year the government cut another 30 per cent from the HEC’s annual budget. Then they wanted to further slash the HEC’s budget, citing floods.

In a country where inflation was over 20 per cent in 2009, and more than 14 per cent in 2010, how can an organisation sustain budget cuts of more than 65 per cent? They will obviously have to start abandoning their students, first those studying in Pakistan and then, eventually when budgetary constraints compel them to, those studying abroad.

This will also set a bad precedent for any future scholarships that the HEC offers. A PhD is a long-term commitment that takes at least five years to complete. With people more than halfway through their studies abandoned, why would anyone risk taking up an HEC scholarship (and signing a five-year bond to teach in Pakistan) when they know that a representative of the country, his or her educational degree in dispute, in future might rob them of all they worked so hard for?


Muhammad Bilal Iqbal

Bilal Iqbal is a subeditor at the Islamabad Desk of The Express Tribune and an avid technology and movie buff.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Isfand

    Decrease the army expendiature,we could never afford since 1947, now is time to say stop!
    India is not a threat,it has never been a threat infact we started all the wars……….
    The military establsihment created this threated so they can continue to enjoy huge funds.Recommend

  • The Only Normal Person Here.

    Very informative and good write up. Indeed, our politicians don’t give a damn over education sector. The other day this politician was saying with much pride that we cant spend much expenditure on education as our first priority is to provide relief for the flood victims. Now will someone asks, what exactly have Govt done to provide “relief” to the flood victim? Even bothered to cut two pennies from their govt affording lifestyle?Recommend

  • faraz

    You are right abou the 9000 PHDs, what about the 90 million poor kids who dont have the facility of primary schools. How can you educate a nation by spending disproportionately on higher education and ignoring primary and secondary education? We dont protest against poor standards of primary schools because they are meant for the poor. Does anyone care about the 10,000 schools which were damaged in floods? Instead of spending 5 million on a PHD, why dont we provide technical education to 500 poor people from this money. Recommend

  • Bilal


    Nobody contends the importance of 9000 primary schools that were destroyed in the floods, or the primary education in general.

    The education sector as a whole is important. Say you just focus on primary, middle and high schools in the country. Fast forward a few years, you have a multitude of half-trained students with no place to go to pursue their higher studies.

    Incidentally if you look at the divide between the number of people wanting to do their bachelors and masters and the available institutions (and here I mean relatively better quality institutions), you will notice a great disparity between demand and supply.

    This disparity, in essence, points to the dearth of well-qualified individuals working as teachers in the country and hence the need to focus on higher education.

    In other words, at the moment our schools are producing much more individuals wanting to go to a university than our university can actually sustain. The capacity to accommodate students must increase. This does not just entail making new buildings and opening new universities but also warrants an investment in human resources, which the government, by cutting HEC’s funding, is not committing to. Recommend

  • Mariam

    I was watching fozia wahab the other day in a show and was surprised when she said that HEC is a luxury for a country like Pakistan. I wonder if she ever attended any school.

    I agree with the title.Recommend

  • Tilsim

    If there is no national commitment to the academically brilliant, there is no future for the nation and the result is a Feudal/ Military heaven with begging to the international community, our lot.

    At the same time as this is happening, the politicos have agreed to hike the federal government servant salaries by 50%.

    Thank you for highlighting this. I hope this can be THE topic the media focusses on.Recommend

  • Tayyeb

    It is difficult to understand why the debate is between inportance of the primary education and the higher education. Is it not better to divert some funds from other areas. Fozia Wahab was not the right person to invite at Jirga (A talk at Jeo). Instead of her, the chairman HEC was defending PPP because she knew nothing. PPP has the best persons of the country in all the departments, except the government. We do not need any change other than setting up right persons at right places. Then PPP or any other party can shape the future.Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    A very good article………..I at times womder if anyone of these (talk people on shows) ever attended schools? :SRecommend